Learn more about dyslexia for your next research paper

On Saturday, August 23, 2014, HBO will air the documentary, The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia. The program is also available on demand at HBOGo.com. Through narratives of doctors, students, parents and successful professionals, filmmaker James Redford sheds light on dealing with the challenge of dyslexia.

"The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia" presents the struggles those with dyslexia face. (Credit: TheBigPictureMovie.com)

“The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia” presents the struggles those with dyslexia face. (Credit: TheBigPictureMovie.com)

According to the International Dyslexia Association, dyslexia symptoms result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading.

The Big Picture

Director James Redford was inspired to make this documentary by his son Dylan, who is dyslexic. Like many dyslexics, Dylan is intelligent, talented and intellectually curious. In other words, he is a “big picture” thinker, according to Redford. However, because of the difficulties related to his dyslexia, by age ten Dylan was still unable to read and write.

Now a grown man, Dylan is finding success as a college student. The Big Picture is Redford’s expression of everything that he wished he’d known while Dylan was young and struggling in school.

In his “Director’s Statement” for TheBigPictureMovie.com, Redford stated, “This film reveals that dyslexia is a neurological issue, not a character flaw. It explains that the struggle with the written word is not an indication of one’s ability to think, to create, or to solve problems – all valuable skills in the world outside the classroom. This film also reveals that some of our greatest leaders in business, law, politics and medicine are dyslexics who succeeded in spite of their learning challenges.”

In the film you’ll see some familiar faces, including attorney David Boies, who represented Vice President Al Gore in his litigation surrounding the controversial 2000 election, business mogul Sir Richard Branson and investment titan Charles D. Schwab.

You’ll find their stories both informative and uplifting. Redford’s film not only clears up misconceptions about dyslexia, it also paints a picture of hope for those who struggle with it and those who care about them.

Dyslexia difficulties

Originally coined in 1937, dyslexia was thought to be related to a lack of hemispheric dominance in the brain. The myth still persists that dyslexia is merely the reversal of letters by the brain.

Attitudes and assumptions have shaped the treatment for dyslexia within the education system. For a thorough exploration of the education policies dealing with dyslexia in special education, be sure to check out the article, “Rethinking Dyslexia, Scripted Reading, and Federal Mandates: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same” by Deborah Camp and Jerry Aldridge. Published in the March 2007 issue of the Journal of Instructional Psychology, the authors described the effect of federal laws and policies on general education.

The authors began their careers in special education in the 1970s when the back-to-basics movement and federal law 94-142 required public school education for all special education students. Use of the right program was thought to be the panacea for every special education ailment rather than using practitioner judgment and decision-making.

But in practice, these mandated programs of instruction were less than effective. According to Camp and Aldridge, “The point is educators have been able to make local decisions and teach reading based on our own beliefs and judgment; however, the federal government now mandates a particular paradigm that everyone must follow if school districts are to receive federal funds.”

International Dyslexia Association

According to the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), those with dyslexia do not read backwards. But it is true that words do look jumbled at times. Dyslexia affects one in ten individuals, many of whom have little idea that they have dyslexia. Some are never diagnosed and those who are may still struggle without structured tutoring.

Other problems experienced by people with dyslexia include:

  • learning to speak
  • doing math problems
  • spelling
  • memorizing number facts

In order to correctly diagnose dyslexia, formal testing of reading language and writing skills is required.

Dyslexia is a lifelong condition, but with proper help, many people with dyslexia can learn to read and write well. Typically one-on-one tutoring that involves several senses (hearing, seeing, touching) is effective. Tutoring and practice have been found to be most effective when conducted in a structured manner.

If you think that you might have dyslexia, take the short self-assessment provided by the IDA. If you answer “yes” to seven or more of the questions, then you may have signs that indicate dyslexia. The IDA website also provides links to help you find a specialist who can help you with a formal diagnosis.

You can read more about learning and developmental disabilities at Questia.

Do you know anyone who is affected by dyslexia? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.

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