Demystifying
Muse Science Magazine for Kids|October 2020
One reason a smart person may still struggle to read
By Rachel Kehoe

Each child learns how to read at his or her own pace. But for some, it will always be a challenge. An estimated one in five Americans has dyslexia, a learning disability that makes it difficult to read. People with dyslexia may be a scientists, astronauts, or writers. They are just as smart and motivated as their non-dyslexic peers, but their intelligence won’t be able to help them read quickly.

For someone with dyslexia, reading is “an island of weakness in a sea of strengths,” says Sally Shaywitz, Professor in Learning Development at Yale University. She and her husband, Bennett Shaywitz, are co-directors of the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity in New Haven, Connecticut. In 2018, Congress passed and the President signed into law the very first federal definition of dyslexia. It affirms there is no link between the condition and intelligence. “If you have dyslexia, you can be the smartest person in the room and still struggle to read,” says Shaywitz.

What Is Dyslexia?

People with dyslexia have difficulty breaking words into sounds. This is known as decoding. A typical reader sees the word “tap,” recognizes that it is made up of three sounds, ‘tuh,’ ‘ah’ and ‘p.’ These sounds are then blended in the brain to form the complete word. But those with dyslexia struggle to identify the individual sounds in words. Some try to overcome this problem by memorizing words, but they still have a hard time recognizing new words. Children with dyslexia can learn to read, but it will always be a challenge.

Differing Brain Patterns

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