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Dyslexia is a learning disability that manifests primarily as a difficulty with written language, particularly with reading and spelling. It is separate and distinct from reading difficulties resulting from other causes, such as a non-neurological deficiency with vision or hearing, or from poor or inadequate reading instruction.

Dyslexia - The Hidden Disability
By Ray Ham

Ray HamLevel: BasicI am a retired special education supervisor with a masters degree in guidance and counseling. I also have certifications in school administration and educational diagnostician. ... ...


It would not be unusual for you to work with someone who has dyslexia and not even know it; thus, the reason this is called a hidden disability. Older dyslexics are very adept at hiding the fact that they cannot read, write or spell effectively. Just think how embarrassing it is to be a graduate from a well known high school or university and not be able to read at the expected level. I recently read about a man in his 50's who kept his dyslexia hidden from his family and his employer for over 20 years. Now that takes a very ingenious person!

The term hidden disability refers to the fact that the typical person rubbing shoulders with someone with dyslexia will not be aware that anything is different. You look at a person in a wheelchair and determine that he has some serious physical problem; you look at a person with a white cane and easily notice that he cannot see; and, you look at a person using sign language and quickly deduce that he has limited hearing. These types of disabilities are very visible. The dyslexic, however, does not have any outward physical signs that give anyone a hint of the storm raging inside. For some adults, the inner turmoil comes from the fact that this is a secret to never be disclosed for fear of more ridicule from peers; for children, the teasing, taunting and name calling are more than enough to cause them to not like themselves or not want to go to school. Lazy, retarded, stupid, dumb and dumbo are just a few of the slurs thrown at them.

Life is very difficult for the adult or child who has problems with learning, but does not have any idea why. They have never been tested nor has anyone told them that they have a learning disability. Many adults find out that they are dyslexic when their child is diagnosed. One adult, after his child was diagnosed as being dyslexia, was actually relieved to find out that his problems in school were because he also has dyslexia. His relief came because he thought he was stupid for all these years.

Most people with dyslexia are of average or above average intelligence, and possess skills that allow them to think outside the box. They often are very creative thinkers and are able to see a variety of possible solutions to a problem. They shine in many areas; but when you ask them to write, they are hindered by their inability to form the letters and spell the words in a normal fashion. In fact, their writing is so poor that it is difficult for even the teacher to read it. Children, especially, may confuse the direction of letters and words. Some very young dyslexics just learning how to write have been known to start on the right side of the page and write every word backwards toward the left side of the page. When this writing is held up to the mirror, it can be read perfectly. An adult friend of mine, who is a music major, recently told me that she has dyslexia and can read her music sheets backwards better than forwards. There are some dyslexic adults who, when told to turn right, will turn left. They also may have difficulties using a map to find their way.

Not all dyslexics display the same symptoms or learning difficulties, and do not have poor reading skills. It is possible for the dyslexic to be a good reader, but poorly comprehend what is read. There are some dyslexics who make a zero on a written spelling test but make 100 if the test is given orally. There are some dyslexics who can read fairly well to themselves but cannot read out loud. Many dyslexics know a word in the first paragraph but miss it in the next. Some dyslexics, like Einstein, have difficulty with simple math concepts but can think on a much higher mathematical plane.

One of the saddest aspects of dyslexia is the fact that it has been studied for over 100 years; in fact, it is approaching a century and a half and we still know little about it. Currently, there is no cure and no preventative measures; but one day, perhaps in the very near future, it will be possible to detect a child who has dyslexic genes and a vaccine will be given. It is already possible to identify which young children have the propensity towards dyslexia who, then, can be given early educational interventions. One of our biggest problems currently is that we know more about dyslexia than we put into practice. It is common knowledge that early identification and remediation are the two things we can do to save our children from the terrible scars of dyslexia, but currently it is very difficult to get this done in our public schools.

In Texas, in the mid 80's, the legislature passed a law requiring the identification and remediation of children identified with dyslexia and related disorders. One of the most unusual aspects of this program is that it is a regular education initiative; but even though this law is about 20 years old and as many as 20 percent of the population is considered dyslexic, most Texas schools identify less than 5 percent of their school population.

Most children with dyslexia need a remedial program that offers a strong phonics program that emphasizes a multisensory approach. Unfortunately, not all dyslexics thrive with a pure phonics approach and they may fall through the cracks in these types of programs. There is no program that fits all students, and this is not strange since the brain is a complicated computer that gets wired differently based upon many factors that are currently not known to us. The nice thing about it, however, is that there are thousands upon thousands of people who have an interest in solving the riddle of dyslexia, and some day we will have a cure.

If you know an adult or a child that is struggling with reading, spelling or writing, and you suspect dyslexia may be the cause, suggest to them or their parents to seek out professional help. Children can be tested at the public schools, free of charge, and adults can pay a psychologist for testing. Adults and children may get free testing through the psychology department of a local college or university. Be aware that free public school testing is not always an easy process since you have to work within the system. You do have the Rehabilitation Act which is called 504 and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), both federal laws, that will help you get assistance. Study these two laws on the Internet to discover how they can help you.

There are numerous websites that offer information about dyslexia; but I want to direct you to my new website at for additional help. Here you will find a Children's Corner, Parent's Corner and Teacher's Corner with words of encouragement and ideas about how to deal with dyslexia in children. Also, I have included a Message Board and a Dyslexia Blog. Please check it out.
I am a retired special education supervisor with a special interest in dyslexia. I have a masters degree in guidance and counseling, and I am an educational diagnostician who has tested a variety of children with learning difficulties.
I am not dyslexic, even though I did struggle in school and did not like to go. In the first grade, I clearly remember beating myself in the stomach before getting out of bed and then telling my mother that I was too sick to go to school. It did not work!
I am married with two grandsons, one 3 years old and one 2 months old, and find retirement to be a great deal of fun. I like to read, write, do arts and crafts and babysit our grandchildren with my wife.