Dyslexia...Shame, Humiliation, and the Drop-Out Rate

There it is again. That word shame. The word shame seems to come up all too often when reading and talking about dyslexia. In a recent article by Stephanie Addenbrooke, Understanding the dyslexic drop-out: why students with learning disabilities graduate at a lower rate than their peers, the idea of shame comes up once again. Imagine if you felt shame day in and day out (or maybe you do), would you continually choose to put yourself in the situation that perpetuates the shame, or would you try to avoid the situation? 

With a number of states passing new dyslexia legislation, there is more light being shed on the topic of dyslexia. However, even with this, there remain too many misconceptions and too few resources. 

Below is a snapshot into the Addenbrooke article mentioned above. If you have time, read the article (and the referenced articles)--there's a lot in there! If you don't have time to read the entire article, take a moment to ponder the quotes below.

  • "In 2013, data from the Department of Education indicated that students with disabilities only graduated from high school at a rate of 62% compared to the national average of 81%"(Addenbrooke, 2017). 
  • "Given the lack of students with disabilities in higher education – researchers predict only 34% of students with dyslexia will graduate from college within eight years" (As cited in Addenbrooke, 2017).
  • "'It makes you wonder how many scientists, lawyers, doctors, engineers, and writers we have lost because they failed early on in school and no one knew how to tap into their talents and teach them how to read.' This is the unfortunate reality for many students with dyslexia. They drop out before they can realize their potential."(Addenbrooke, 2017). 
  • "Identifying the distinctive aptitudes of those with dyslexia will permit us to understand this condition more completely, and perhaps orient their education in a direction that not only remediates weaknesses, but builds on strengths" The Upside of Dyslexia
  • "The Dyslexia Research Institute estimates that although 1 in 5 Americans likely has dyslexia, only 5% are diagnosed. Even fewer are diagnosed during their elementary education years" (Addenbrooke, 2017).
  • "The challenge of not being recognized and appropriately diagnosed can build up stress within a student that can lead to apathy towards their education and thus cause them to fade out" (Addenbrooke, 2017).
  • "Many children and adults with dyslexia and other learning disabilities report their schooling experience as incredibly difficult, as they often felt 'deeply humiliated when asked to read. They reported being ridiculed and bullied because of their reading difficulties'" (As cited in Addenbrooke, 2017).
  • "Even if a student with dyslexia shows promise elsewhere, their experiences in other classrooms may hinder their belief that they can succeed" (Addenbrooke, 2017).
  • "It is well known that students who drop out of school are more likely to be incarcerated and more likely to be unemployed, but little attention is given to how learning disabilities factor into these issues" (Addenbrooke, 2017).

There is so much more I could say. However, as I wrap up, (forgive me if it seems I'm rambling) let me leave you with a question I'm often asked. Should I tell my child they are dyslexic? Absolutely! If we are struggling, we will name it something. If my students don't know why they are struggling, they often name it dumb, stupid, if I'd just try harder... When we name it what it is, we give people hope. (There is a lot more I can say about that, but I'll leave that for another time.) One last quote from the Addenbrooke article: 

In an article published by the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, teacher and mother Kyle Redford explained how the dyslexia diagnosis helped her son embrace his education. "My son’s reaction to the dyslexic label convinced me that my reservations were a form of educational elitism. He was delighted with the new word; it helped to contain his condition. His learning challenges could no longer be confused with generalized stupidity." 

Addenbrooke goes on to state, "The absence of this knowledge [dyslexia diagnosis] can be demoralizing and prevents students from understanding their potential, especially when it may look different from their peers" (2017).


Tamera Boring