Yesterday, the US Senate passed the READ Act, which will provide funding for more research into dyslexia. Very exciting! You can read the act here.
Dyslexia is one of the most common LDs in the world, though we still make up a minority of the population. Many people, especially those who come from lower-income backgrounds, still get missed by their school systems. I’d hope this bill will eventually help to change that.
What damage does not being able to read do?
Greater Likelihood of Criminal Activity
Most legal work has at least some element of reading involved. Those who drop out of high school will have a much harder time finding legitimate work than someone with a diploma.
Even if they do graduate high school, someone with some sort of college degree is more likely to earn a comfortable, living wage.
If schools fail in teaching their kids how to read, those students face a risky future, especially when they aren’t born into a family without much by way of financial means.
When these kids grow up, and if they can’t find legal opportunities, they still need to make some sort of living. At that point, their options are severely limited, and past experiences may have had a terrible effect on their mental health.
Here are some statistics from December 2015 reports from the US Department of Education and National Institute of Literacy:
- 70% percent of prison inmates cannot read.
- 14% of US adults are functionally illiterate
- 19% of high school graduates can’t read.
- 66% of women worldwide are illiterate
- 41% of Hispanic individuals, 24% of black individuals in the US are functionally illiterate, compared to the 9% of white individuals
Reading Is a Civil Rights Issue
Those last two points tie into how race and gender play into this issue. Women, Hispanic and black people are no less intelligent than men and white people, but they, as groups, do still face huge race and gender related hurdles to education.
The problem is that the existing prejudices within the system do nothing but reinforce those statistics and all of the stigma that comes with being unable to read well.
Dyslexia ties into it because the initial steps to identification are far more difficult for girls and people of color than it is for boys and white people. When income level is considered, it’s even harder, unless a teacher happens to catch the distinctive error patterns dyslexic kids tend to demonstrate.
Those figures for adult and high school illiteracy are also pretty telling. Is it a coincidence that 15-20% of the population is estimated to be dyslexic, and the above numbers are so close to those figures?
I don’t know. I don’t think there’s a way to know at the moment. There won’t be until more people are screened.
How this Dyslexia Act Can Help
Although it should have been put into effect years ago, it can still help demonstrate the need for LD screening at a younger age. It may also help positively change the way classes are taught, because the multisensory methods that work so well for dyslexics also work well for kids without LD.
It’s also fantastic that they include learners of ALL ages, rather than only school children. Although it is vital for new generations to be identified early, countless dyslexic adults also need help. The current adult generations have been left to struggle alone for too long, and the more who can get some sort of accommodation, then better.