Imagine knowing only English and being asked to read a textbook in Italian or write a paragraph in Danish. That's what each day is like for my teenage daughter who has processing disorder and dyslexia, a neurologically based disorder that causes difficulties in language-related tasks.
Although Albert Einstein could not talk until the age of four and did not learn to read until he was nine, researchers are not convinced he had dyslexia. But his inspiring quote above does make me believe he understood the struggle to read that many dsylexics face.
My daughter— and others like her—has difficulty "decoding" words because she does not hear the sounds letters and syllables make—something most of us take for granted. She tends to rely on memorization of whole words because she can't sound out the words. In many ways she thinks visually and analyzes patterns.
New research in language-based learning disabilities identifies how the brain works when reading. English and other languages that use an alphabet based language use a different reading skill in the brain than character-based languages such as Chinese or Japanese. According to Unlocking Dyslexia in Japanese in the WSJ:
Researchers have long observed that some dyslexics have an easier time with languages like Japanese and Chinese, in which characters represent complete words or ideas, than they do with languages like English, which use separate letters and sounds to form words.
Dyslexia even makes forming alphabet difficult for some people. In this article, a young boy with had difficulty writing in his native English, but in his Japanese studies class he was able to compose characters sharply and distinctly.
According to the article, Wider Spacing Helps Dyslexic Children Read:
For dyslexic children, the standard spacing that works well for skilled readers may seem crowded, causing them to take longer to translate the letters into sounds and to make more mistakes deciphering them because the typographical features of characters blend together.
If you are interested in this newest research on dyslexia and word spacing, check out the new app Dys that allows people to adjust the spacing between letters to find the one that most enhances their reading performance. If you want, users can also share their findings anonymously with the researchers.
You can also follow the the app maker and researcher Stephane Dufau on Twitter via @ScienceXL.
>•< • >•< Connect on Facebook >•< • >•<