Amusings: Dyslexia

A-M u s i n g s
Musings are thoughts, the thoughtful kind. For the purpose of these articles, a-musings are thoughts that might amuse, entertain and even enlighten.

Dyslexia is a “specific learning difficulty”. Intelligence isn’t affected. Dyslexia is a lifelong problem that can present challenges on a daily basis in areas such as reading and writing. Up to one in every 15 people may suffer from some degree of dyslexia.

A person suffering from dyslexia may read and write very slowly, confuse the order of letters in words, put letters the wrong way round such as writing “b” instead of “d”, have poor or inconsistent spelling, understand information when told verbally but have difficulty with information that’s written down, find it hard to carry out a sequence of directions, and struggle with planning and organisation. People with dyslexia, however, often have good skills in creative thinking and problem solving.

Dyslexics find it difficult to recognize the different sounds that make up words and relate these to letters, but dyslexia isn’t related to a person’s general level of intelligence. Children and adults of all intellectual abilities can be affected by dyslexia. The exact cause of dyslexia is unknown, but it often appears to run in families. In people with dyslexia, it’s thought that certain genes inherited from their parents may act together in a way that affects how some parts of the brain develop during early life. Many famous people have enjoyed immense success despite their dyslexia, their learning difficulty.

Muhammed Ali, one of the greatest professional boxers of all time, suffered from dyslexia as does iconic fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger. When people think of successful filmmakers in Hollywood, Steven Spielberg is typically at or near the top of the list. Few of us would have guessed that the famous director has struggled with dyslexia throughout his entire life. What is even more amazing is the fact that his learning disorder went undiagnosed for years. Jay Leno, whose face is universally recognized, and whose controversial private life is constantly appearing in supermarket tabloids and on entertainment news, has unbeknown by most struggled with the learning disorder, dyslexia, since childhood.

Way back in time Hans Christian Andersen, who was a Danish author best known for his children’s stories such as “The Little Mermaid”, “Thumbelina”, and “The Ugly Duckling”, was also a sufferer, as was Ludwig van Beethoven, a German pianist and composer and one of the most influential composers of all time. Beethoven continued to compose, perform, and conduct even after becoming completely deaf. In modern times, Richard Branson, one of the most well known entrepreneurs of our time, and the founder of the Virgin Group, has excelled in the music, transportation and telecommunications industries, even though he suffers from dyslexia. He has also set a goal to break as many world records as possible.

Thomas Edison was a dyslexic American inventor and scientist who created innovations that have revolutionized the way things are done today. He invented the light bulb, phonograph, motion picture camera, and is credited with the creation of the first industrial research laboratory. Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr, was a naval officer for the American Navy, an engineer, an astronaut, and the third person to walk on the moon. He was the 20th person and the 10th American to fly in space and flew on the Gemini 5, Gemini 11, Apollo 12, and Skylab 2 space missions for NASA. He too was dyslexic.

The king of Sweden, formally known as “His Majesty Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden” is also dyslexic, as was, it is believed, Leonardo da Vinci, an Italian inventor, and one of the original Renaissance men who is best known for his art work. He is the creator of such masterpieces as “The Mona Lisa”, “The Last Supper”, and his drawing of the “Vitruvian Man”. He is also known for his technological conceptualization of the helicopter, the tank and the calculator.

Cher, the American singer, actress, director, and record producer, is a dyslexic, as are Anderson Cooper of CNN, the actor Tom Cruise, Whoopi Goldberg, the late Steve Jobs of Apple, the genius Albert Einstein, and Ingvar Kamprad the Swedish founder of IKEA.

In my experience, perhaps five or so pupils in every class in the country might have similar reading difficulties. So why can’t prominent Saint Lucians come out of their dyslexic closets to show their fellow citizens that there is no shame in being dyslexic? Indeed they should take pride in their achievements despite their specific learning difficulties, and be shining examples to others in order to encourage them to strive for excellence and overcome their problems.

In this case, silence is definitely not golden.

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