Experts say future for people with dyslexia can be bright

Susan Long, left, and her daughter, Melanie, right. (

Here's quite a list of celebrities: Walt Disney, Whoopi Golberg, Tim Tebow, Agatha Christie, Steve Jobs. All of them struggled with dyslexia. Dyslexia is a language processing disorder that can hinder reading, writing, spelling and speaking. The problem is people with dyslexia are often labeled as dumb or lazy.

One in five people have dyslexia. Unfortunately, many cases go undetected and undiagnosed. Thousands of people who have dyslexia have high intelligence. Dyslexia can't be cured, but it can be managed.

Susan Long home schools her 14-year-old daughter Melanie. Their learning exercises may appear simple, but they are vital parts of their regular routine. It helps Melanie cope with dyslexia. "We knew something was going on when she about seven and half or eight years old. She was struggling with reading. Just simple things like sentences and words like the and 'and' she would get confused," said Long.

But Melanie, like many others struggling with the disorder, learned how to mask the problem. "Melanie is extremely smart and so a lot of times she was memorizing her books. So I didn't catch it quite in time like I was hoping to."

At nine years old she was officially diagnosed. Long says catching the problem early can save a life down the line. "75 percent of our prison population has a reading disability. So it's very important for us to start at a young age," said Long.

Long turned to local speech specialist Hettie Johnson for help. Before parents can ask for help though, they've got to be able to recognize the symptoms. Transposing letters is not the only tell tale sign. "When it comes to phonics, that's where they are going to struggle. They're very likely to struggle with putting sounds to letters. And there spelling. It's going to be surprisingly hard. The will children who maybe have not learned how to rhyme very well," said Johnson.

A chart from says symptoms may also include trouble with math and not being able to get a point across quickly. Low self-esteem can be a problem, but is often accompanied by intuitiveness, and the ability to identify what others are feeling.

What's the solution? There are many resources and teaching methods. The Orton-Gillingham method is one Johnson and Long have found helpful. "I call it a multi sensory triangle. Study with all gears. If you're moving while you're studying out loud that's the magic key," said Johnson.

It's the practice of using different senses to learn. Long sometimes uses play-doh with Melanie. Or tossing a ball while learning to rhyme can be helpful. Audio books tend to be helpful for students with dyslexia as well. Whatever the method, Johnson says people with dyslexia are not lost causes. A close friend with dyslexia comes to mind. "He's a rocket scientist in Huntsville. He told his mother 'I never thought I was smart'."

For more information on Decoding Dyslexia visit


For more information about the Alabama Dyslexia Association visit