School years weren’t ones that Cher remembers fondly. She struggled to keep up, her grades were miserable, and she was miserable, too. School was tortuous. There came a point when she began to think she was too dumb for school. She had major problems with reading and math, and it was useless; she quit.
Her learning disorder of dyslexia was finally diagnosed when she took one of her children for an evaluation after school failures were recurrent. At the time, she was 30 and had gone all of her life believing it was something she couldn’t deal with and had to suffer through.
In an interview, she said, ″I’m a terrible reader. I don’t write letters. Numbers and I have absolutely no relationship. I can dial a phone OK, as long as it’s not long distance. I write the first letter of the word, and my mind races to the last letter. I see words and jumble them together…″
When you consider the high profile of Cher and how, despite this, she tried to hide her reading and math disorders, you can understand that it means a degree of shame and a sense of personal inferiority may be present — without reason. How many adults, not kids, are walking around with this impediment in their lives, and how many have been stymied in their efforts to earn a living or advancing toward a career goal?
Who are some famous individuals with dyslexia that could have prevented them from achieving their goals? In addition to Cher, they include Albert Einstein, Robin Williams, Keira Knightly, Jennifer Anniston, Pablo Picasso, Whoopi Goldberg, Richard Branson, George Washington, and Octavia Spencer.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes indicates that dyslexia is a brain-based learning disability that impairs a person’s reading ability. These individuals typically read at levels significantly lower than expected despite having normal intelligence. However, the disorder varies from person to person, with common characteristics or difficulty with phonological processing (the manipulation of sounds), spelling, and/or rapid visual-verbal responding.
Dyslexia may be caused by a brain injury or in combination with forms of dementia. However, many adults may never have been identified as having the disorder when they were children or adolescents. But they should know there is a familial tendency in families, and studies have identified genes that may predispose a person to have dyslexia.
Research testing has parsed out some factors that are associated with the principal components of dyslexia. These factors include rapid naming, spelling, reading, short-term memory, confusion, phonology, attention, and complexity.
Although individuals with dyslexia may have average or higher-than-average intelligence, they can have problems with schoolwork and must develop compensatory strategies to progress. Rather than going for professional testing, self-report questionnaires can often be used.
But if you don’t suspect you have this disorder and, instead, see it as a personal deficit, would you seek testing for it?
Sources of Information to Be Considered
Research suggests that adults diagnosed with specific learning disorders, such as dyslexia or developmental coordination disorder (DCD), are at greater risk of emotional problems related to frustration and anger. Therefore, it would seem one approach is helping them develop a stronger sense of mastery over their frustration and a better understanding of where it’s coming from.
Left unattended, untested, and unremediated, the disorder may bring on symptoms of anxiety, especially test anxiety, difficulty with even simple math calculations (due to anxiety), and diminished self-esteem. The waste of human potential is evident.
An organization that offers an online self-administered test is the International Dyslexia Association. The Adult Reading History Questionnaire (ARHQ) is a self-report screening tool designed to measure risk of reading disability (i.e. dyslexia) in adults (Lefly & Pennington, 2000).
The ARHQ asks adults about their own reading history and current reading habits in order to estimate the risk that they may have a reading disability. Normative scores are based on actual testing, and Lefly & Pennington (2000) found that the ARHQ is reliable and valid.
International Dyslexia Association
Learning Disabilities Association of America
National Center for Learning Disabilities
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Anyone believing they might have a problem such as dyslexia can contact the above groups for more information on testing and remediation approaches.