Two brothers from Ohio were the first to escape the surly bonds of Earth with a powered, controllable airplane. The creator of Britain’s most successful independent airline by far, Virgin Atlantic, is seeking to soar higher than the rest, literally. The company has been planning commercial flights into lower Earth orbit. What do Orville and Wilbur Wright and Sir Richard Branson have in common? They have dyslexia. So did Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Alva Edison, Albert Einstein, and Steve Jobs, not to mention “our own” Bruce Springsteen. What these individuals also share is an extraordinary creativity that has enabled them to meet the challenges of their disability and put their ingenuity to use in ways that have literally changed the world. Indeed, as one astrophysicist pointed out in a 2014 Scientific American article, “With reading difficulties come other cognitive strengths.”
Dyslexia is a condition in which one has difficulty recognizing words, which may make understanding written text or learning a foreign language very difficult. In addition to reading, writing, spelling, and speaking can be challenging. Dyslexia affects 17 percent, or one in six school children.
To recognize the talents so many people with dyslexia have and to spread awareness of tools and accommodations available to this population, the International Dyslexia Association in 2002 declared October National Dyslexia Awareness Month. In 2015, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution to this effect, in addition to expanding the definition of dyslexia and the types of services these students are entitled to not only succeed, but also soar.
Dyslexia Awareness this year in New Jersey has translated to action. First, Gov. Chris Christie signed a joint resolution designating October as Dyslexia Awareness Month. Moreover, that resolution was backed by action in the form of several positive developments:
- The New Jersey Dyslexia Handbook: A Guide to Early Literacy Development and Reading Struggles (New Jersey Department of Education)
- Assembly Bill A4737, enhancing the requirements for teacher certification in the state to teach students with dyslexia in preschool through Grade 3 by adding a written test covering additional topics
- Assembly Bill A5203, which establishes a pilot program to provide students with dyslexia and related conditions in kindergarten through middle school (K – 8) with assistive technology.
An article in NJ Spotlight summarizes these statewide actions in New Jersey.
Assistive technology (AT) can help people with dyslexia succeed in school, at work, and in the community. For people with dyslexia, AT solutions can include text-to-speech, spelling, and word-prediction software, as described in our October 10 profile of Abby. She also uses Kurzweil K3000, which will be discussed on Tuesday in our profile of another individual we helped, Brian M. Please come back to this space to learn about Brian, another dyslexic student who is soaring.