Dyslexia in Medical Studies

Dyslexics can work in a wide variety of professions, as we have reported here several times. This also applies to the medical field. It is not yet known how many medical professionals are affected by Dyslexia. However, we have seen dyslexics studying human or veterinary medicine or already working in their field on several occasions.

Intellectually (in terms of knowledge), studying medicine is not a problem for most of those affected. However, in these fields, the subject of Dyslexia is not discussed at all or rarely, and people come out even less often than in other fields of study. The barriers for dyslexics seem to be much lower in fields such as social work, architecture, and other engineering professions. In contrast, in elite fields of study such as medicine, psychology, and law, there is a greater stigma to coming out as dyslexic. This often triggers anxiety or self-doubt among those affected when choosing a course of study, even though these students often perform very well academically when guided and supported according to their abilities.

Many of those who are affected encounter a lack of understanding. Professors or colleagues doubt their professional suitability by pointing out that they cannot read and write without errors. This results in strong pressure to perform, which can affect the overall psychological state of the students. Those affected deal with this pressure in very different ways, with family background and the school development that they experienced playing an important role.

Some dyslexics are confronted with sentences like „How can you choose such a profession with these problems? That’s just won’t work!“. This is what some affected medical students experience in their everyday life. Often the good abilities of those affected are not recognized, because until today it is assumed that Dyslexia is a disease or disability. The fact that Dyslexia is listed as a reading and spelling disorder in the ICD-10 manual is also controversial among medical trainees. Many medical professionals view this particular reading-spelling disability as a mental illness. Therefore, it is a major handicap for many dyslexics to dealing openly with the problem. In this way, those affected are prevented from better professional development. With a more pragmatic approach, they could be better integrated, by recognizing and promoting their personal and professional potential regardless of their writing skills.

Dyslexics do not infrequently choose medicine as a field of study. This may be related to their usually good knowledge of science. They are also often very social and compassionate. Therefore, they are well suited for these professions, provided they are academically capable.

It would be good if the departments were more enlightened in regard to their approach of this topic. In addition, the medical condition of Dyslexia as a reading and spelling disorder should be questioned. For those affected, it often means discrimination instead of the necessary integration into working life.

Education politics should pay more attention to this issue. Otherwise, we will continue to miss many good opportunities to use the good potential of dyslexic people.


Good upbringing lays the foundation for coping with reading/spelling weakness

child-561229_1280Our education dictates who we become and what we do (Parens, 2017). This is the title of an essay by Prof. Henri Parens, MD of Thomas Jefferson University, published in the book „Bindung und emotionale Gewalt“ („Binding and Emotional Violence“) by the well-known researcher Karl Heinz Brisch. Parent-child bonding is an important basis for the upbringing and emotional development of children. It forms the basis for how the self and in the long run the self-image of the child will develop. These findings are important for dyslexia research, because a good upbringing is an important basis for children with reading and spelling difficulties, to develop well into adulthood in the long term. Or the children have a lower bonding ability due to unfavourable environmental conditions and bonding patterns, which can result in psycho-social behavioural disorders or even mental disabilities.

Therefore, the definition of this reading and spelling disorder as a generalized clinical picture must also withstand criticism. Here we must ask ourselves the questions: Are children with a reading, spelling or writing disability born with a disease? Or do they become conspicuous children only through their environment, through their education, the school system and society?

A „medical malfunction“ – reading /spelling disorder definition, prevents holistic case understanding and neglects education and training.The medical-psychological world often regards the reading and spelling disorder as a pathological construct. One measures the abnormalities in reading and writing, in many cases also the intelligence + concentrations and then compares them with the corresponding age group. From a statistical point of view, this may be used to discover conspicuous children. Often, however, they are not discovered because the measured results can vary depending on the performance of the day.

But much more important is contained the question: How did the child develop psycho-emotionally in the course of its life? Education, which is based on the child’s ability to bind to its parents, plays an important role in the extent to which long-term reading and spelling weaknesses are compensated for and overcome, by a more precise knowledge of the developmental history.  One aspect of this is that there must be indicators as to why mental violence or even neglect, as well as a low ability to bind can lead to learning difficulties in reading and writing. So far, these dimensions have been given little consideration in dyslexia research.

From this point of view it becomes clear that the diagnosis of a reading and spelling disorder is not sufficient for sustainable help. This requires a holistic understanding of the case, which takes into account the entire development of those affected. Therefore, the family background study is inevitable and an obligation to educating institutions, for the understanding of the individual cases. This is why a described developmental disorder of school abilities as a medical disturbance (Krollner, 2018) does not go far enough. This definition labels and stigmatises those affected. From an ethical and human rights perspective, this definition should be deleted from the ICD-10-GM. 

Institutional imprints influence and shape upbringing and education

Families educate their children from the beginning under the pressure of the ideas and conceptions prevailing in the respective society. These institutional influences, impact and shape the respective education and thus the psycho-emotional development of the children. Therefore the education plays an important role for the cognitive learning ability and maturation of the children. If children experience love and acceptance, they will be able to develop a healthy bonding ability, which makes them psycho-emotionally resilient children. The more stable the children with learning disabilities can grow up, the better they can cope with their dyslexia. Other children, on the other hand, will not acquire these learning reading/spelling difficulties if their environment, family and school system, offers the best possible conditions.

On the other hand, it may be due to the parenting style and the family background and history of the family, that children may not develop, or that the child‘s life does succeed in its development. Social and public educational institutions seem to play a role in the dynamic development process through a pre-determined group identity. The nuclear family probably plays a greater role, as we are shaped in it, and what the children can become later. The more favourable the conditions, the better those with reading and spelling difficulties will be able to pass through school and later adult life. Therefore, the family lays an important foundation for learning in general and the upbringing of children (Lehmann, 2018).


Krollner, D. B. (2018). F81.-Umschriebene Entwicklungsstörungen schulischer Fertigkeiten. http://www.icd-code.de. ICD-10-GM, Version 2018, Systematisches Verzeichnis: Internationale statistische Klassifikation der Krankheiten und verwandter Gesundheitsprobleme, 10. Revision, Zugriff am 5.5.2018. Verfügbar unter: http://www.icd-code.de/icd/code/F81.0.html

Lehmann, L. M. (2018, April 17). Eltern-Kind-Bindung und emotionale Entwicklung sind wichtige Faktoren zur Bewältigung einer Lese-Rechtschreib-Schwäche. http://www.legasthenie-coaching.de. Internetpräsenz von Legasthenie Coaching – Institut für Bildung und Forschung gUG (haftungsbeschränkt), Zugriff am 5.5.2018. Verfügbar unter: https://www.legasthenie-coaching.de/eltern-kind-bindung-und-emotionale-entwicklung-sind-wichtige-faktoren-zur-bewaeltigung-einer-lese-rechtschreib-schwaeche/

Parens, H. (2017). Bindung und emotionale Gewalt (Fachbuch Klett-Cotta). Das bösartige Vorurteil – Ein Weg zur Entladung emotionaler Gewalt (Band Bindung und emotionale Gewalt, S. 145–178). Klett-Cotta.