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.


Recognizing and Promoting the Strengths of Dyslexic Children

Children with Dyslexia should not be defined only by their specific, inherited weaknesses in written language acquisition. Rather, the strengths of these children must be recognized in the first years of elementary school and supported accordingly. This can be an important prevention against potential mental illness.

In the German-speaking world, professionals mostly focus on the deficits of dyslexic children. Their individual strengths are often pushed into the background. Parents can have a positive influence here if they do not compare the children with their own school and professional history. Even if children have inherited good learning abilities, they are still, starting at birth, independent personalities who need to be encouraged and supported.

Parents who are aware of Dyslexia in their own backgrounds can often respond to their children with understanding and empathy. The past of those affected plays an important role here, because dyslexic parents have dealt with their situation in different ways. Some were able to successfully compensate for their Dyslexia, while others never overcame their difficulties. This is also reflected in the upbringing of their own children.

When learning problems are identified in children, an individual and scientifically based determination of Dyslexia is very important. Only then is there a real chance that dyslexic children will manage their difficulties well. This should already be done during the primary school years. The earlier the problems are recognized and overcome, the more one can avoid psychological burdens on the children. A stable family and school environment plays a decisive role here, which promotes the children’s existing strengths. This can be, for example, various sports activities, the children’s university for scientifically gifted children, a musical education, or creative associations. Dyslexic children are often gifted in many ways. This needs to be focused on and encouraged. Only then will these children grow up to be mentally healthy individuals.

If, on the other hand, the problems are not recognized – or even ignored – emotional difficulties can result for the children. These difficulties can then affect their self-image and motivation to learn. It is therefore important that parents not neglect or ignore their children’s learning problems. Undetected Dyslexia can have an unfavorable impact on the mental health of those affected, well into adulthood.

Our conclusion is: early identification of Dyslexia, and support of children by means of individual learning therapy, have a favorable effect on the development of their existing talents and resources.