Dyslexia Q&A

How are you involved with Dyslexia?

  • I am a writer, a dyslexic, Australian Children’s laureate and 2015 Senior Australian of the Year. I am also the patron of several associations  to help with reading problems, as well as a psychology background that has helped me evaluate programs that work,. I am the author of I Spy a Great Reader, written to help parents and teachers recognise and help with reading problems.



How would you define Dyslexia?

  • This is controversial, and many experts try to limit the term for their own specilaity. Literally, it just means  a reading problem, where the ability to read is less than ability in other areas would suggest.  A slow learner I slow in all areas. A dyslexic  had problems only with literacy, an sometimes numeracy and forms of coordination.

  • Sometimes this can be overcome or at least greatly helped with coordination or visual exercises, or by verbal focusing programs, but this is not always the case .




What strengths are found in Dyslexia?

  • There are hundreds of reasons why someone may be dyslexic, and each of them have their own problems and strengths. The form I have   means that even though it is difficult to read single words, or a form, or find my way out of a car park, or tell left from right, I read exraordinarily quickly as long as it is in a suitable form, and process information quickly too. You can’t generalise, but as studies o road accident victims or those without eyesight have shown, usually the brain compensates in some ay for problems in others.

  • To be honest, I am not sure that ‘dyslexia’ really exists, or rather, that it is necessarily a problem. It doesn’t exist in ideoraphic languages like Mandarin. I suspect that instead of  thinking o dyslexia as a reading problem, we should instead see it as a teaching challenge, to change our methods of teaching so that every learns to read with the methods best suited to them. On the other and, that would still see me unable to navigate out of a car park.





What difficulties and challenges do Dyslexics have?

  • That depends on the form of their dyslexia: it can be verbal, visual, or cordinational. Bt all share the problem of education systems that have  a too narrow range o ways to teach reading; too little training in literacy methods for teachers ; and the two great literacy myths;  that ‘they’ll catch up next year and when the young person doesn’t ‘ they are unteachable’. Every young person has a right to be taught to read using the  most suitable methods for them, and regular feedback and personal one on one  evaluation as with the Multlit program.




What can be done in schools to help students with Dyslexia?

  • Teacher training development days so teachers understand more about problems and how to solve them; the use of the Multilit Programme in all schools, or programmes that have can substantiate their claims that they can help every child. (Most claim that; few can substantiate it; even fewer schools admit that they have failed some of their students. But the schools- both those in poor and wealthy socio economic areas, have demonstrated that every child in their care can  be taught to read- as long as the school accepts that it is the duty to make sure that every child does).




How do you find Dyslexics use their strengths to be successful despite their literacy skill difficulties?

  • See the answer below





What areas do you find Dyslexics to be gifted in?

  • It’s dangerous to generalise here. Dyslexia is too broad a term to say all dyslexics have the same problems or the same gifts. Some dyslexics have become brilliant business leaders, like Dick Smith; many become extraordinary musicians  or artists . I have all the artistic ability of a cane toad, but believe that without my dyslexia I could neither write as well, nor process information as quickly.

  • Dyslexia isn’t like the flu, where o can look under a  microscope and say ‘yes, I can see te flu virus. You have the flu!

  • Dyslexia just means that you’re not learning to read as fast as you should given your other abilities. A young person may  get 60% in their exams, but is so bright they should be getting 99%. Others may not be able to pass their exams at all, but with a few months of the correct tuition and help, have caught up years of missing out. And still others may find they need years to catch up n those years.

  • Not every dyslexic is a genius, but some are. But some dyslexics are slow learners too- but even slower with literacy.

  • The most important thing though: everyone can read, even if it must be by braille or  other methods. Everyone has the right to be taught to read.  We should no be focusing on ‘kids’ problems’ but on the teaching challenges, because as has been demonstrated so many times: with the right teaching methods, no child should be let behind.

© Jackie French