Guest editorial: Consider the effects of dyslexia on self-esteem
February 10, 2015
As a recent graduate of Park City High School and a junior at the U of U, I recently read a letter to the editor by Mr. Bruce Margolis, a fellow dyslexic who, in his title, demonized the practice of public school screening for learning disabilities.
He showed his general disdain for students receiving assistance from public schools by referring to them as "clever, grant-sucking educational parasites." Had it not been for this phrase I would have quickly forgotten his braggadocios autobiography of triumph over his "battle" with dyslexia, but name-calling is something that hits home for me. In rebuttal to Mr. Margolis, I would like to touch on the effects of severe dyslexia on self-esteem and the importance of early detection.
I have become very close friends with a handful of other dyslexics. Our times of diagnosis range from kindergarten to midway through high school. Some took advantage of accommodations and some were too proud to. Although our experiences with combatting dyslexia are very different, more than once were we all called names because of our disability. I remember my first day at a new school in 5th grade, when my teacher called on me to read to the class. Halfway through the first paragraph the teacher interjected. He said, "Stop. Someone else, please?" As he sent me out of the room, he said, "When you learn to read, you may come back to my class." I assure you, Mr. Margolis, in that moment, I wanted nothing more than a "normal" brain. I practiced reading, but very little ever changed.
Fortunately, my parents were financially able to have me tested for dyslexia at a young age and took the appropriate actions. These actions would not repair the self-hatred and embarrassment caused by the years before diagnosis; the same feelings that many, less fortunate, undiagnosed students carry with them throughout their educational career. My parents understood the humiliation that comes along with dyslexia and they presented me with a list similar to what you had provided in your article. A list of high achievers with dyslexia such as Einstein, Sir Richard Branson, Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, Alexander Graham Bell etc. As a child, this gave me a sense of hope and pride. It made me realize that dyslexics have an incredible gift but only a select few can make it through school and higher education before their confidence crumbles. I wonder how many brilliant minds has the world missed out on because their confidence was destroyed before they had an opportunity to do anything significant?
A common statistic is the alarming numbers of inmates in our nation’s penitentiaries with learning disabilities. According the National Institute for Health, about 15 percent of the United States population has some form of a learning disability. If you compare that to Dr. Harlow’s study published in 2003, many people are shocked to learn that 66 percent of inmates have learning disabilities. Most inmates grew up in the lower class and did not have the financial or social resources to be tested for learning disabilities. Confidence reduction at a young age results in children acting out and, later in life, can lead to criminal activity.
I ask that anyone subscribing to Mr. Margolis’ philosophy consider this: The average cost of a single inmate, per year, is $31,286 of taxpayer money. I am willing to bet that early screening of our youth will cost a fraction of that, and will keep them out of the criminal system. So, if not for the happiness and wellbeing of the American youth, support early screening for you wallet, Mr. Margolis.
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