In my school days dyslexia wasn’t something we’d ever heard of. It was actually first identified in 1881, but the folk explanation of reading problems was still simple laziness or stupidity. My friend Jock Dun, an obvious sufferer avant la lettre, was nicknamed J. Nub by our ever-witty teacher. Yes, that was how we dealt with the issue in Britain in those days! Understanding and sympathy would merely have weakened us, so on we soldiered, stiffening our upper lips while thrown blackboard erasers and belted knuckles blasted the knowledge into our heads. Of course the problem may have been no more than an undiagnosed need for glasses: if you can’t see it you can’t read it. But if the problem isn’t recognized as a problem, solving it becomes no more than a matter of luck.
Dyslexia can result from problems with visual processing or cognitive, language processing. Apparently it often travels in the company of ADHD, another disability of which we were ignorant when I was at school. Such kids were just believed to be naughty back then. Whether or not one believes it now to be an over-diagnosed problem, it is obviously better that remedies are being sought, rather than the mockery and corporal punishment which used to be the response.
Daniel Britton (link via The Digital Reader) is designing a font to show the rest of us what the dyslexia sufferer has to contend with. We know that redundancy can help us a lot with broken letters, but I guess for redundancy to help out you do have to know first what the real letterform should look like. But his full-blown 3D version as he calls it, is certainly a fearsome obstacle to comprehension.
The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity has rather a good website, including this piece about encouraging reluctant readers to take up “the book”. Here are stats about dyslexia from the Dyslexia Center of Utah. Both they and Daniel Britton are fundraising.