Dyslexia in the sciences

  1. Looking back I remember my first science teacher making a lot of spelling mistakes on the board. At uni I noticed that many of my colleagues were dyslexic, and quite a few of the lecturers were too but they were quite good at covering it up. Now I work with scientists and I have been shocked by the percentage of dyslexic people, it's a small office but about 15% have told me that they are dyslexic, and it's obvious that there are a few others who have problems with spelling. In fact, if you consider that I don't have enough contact with about 60% of the people in the office to pass judgement - I would say of the 40% I've worked closely enough with, about 50-60% are dyslexic to varying degrees.

    Is this normal? Is this normal for just scientists? Or is this just me who's noticed this?
  2. jcsd
  3. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    They might just be poor spellers.
  4. I'm dyslectic. My spelling is below average and it's good my browser has auto spelling. However, I have never encountered anyone that was dyslectic in my engineering classes though.
  5. I thought that was the giveaway sympton of dyslexia.
  6. matthyaouw

    matthyaouw 1,149
    Gold Member

    At my university they seem to screen for dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities pretty readily. It's not compulsory, but it's made pretty clear that the option is there for whoever wants it. Staff may even suggest it if spelling is an issue in your work. At school on the other hand, I never really knew it to happen. I don't know if this is universal, but if so, perhaps university educated people are just more likely to have their dyslexia diagnosed than those who leave school earlier. It's (sadly) not that unusual for a person to leave compulsory schooling with poor English, so dyslexic students may be more likely to be missed, but at university level, you probably stand out a lot more for it.
  7. Stingray

    Stingray 674
    Science Advisor

    Most poor spellers are not dyslexic.

    I've actually never met anyone in the sciences who I knew was dyslexic. I imagine it would be very difficult to get through so much schooling without being able to read properly. Many scientists do seem to have poor grammar and spelling skills, however.
  8. Whether this is true or not (I'm not qualified to say), the fact that dyslexia is associated with spelling difficulties does not imply that the converse is true.

    So it's definitely possible to have difficulty with spelling, and not be dyslexic.
  9. this is what happens when you grow up with 'spellcheck'
  10. I find it hard to see how otherwise intelligent people can have such a problem with spelling unless they are dyslexic. I admit I don't know enough about it to diagnose the condition, so perhaps I have jumped the gun, allow me to rephrase:

    Why is it that so many scientists are so awful at spelling?

    Actually, I must say that science sites like this one, for the most part, attract members with spelling standards way above the norm. I find this to be anomalous, I can only think that this is a product of the American education system (I have lived in the UK all my life), I know that educated Yanks are generally more rounded than the Brits, and hence this could explain why (from my limited experience on this site) I find them to be better spellers.
  11. I have dysgraphia (so I think) because I write printed letters from the bottom up, and this year my science teacher is dysgraphic (where I found the term) and prints similarly to me. I hardly ever need to go back and correct things in my typing, so don't say all young people us spellcheck as a crutch.
  12. mgb_phys

    mgb_phys 8,809
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    They think faster than they can type? This is also the reason they stutter and stammer when speaking 'off the cuff' and have terrible handwriting.

    I think they are just educated enough to put some effort into checkign and correcting typos. There is also a degree of peer-pressure, especially when someone quotes your typos!

    Clinical dyslexia is quite rare. But it is commonly used as either a middle class excuse for thick kids (little Quentin didn't get straight As he must be dislexic) or it just means I can't spell and can't be bothered to check so I must be dyslexic.
    It is getting to be a problem in UK state schools. They are now dominated by league tables of exam performance but you get allowances for any kids with 'special needs', kids with dyslexia are also allowed word processors or extra help in written exams and you can get extra money for teaching them. The result is a big rise in diagnosis of dyslexia in schools, especially schools in 'nice' areas with caring parents who want the kids to do well in exams and the school wants to do well in league tables.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2008
  13. Hehe, had to do it!
  14. mgb_phys

    mgb_phys 8,809
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    And I had already gone back and corrected a typo in 'typo' :cry:
  15. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    I remember years ago, before dyslexia became a popular excuse for doing poorly in English, that it was a disorder in the brain that caused people with the condition to not be able to see numbers and letters in the correct order. The paper explained that a dyslexic person would, for example, not be able to read a street sign. Numbers and letters appear transposed to them.

    It seems the "diagnosis" is now given to anyone that spells poorly. That's not dyslexia.
  16. Moonbear

    Moonbear 11,955
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    It's just not their strength. I have a very good friend who is very intelligent, but the most horrendous speller I've met...it's become a joke between us. I tend to think spelling is something that requires proper teaching early in life to grasp all the rules. Dyslexia is not just bad spelling, but a learning disability where one sees letters jumbled out of order from the way they are actually printed. The people you know who are claiming to be dyslexic...have they actually been diagnosed with dyslexia, or are they just joking that that's their problem when they are just bad spellers? Someone with dyslexia is also a bad reader, because they can't see the words correctly.

    The same reason so many other people are so bad at spelling?
  17. mgb_phys

    mgb_phys 8,809
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    It helps but in English there are as many exceptions as rules!
    I think it comes down to two things, reading enough that you recognise when words are spelt wrong and thinking it's important enough to correct them.
    The majority of our writing today is typed, how much is bad spelling compared to just bad typing?
    Sometimes it doesn't matter, you wouldn't correct spelling in a quick txt message or email in the same way you wouldn't script or rehearse a quick phone call.

    (ps I did have to lookup rehearse !)
  18. I've been diagnosed with dyslexia in 1st or 2nd grade as my learning development lacked behind peers. Spelling for me is mediocre at best. Handwriting is extremely illegible as I'm left handed as well. But there is way more to dyslexia than just spelling, and no two dyslectics are the same.
  19. Evo

    Staff: Mentor

    So when you look at words and numbers they are scrambled and you can't make them out? That's what true dsylexia was about. It's about how you see things.
  20. Ben Niehoff

    Ben Niehoff 1,766
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I read (forgot the source) that dyslexia is actually the inability to mentally connect symbols to sounds. It has nothing specifically to do with transposing those symbols around. Poor spelling and poor reading should both be side effects.

    Anyway, I've always been a great speller, and I've never really understood people who aren't, because it is such a simple thing to me. I suppose it might come from reading a lot, as Mgb_Phys notes, and from caring enough to correct mistakes.
  21. Dyslexia is not a visual problem where letters appear scrambled. Although, at the most extreme level this might manifest itself, but one would have to have other neurological problems.

    Dyslectics process information visually rather than verbally (when hearing a word). So instead of hearing the word in your mind when reading, dyslectics visualize it. This creates a paradox where for instance vowels such "a" have no picture analogy. This in turn confuses the mind, causes a sudden break, and sometimes distracts the dyslectic completely. It turns out there is hundreds of words without a picture analogy such as "some, been, into" and so on. Because visual thinking is quick, dyslectics rush writing to capture their mental revelation before it grows into something else. This will naturally lead to making spelling errors, and other things.
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2008
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