Dyslexia - the overlooked learning disability

Dyslexia is a neurological condition that affects between 10%-20% of all people. It does not discriminate between colour, race, culture or even socio-economic status. In 2011 there are between 120 000 – 240 000 children in our school system with the condition, and yet, only 10% of these children will be properly diagnosed.

“The rest of these children will be treated as if they are lazy, stupid or labelled as ‘sporty’ or ‘creative’”, explains Sandra Stark, 42-year-old paediatric optometrist and co-developer of the new, first of its kind, Stark-Griffin Test for Dyslexia.

The point of the matter though is that dyslexia can be treated, and for the most part those affected by the condition can go on to become anything they choose, including lawyers and engineers or any host of other impressive professions.

What exactly is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a common neurological condition that does not mean a child is any less intelligent, “In fact, most people with dyslexia are highly intelligent and creative people who think in multidimensional ways,” explains Sandra.

In simple terms, their brains are wired in such a way that messages reach their destination with some pieces missing. This results in problems with reading, spelling and writing, “People with dyslexia are auditory-blind and visually-deaf,” says Sandra.

Although it sounds confusing, what Sandra is referring to is the way in which a person with dyslexia struggles to visualise what they hear, and hear what they visualise. For example, they struggle to get a picture of an ‘A’ in their head after hearing it said, and conversely, when they see a letter like ‘A’ in front of them, they struggle to hear the sound for ‘A’ in their mind.

Talented learners

Despite this challenge though, people with dyslexia are very talented learners – if they are given the chance to work in the way that works best for them: visually. “Through testing we’ve determined that where the average person reads approximately 240 words per minute, a person with dyslexia ‘reads’ an average of 10 000 pictures in that same period of time,” Sandra shares.

This is why Sandra is so passionate about children who are affected by this condition who continue to go undiagnosed, “These children are treated as if they are lazy or stupid and this has a profound effect on their self-esteem and their ability to apply themselves at school.”


The good news is that 80% of the children treated for dyslexia will go on to be very successful in their schooling, lives and careers, and balance can be helped to improve dramatically. In Sandra’s words, “no one is left behind.”

Treatment will depend on the type and severity of the dyslexia, which is ascertained by a trained professional applying the Stark-Griffin diagnostic tool. From there a multi-disciplinary team that includes speech, occupational and a selection of other trained specialists will all work cohesively to assist the child to overcome and compensate for their condition.


Symptoms of dyslexia include speech delays, slow language acquisition, and difficulty with letters in early childhood; continued difficulty with the alphabet, inability to remember words, names or find rhyming words, difficulty distinguishing similar words (like ‘cat’ and ‘hat’), and reversing letters in writing during early primary school.

Older primary school children with dyslexia will be slow or inaccurate readers, have poor spelling, will struggle to read out loud (reading words that aren’t there or skipping ones that are), lack general organisational skills, and tend to leave out letters or words when writing.
If any child you know is displaying these symptoms, please don’t hesitate to contact Sandra Stark for assistance on (016) 423 7709, email Sandra@sanoptom.co.za or visit her website www.disleksie.co.za

Has your child been diagnosed with a learning disability?

Dyslexia’s new dawn

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