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Dyslexia and Other Learning Disabilities

Salma Hayek wearing a blue top with her hand under her chin smiling for the camera

Salma Hayek

“Some people read really fast, but you’ll ask them questions about the script and they’ll forget. I take a long time to read a script, but I read it only once. I directed a movie, and I never brought the script to set.”

Salma Hayek, Frida, Ugly Betty

Champion boxer Muhammad Ali, Virgin Records’ Richard Branson,
actress Whoopi Goldberg and Sharks Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John and Kevin O’Leary also have dyslexia.

The most common disability among children in the United States is a learning disability, which is a neurologically based condition that may manifest itself as difficulty learning and using skills in reading (called dyslexia), writing (dysgraphia), mathematics (dyscalculia) and other cognitive processes due to differences in how the brain processes information. A learning disability is not an intellectual disability. Individuals with learning disabilities have average or above average intelligence, and the term does not include a learning problem that is primarily the result of another cause, such as intellectual disabilities or lack of educational opportunity. ADHD is not a learning disability. However, ADHD can interfere with learning. According to understood.org, experts estimate that one-third to one-half of individuals with a learning disability also have ADHD.

Dyslexia is a learning disability that likely affects more than 40 million Americans, but only two million know they have it. Dyslexia is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that often is unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. It is a common learning disability among children, although adolescents and adults living with dyslexia often exhibit symptoms as well.

Use person-first language when describing someone with dyslexia. Say “someone has dyslexia” or is “living with dyslexia.” Do not call a person “a dyslexic person” or use dyslexic as a noun, like “He is dyslexic.” For general learning disability, say, “he is a person with a learning disability.” Do not use the words “slow learner” or “retarded.”

National organizations for people with learning disabilities:

  • Bookshare opens up the world of reading for people with low vision, a physical disability or learning disability. Their books are “accessible,” which means you can read their books many different ways. Schools and many organizations around the globe can access the books they need for school, work, career advancement, skill development and the simple love of reading in formats that work for them.
  • The Council for Learning Disabilities (CLD), an international organization composed of professionals who represent diverse disciplines, is committed to enhancing the education and quality of life for individuals with learning disabilities across the life span. CLD accomplishes this by promoting and disseminating evidence-based research and practices related to the education of individuals with learning disabilities. In addition, CLD fosters (a) collaboration among professionals; (b) development of leaders in the field; and (c) advocacy for policies that support individuals with learning disabilities at local, state, and national levels.
  • The Division for Learning Disabilities (DLD) is an international professional organization consisting of teachers, psychologists, clinicians, administrators, higher education professionals, parents and others. The major purposes of DLD are: to promote the education and general welfare of persons with learning disabilities to provide a forum for discussion of issues facing the field of learning disabilities; to encourage interaction among the many disciplinary groups whose research and service efforts affect persons with learning disabilities; to foster research regarding the varied disabilities subsumed in the term “learning disabilities” and promote dissemination of research findings; to advocate exemplary professional training practices to insure the highest quality of services in the field of learning disabilities; and to promote exemplary diagnostic and teaching practices in a context of tolerance for new and divergent ideas.
  • The Dyslexia Foundation is a nonprofit organization, established in 1989 to identify and assist children with dyslexia – to establish higher levels of learning through specialized programs promoting better reading. Their mission is to promote scientific breakthroughs in the early detection, prevention and remediation of dyslexia and related reading difficulties; to disseminate new findings and deploy new evidence-based approaches; and to prevent the suffering caused by reading failure and unlock the full potential of children and adults with dyslexia so that they may personally succeed and contribute to society.
  • The International Dyslexia Association’s mission is to create a future for all individuals with dyslexia and other related reading differences so that they may have richer, more robust lives and access to the tools and resources they need.
  • Learning Disabilities Association of America visualizes a world in which: all individuals with learning disabilities are empowered to thrive and participate fully in society; the incidence of learning disabilities is reduced; and learning disabilities are universally understood and effectively addressed. LDA’s mission is to create opportunities for success for all individuals affected by learning disabilities and to reduce the incidence of learning disabilities in future generations.
  • The National Center for Learning Disabilities’ mission is to improve the lives of the one-in-five children and adults nationwide with learning and attention issues—by empowering parents and young adults, transforming schools and advocating for equal rights and opportunities. They are working to create a society in which every individual possesses the academic, social and emotional skills needed to succeed in school, at work and in life.
  • Understood’s goal is to help the millions of parents whose children, ages three to 20, have learning and attention issues. They want to empower them to understand their children’s issues and relate to their experiences. With this knowledge, parents can make effective choices that propel their children from simply coping to truly thriving.

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