Local activist shining light during Dyslexia Awareness Month

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 2, 2007

DEMOPOLIS &8212; Gov. Bob Riley has signed a proclamation setting October 2006 as the second annual Dyslexia Awareness month. The Alabama Branch of the International Dyslexia Association will hold informational events in an effort to inform about dyslexia and the many sources to help for struggling students or adults with dyslexia.

According to Nancy Lindsey, board member of the Alabama Branch of the International Dyslexia Association, 15 to 20 percent of the American population has a reading disability and 85 percent of those are dyslexics.

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability, and refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia may experience difficulties in other language skills such as spelling, writing and speaking. Dyslexia can even affect people in mathematics, where it is known as dyscalculia, and in handwriting, where it is known as dysgraphia.

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Dyslexia is not due to either a lack of intelligence or a desire to learn; with appropriate teaching methods, dyslexics can learn successfully.

According to Lindsey, dyslexics are often gifted in areas that do not require strong language skills, such as, computer science, design, drama, electronics, math, mechanics, music, physics, sales and sports.

The causes for dyslexia are not clear, but studies have shown that people with dyslexia have problems with discriminating sounds within a word, a key factor in their reading difficulties.

Early identification and treatment is the key to helping dyslexics achieve their full potential.

A local event, &8220;Solutions for the Struggling Reader,&8221; a question and answer session, will be held at West Alabama Preparatory Monday, Nov. 6, from 3 to 5 p.m. An IDA Board member and trained Orton-Gillingham tutor will be available to share information with parents and students.

Orton-Gillingham is the method used to teach people with dyslexia. It concentrates on the study of sounds and how they work, sound-symbol associations, syllable instruction, study of base words, roots, prefixes and suffixes, syntax and semantics.

Dr. Denise P. Gibbs, director of the Scottish Rite Learning Centers of Alabama and leading state expert on dyslexia, will hold a seminar in Birmingham on Sunday, October 29, from 2 to 4 p.m. Admission is free to the first 300 people.