Dyslexia explored at state conference in Northlake
Audience members listen to Illinois Supreme Justice Anne Burke at the Dyslexia Society annual conference held at the Midwest Conference Center in Northlake. Burke is dyslexic. | Jerry Daliege~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 19, 2012 1:17PM
NORTHLAKE — Among the speakers at the Illinois Dyslexia Association conference in Northlake was Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, who is dyslexic.
That may come as a surprise, though Maria Logan of the IDA said there are many people with dyslexia who are both successful and even famous.
“Whoopi Goldberg, Albert Einstein, Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines, John Lennon,” Logan said. Others listed on the IDA website include Thomas Edison, Jay Leno, Robin Williams, Leonardo da Vinci, Greg Louganis and Charles Schwab.
“Dyslexia does not hinder you from life goals,” Logan said. Nor is it related to lower intelligence. “Quite the opposite. Statistics show that dyslexics have above average IQs.”
About 350 people per day were scheduled to learn about different aspects of dyslexia at the Midwest Conference Center in Northlake. The majority were special education teachers, though there were also school administrators, psychologists, social workers, teachers and parents.
Dyslexia is a learning disability connected to language, affecting aspects such as reading, writing and spelling. While there are instances of dyslexics “reading backwards,” dyslexia refers to a number of difficulties that could include lack of awareness of sounds in words, incomplete interpretation of heard language, difficulty with handwriting or confusion over directions in space or time.
It appears to be genetic in origin and affects about 15 percent of the population.
“The dyslexic brain is very visual,” Logan said. “The part of the brain that fires off is not the language-based side, but the visual. When learning to read at a young age, we’re mostly taught auditory.”
Such teaching doesn’t work for dyslexic children. As a result, dyslexic children can fall behind in language skills in elementary school.
“First and second grade are crucial years where children should have their reading down, pat,” Logan said. “For every six to nine months a child has fallen behind, they take about a year to catch up.”
Dyslexia is a life-long condition.
“We have people who call who are 60, 70 or 80 years old and say, I think I finally figured out what’s been wrong all my life,” Logan said.
Dyslexia, however, can be treated using a multi-sensory approach. Such an approach involves using several senses – hearing, seeing, touching – simultaneously.
Schools can also offer accommodations, including offering students extra time for tasks, assistance with taking notes and listening to books on tape.