Do Dyslexics really have a Comprehension Problem with what they have Read?

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I have read several documents indicating that people with dyslexia have a great deal of trouble comprehending what they read; While at the same time doing fairly well on the technical aspects of a reading test.

Most people seem to think that reading comprehension with dyslexics is a problem with understanding the material that was read. In my case, at least, assuming that the material was read is a mistake.

When I first got books in school that started having lots of words on a page, small print and (gasp) no pictures. I noticed that almost everyone else was turning the page, before I finished reading the first paragraph. (Before I go on, I should point out that when I was in school even the word dyslexia was not common, and no help was available for anyone with it.) At that time being one of the top students in the class, and assuming that everyone read at the same speed, as me, I figured the other students were just not reading the material. I was in for a shock when the instructor called time after I had almost finished 2 pages out of 5.

I knew I had to come up with some way of at least answering the written questions regarding the reading assignments. Obviously, actually reading the story was out of the question. Thus, I learned to look at the questions first, then find the key words and scan the story for the answers. Keep in mind I have a very large field of view {see: what I see }, thus finding a key word or phrase was not a problem. Making it a little easier the questions always went in succession with the story. (Question 1 was from a section at the beginning, question 2 a page later, question 3 a little more into the story, and so on.)

As long as the questions were technical (What color was Jane's Bike? Where did Bobby and Jane have lunch?) I did fine. The problem was always with comprehension questions, the ones where one had to read the story to find the answer (Why did Bobby and Jane have lunch at Joe's House?). Unless there was a sentence that said, "... went to Joe's House because ...", I would usually not be able find an answer. Because there was not time to truly read the story. So, I learned to skip those questions and answer the technical questions first. Then go back and try to find the areas, that might answer the comprehensive questions.

Something many people do not realize is that most school book authors and even instructor tests have a 'STYLE' with the questions they ask. Thus, after a few quizzes and tests, I picked up on what I needed to look for and study for, with very little reading (at least in my early years of school). Later in school, I started using, when possible, Cliff Notes, Classic Comics, Reader's Digest Abridged Books, etc. for the reading assignments. (Remember in those days, "books on tape" did not exist.)

Looking back, I suppose, many of the things I did, confused my instructors, since my problems could have seemed somewhat sporadic to a person not familiar with dyslexia. Since on those rare occasions when I actually had time to read a story or when the story was read aloud, I could answer the most difficult of comprehensive questions. Yet apparently I read ALL the material, all the time, since I answered (usually guessed) most of the questions correctly (enough to pass with C's). Thus, I had the appearance of sometimes being able to do the work and sometimes not.

They attributed most of this to nerves, carelessness, laziness, stubbornness or that I just did not want to do the work. ("Tim, is so good in other subjects but just does not want to do some types of class work." as they would say.) To a degree, they were right, I was nervous and I definitely did NOT want to be in those classes requiring lots of reading or writing.

So what is the point to all this? Most people assume that dyslexics have a comprehension problem with the things that they have read. The problem with that logic is that most of the time we DO NOT read the information to begin with. Thus, is it REALLY a COMPREHENSION problem of what we read, if the material was never read?

Just something to think about.

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Copyright © 1996 by Timothy Allen Roach All Rights Reserved.
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