My wife and I were out for dinner with another couple, both of whom were in the medical field with lots of years of experience. They were curious about my recently presenting as a keynote speaker at the Decoding Dyslexia conference in Utah.
“So, Rich, what percentage of the population do you think are dyslexic,” my friend asks, “and what is dyslexia, exactly?”
(We get a glimpse inside Rich’s head as his anxiety shoots up and he thinks the following:) (“Ugh. I’ve been in this field for 30 years and have written three books related to dyslexia and I still don’t know the best way to explain it to people. You would think I’d have a ready answer by now. What a field! Why can’t I be Dr. Sally Shaywitz – she wrote the bible on dyslexia. I bet she would have a ready answer. Should I start to get my routine about ‘smooth road and rough road kids’ and that the dyslexics are on the rough road? Well, that’s not going to explain anything. Just drink more wine and start talking about Trump – that gets everyone going. Maybe they will forget about dyslexia.”)
Rich answers, “Probably about 20 to 30% of the population is dyslexic.”
My friend responds, “Really, I had no idea. That’s a lot of people reading upside down or however they read with dyslexia, but what is it exactly and what causes it.”
(Back in Rich’s head.) (“Seriously, why can’t you just answer the question? Man, you spoke at a dyslexia conference two weeks ago – the people at the conference even said they liked you – well, maybe they were just being polite. You can’t start talking to people about ‘decoding’ and ‘oral reading fluency,’ and no one wants to hear about ‘phonemic awareness’ or ‘sound segmentation.’ I mean, come on. You don’t want to put them to sleep at the dinner table. Don’t you have some type of elevator speech on dyslexia somewhere in this head of yours? Just get to the point. Jeez. You have problems, man.”)
“The best way I can explain it is reading inefficiency – like, about 70 of the population reads smoothly and effortlessly. They just are on a smooth road since first grade. (“There you go again with your smooth road and rough road.”) The dyslexic kids are not. They can’t handle big words like ‘porcupine’ and ‘institute.’ Words like these get all jumbled up and they misread them like ‘pricopinney’ for porcupine and ‘instate’ for institute – that sort of thing.”
My friend asks, “So, are they seeing the words wrong?”
(Back in Rich’s head as he does his mental tap dancing.) (You’re back in the weeds again are you? It would be much easier if you just said it’s a reading problem, but then what about the spelling and the writing. You should have gone to dental school like your parents wanted you to do. The dentists don’t have to fumfer, mumble and tap dance like you do. And they make a lot more money too! What is your problem????)
“So, what do you all think about Trump’s week?”
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