Helping people with ADHD stay on track and live the life they want

Experts say dyslexia simulation fails to fairly depict learning disorder

Although dyslexia is one of the most common learning disorders in the U.S., it's among the hardest to relate to if you don't have it.

A neurobiological difference in the brain, dyslexia can affect reading, spelling, writing and verbal expression, according to the International Dyslexia Association. Consequences "may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge."

In other words: it can be exhausting.

To help others better understand what it's like to have the disability, a variety of organizations have come out with simulations, some online, like one from understood.org, and some that cost money to order and usually contain material for on-site workshops. Now however, a new simulation released in early March has garnered both praise and criticism.

Developer Victor Widell's Geon website is a dyslexia simulation that shows a large chunk of text with jumpy, shifting letters — showing what reading is like for some. But because the disorder is not a visual challenge for many — it can manifest itself in a variety of forms — some say the simulation is not very helpful.

It's "quite misleading," says Sally E. Shaywitz, co-director of the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity.

Approximately one-third of dyslexic individuals also have visual issues, but "most (are) not that severe," Fernette Eide, co-founder of online dyslexia community and charity organization Dyslexic Advantage, says.

Eides says that the simulator was likely created with "good intentions," but that it also focuses on "what you can't do" with dyslexia.

If dyslexia was as debilitating as the simulator suggests, "most children and adults wouldn't be able to show positive progress with appropriate education instruction," which is not the case, Eide says.

But Eide says the simulator does successfully depict dyslexia as "a perceptual issue, different from your intellect. [...] The simulation makes it very clear that [...] your brain can't register (words) in a smooth, fluent way like other people."

Jordan Jones, a junior at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I., who has dyslexia, says he struggles to identify with the simulation.

"I do read slow, but that simulation is not how I see the words when I read. [...] In no way for me personally was that accurate," Jones says. "Dyslexics have ranges and different categories — some people might be as extreme as the simulation, and others might just mix up numbers like me or can't comprehend what they read because they are so focused on what they're reading and saying that the words just go out the door when trying to comprehend."

Jerome Schultz, Ph. D, a clinical neuropsychologist at Harvard Medical School Psychiatry Department, says Widell's simulation could potentially be used for "sensitivity training," as it can "create empathy" among non-dyslexics.

"Trying to read this moving type certainly helps one to appreciate the frustration and confusion some individuals with dyslexia might feel when required to read," he says.

However, he also emphasizes that it "in no way reflects or explains the underlying psychological processes that make reading print so challenging for children and adults with dyslexia."

"It's like a little piece of the puzzle," adds Eide. "(A simulations) helps you see another person's experience, and that's a good thing. Just don't realize it as more than it is."

Posted in: Dyslexia
How Do Student-Led Conferences Work With Parents? A Teacher ExplainsThe Fatal Flaw of Educational Assessment