In the film you address the fact that reading, a task that dyslexics struggle with, is not a natural act and represents only one type of intelligence. How can we change the perception that reading proficiency equals intelligence?
Susan: I think we take reading for granted. It's a very complex process where the brain takes symbols and turns them around and changes them into words. It is a very sophisticated process, and it's not easy to learn.
Alan: I think people have to accept the concept of human diversity and that there are different forms of intelligence. Not all of us are born alike. We shouldn't all fit into one cookie-cutter definition in life.
Dr. Carol Greider, 2009 Nobel Laureate in physiology and medicine, mentioned in the film that she had always struggled with performing well on standardized exams. Do you believe that standardized exams are a fair assessment of a person's intelligence and abilities?
Susan: I don't think standardized tests really measure the ability of a person. People with dyslexia use the right side of their brains, so it takes them five times longer to do a task. That's why students in school are eligible for extended time when taking tests. There was a study that showed if a dyslexic student was given extended time, there was a good chance that they could increase their score by about 50 percent. If you were to give a typical student extended time, their score will most likely only improve by 5 percent. They just need more time to process information.
We've really become a country of testers now. Dr. Greider was not a good test taker. She applied to 13 colleges and 11 of them only looked at those test scores and said,
"Well, forget her," and two of the colleges looked at her other talents and realized that she was an interesting person and accepted her. We have to reevaluate what is "normal," because we are going to miss out on so many talented people.
About half of students with learning disabilities eventually drop out of high school. What are some ways to help retain students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities in the school system?
Susan: Early identification is important. Identify and screen your child in kindergarten and certainly no later than first grade to see if they are struggling with reading. If you identify it early and put them in learning programs, that child will start reading as well as normal children by the third grade.
Alan: Also, I think children in special education give up on themselves because they feel there is no future in their academic studies. They should put students with learning disabilities into regular classes and integrate an inclusionary model into the system.
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