I have a friend, over 30, who is convinced she cannot really read. Of course; she can read, but she struggles so much with sorting letters into words that she cannot absorb the content. Playing - say - Trivial Pursuit - she looks at the letters; pronounce the words, makes them into sentences, but (says) she does not understand the question until I either answer or say it back to her, or she reads it a second time. She is now, for other reasons, back to school, as she needs to find another profession. I am, in an unofficial capacity, her personal tutor.

The consensus during her school years was that she was extremely dyslectic, a hopeless case, and her teachers let her "get away with it": unlike other students, she did not have to read aloud in class etc (this makes me furious to think about, that they did not give her the help she needed).

She is nowhere near stupid, but insists she is, and that she is so dyslectic that there is nothing that can be done about it. Recently, she took a dyslectic-test and consistently get the worst scores possible.

My suspicion is that she is NOT half as dyslectic as she is made out to be: I think this is largely a learned thing. Since teachers gave up on her; why should she believe she can? Yes, she probably is dyslectic, but the result of incompetent teachers have made her predicament much, much worse.

Fact is; when she has to write things, there are not really all that many spelling mistakes, the sentences are coherent, and she is very good at the logic needed to write - say - a (slightly academic) essay, she is excellent at writing stories, petites. She does, however, have a problem extracting the essence of what she reads. I do think though, that this is largely due to the learned view "I cannot do this, I am too stupid and massively dyslectic". Interestingly, last semester she consistently got top grades in the (native) language class where both content and spelling was important.

This results in (partly learned?) dyslexia as a "gateway" to the crippling thought: "I am an idiot. Why should I try? I will simply spend my life watching television.".

We do not read single letters in words we are familiar with; we largely see the "picture" of a word and make an educated guess/reasonable assumption based on the context. She is visual enough to master this. Having given up on words; there is a possibility that she does not bother to learn them, and hence cannot recognise the word-picture.

I realise this is a very specific example, but my general question is:

  1. How do you teach adults to read?
  2. Is it possible to somehow measure the "I have given up" against real dyslexia?
  3. How is it possible to motivate an adult other than "you will get good grades if you improve on this"? (grades, as we all know, can at times be a little arbitrary and subjective).
  4. Any research on learned dyslexia?
  5. Have our acceptance of dyslexia in a way gone too far? (to the point of accepting it and "giving up" on students?)
  6. Anyone with experience in this?
  • $\begingroup$ There are ways to deal with dyslexia if it's real (and it seems to be, though self-confidence can of course be a real issue as well): special fonts, careful spacing between letters, certain filters to put on top of the page... Maybe those are some avenues worth exploring? $\endgroup$ – Ana Nov 25 '13 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ True, @Ana, there certainly are. She has all these, but in this case; I think it is a struggle uphill against 20 years of "learning" to be stupid. She has written herself off before it can even start. Do you think we have taken the acceptance of dyslexia to the extreme? $\endgroup$ – user3578 Nov 25 '13 at 21:51
  • $\begingroup$ I really can't say, as I come from a country where dyslexia is not such a well known issue. I do however live with someone who is brilliant yet reads with considerably more difficulty than myself, and I can see how it can be hindering... yet it's clearly unrelated to intellectual ability. $\endgroup$ – Ana Nov 26 '13 at 11:00
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, @Ana, yes of course you are right in that the way of dealing with dyslectics vary depending on geography. And yes; it is certainly not a measure of intellectual ability. $\endgroup$ – user3578 Nov 27 '13 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ Try this: give her a short sentence to read then a larger one then 2 sentences in a row then a small paragraph. Let her read the paragraph, record her voice, let her hear her mistakes and repeat the words. After she can read this paragraph well begin a time challenge with her. Read the paragraph yourself in front of her and mark the time you need to finish it then let her read it many times and mark the time she needs. As for motivation, let her read the part she's interested in a newspaper or magazine or any book. If you like let her imagine herself reading the news in front of a video-camera $\endgroup$ – user5402 Nov 28 '13 at 8:47

I will answer your questions out of order. I hope that is ok.

6 I have dyslexia and other "stuff". I have been diagnosed as such by a psychologist and diagnostician multiple independant times.

2 Dyslexia is quantified as a DSM 5 Neurodevelopment Disorders subcategory Learning Disorder.

“difficulties learning and using academic skills.”

Before DSM 5 dyslexia was identified by a difference between verbal and performance IQ which would effectively measure the severity of the dyslexia in comparison with the persons ambition. I'm sure psychiatrist have a new standard test which is able to perform such functions as well.

1 Dyslexics typically learn coping strategies at school. Without foundation of those coping strategies I know reading and writing would be even more difficult for me. I was taught to read and spell with the Scottish Rite Dyslexia method. Its basicly phonics on steroids. It seemed to work very well for myself and the others with learning disabilities though not all were dyslexics. I would recommend finding curriculum based on the framework the Masons provide and that is at least is phonetic.

3 Motivating an adult is very difficult. You might do some research on Social Influence which is ethically acceptable manipulation like what doctors use.

4 Absolutely no one knows what causes learning disabilities like dyslexia all major theories point to something biological involving the brain. Finding the source of the problem doesn't help the person. Only treating the symptoms is rational.

5 No. Your friend comes from a time just before the major push for treatment of learning disabilities in public schools. Now learning differences and disabilities are given coping strategies and other tools (primarily time and technology) to help them perform and live healthy normal lives.

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