Spielberg's admission turns the spotlight on dyslexia - Fox 2 News Headlines

Spielberg's admission turns the spotlight on dyslexia

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By Deena Centofanti
Fox 2 News

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (WJBK) -- A Hollywood heavy hitter recently admitted to suffering through childhood with a learning disability bringing much needed attention to the little talked about dyslexia.

His masterpiece "Lincoln" is earning widespread critical acclaim.  At one time it was the fantasy of film making that helped Steven Spielberg escape his reality.  After a childhood spent struggling to read and fit in, he was in recent years diagnosed with dyslexia.  But the late diagnosis isn't so rare.

"Often when we're sitting with parents and discussing results of their eight or nine-year-old that we have diagnosed with dyslexia, you see one of the two parents sitting there doing a lot of nodding.  We sometimes see tears from a parent recognizing this was them," said Beaumont child psychologist Dr. Lauren Radtke.

At the Beaumont Center for Human Development, early diagnosis is the goal.  But what is dyslexia?  It's a neurological disorder that doesn't allow the brain to recognize and process certain symbols.

"They have a hard time remembering the bump in the line symbol and what sound it makes.  So occasionally if you see a B on a piece of paper... occasionally you may interpret that symbol as a D or perhaps even a P or a Q," Radtke explained.

A boy about to enter seventh grade was asked to write about his favorite game.  I could barely make out the words.  He writes at a first grade level.

"This is somebody with average to above average intelligence, and that part of the brain is just not working for him," said Radtke.

In first grade, Elizabeth Sturtridge, the little girl with the vast vocabulary, struggled so much in school.  She recalled excruciating spelling tests.

"I'd be like, 'Oh, yeah, I got this.'... After two hours of studying, you'd think you got it.  And then I'd go to the test and I'd be like throw an extra E in there.  Throw some like letters that don't even make noises in there."

It didn't take long to diagnosis her with dyslexia.  Now 15, her journey has been filled with accomplishment and frustration.  Sturtridge described a life of always having to work harder while dispelling stereotypes, even with teachers.

"Just because I'm ADHD and dyslexic doesn't mean I'm stupid.  It doesn't mean that I can't do everything they can do.  It just takes me longer."

Symptoms of dyslexia include struggles with speech, reading, language and letter sound associations.  Treating it means helping a child learn literacy in different ways.

"There are certain treatments out there... that [focus] on helping the children to recognize the symbols, the letters and the sounds that they make when you put them together," Radtke said.

After years of treatment, Sturtridge is a confident teenager embracing her differences.

"I feel like I can go to anybody and be like, 'Well, I'm dyslexic, so could you read this to me?'"

And when it comes to Spielberg openly sharing his struggles, Sturtridge's mom will tell you he's taking her daughter's lead.

"Maybe the most significant thing he'll have done is let people know that there's room for everybody in this big world and we all have different talents and gifts," said Jean Sturtridge.

There is not one test that diagnosis dyslexia.  There are different screenings to detect it, but the bottom line is if a child is struggling, the early that it is discovered the better.

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