Dyslexia myths debunked

Last updated 12:04 08/01/2009
DYSLEXIA MYTHS: Albert Einstein and Winston Churchill have been incorrectly labelled dyslexic, says Massey University College of Education pro-vice chancellor James Chapman.

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Albert Einstein was not dyslexic, nor was Winston Churchill.

These "brilliant" men were incorrectly labelled by those who didn't fully understand dyslexia, Massey University College of Education pro-vice chancellor James Chapman said.

Professor Chapman is also the president of the International Academy for Research in Learning Disabilities.

"Well, if Einstein and Churchill were both dyslexic could they have produced the scientific, historical or literary works that they produced?

"I don't think so."

Both men were definitely not dyslexic, according to the scientific view that dyslexia is a persistent literary learning difficulty, Professor Chapman said.

But, people who believe dyslexia is a spectrum disorder would probably consider Churchill and Einstein dyslexic, he said.

The Dyslexia Foundation of New Zealand takes the spectrum disorder view.

Trustee chairman Guy Pope-Mayell said no-one would know whether the pair were dyslexic, because they were not tested.

The literary deficit focus, which was used to burst the Einstein and Churchill dyslexic myth, is narrow-minded, he said.

"Over the last 25 years, there's been a great focus on dyslexia in terms of its deficit, particularly literary deficit, but there's a groundswell now going into researching the talents, which dyslexics have," Mr Pope-Mayell said. But Prof Chapman said, like Einstein and Churchill, people were being incorrectly diagnosed with dyslexia because of the varying definitions.

The range of definitions would be discussed at this year's dyslexia conference next week in Wellington, which was organised by researchers including Prof Chapman. The two-day conference would focus on reducing the literacy achievement gap and helping children with dyslexia.

Essentially, dyslexia starts when a child has difficulty working out words.

"You have to crack the alphabet code," Prof Chapman said. The main problem was understanding the link between letters and the sounds they represent.

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- Manawatu Standard

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