If I have dyslexia, does that mean I can't become a doctor?


Kyle Redford, teacher and education editor for The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity

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As a teacher, I encounter this worry all the time, both with my dyslexic students and their worried parents.

Having dyslexia does not prevent anyone from becoming a doctor. I have personally met many very successful dyslexic doctors. The film, The Big Picture; Rethinking Dyslexia, profiles several dyslexic doctors and The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity made another short documentary a few years back featuring several high profile dyslexic doctors, including one who ran the Emergency Department at Yale Hospital. There are too many examples to repeat here, but you might be interested in a radio interview I just did for BAMradionnetwork. In the interview, I reference a severely #dyslexic student I taught who later went to Stanford Medical School and currently runs an Emergency Department in Alaska. Stanford is one of several medical schools that offers special supports for their medical students with dyslexia.

Dr. Sally Shaywitz often references how common it is to meet doctors with dyslexia. She would even argue that your dyslexia might give you special advantages as a doctor. In any case, you will certainly be in good company. Here is a link to dyslexic doctor success stories on the Yale Center website.

Jamie Martin, Assistive Technology Consultant for Students and Adults with Dyslexia

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Just because you have dyslexia does not mean that you cannot become a successful doctor. Dyslexia has nothing to do with how intelligent you are, and it has nothing to do with the amount of effort that you can put into medical school and caring for your patients. In fact, many people with dyslexia are great problem solvers, which I think you'll agree is a great trait for doctors to have.

There is a fantastic documentary film called The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia, which features a doctor who has dyslexia. Take some time to watch it in order to gain inspiration from his success story.

You'll likely need to get some accommodations in place, such as various assistive technology tools, to help you meet the demands of becoming a successful physician, but if you have a strong desire to enter the medical profession, it is entirely possible.

Stephen Zedler, Father of five, classroom teacher for 15 years, professional tutor for students with reading difficulties

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Absolutely not! First, many people have made it through medical school and become doctors, even with the reading difficulties that come with being dyslexic.

That said, those people had to work many times harder than their peers who did not have reading difficulties. Research has shown us that people do not have to struggle like that anymore. With evidence-based instruction and practice in the right skills, your reading skills can be at or above average. Evidence-based programs that use methods proven in scientific research, like the NOW! Foundations program by Neuro-development of Words - NOW!® are effective at improving reading skills. You can find out more about them at www.nowprograms.com

If you'd like more information about dyslexia from a noted neuropsychologist with many years of experience in both researching and helping people with dyslexia, you can see presentations by going to this link:


Many of these are divided into small clips that are easier to watch.

PAT DORAN, M.Ed., 50 years in the education field

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If you have serious reading issues, have someone read this to you. Let’s continue. As a word of encouragement, while you may have difficulty reading my long response, let me tell you that there has not been one student in my 50 years as an educator, author, and literacy expert who told me that they were dyslexic that I didn’t teach how to read with success.
First of all, you must determine what type of dyslexia you may have. The common “diagnosis” of dyslexia means that someone has difficulty reading as he or she exhibits certain reading behaviors.
Such a broad definition of dyslexia as noted above allows the diagnosis to apply broadly to hundreds of thousands of readers. Many are far from being learning disabled; they simply have been taught to read using inadequate and inefficient methods that result in reading behaviors that mimic neurological dyslexia. These folks may be instructionally disabled. Most educators and experts are unaware of the history of reading. They are unaware of why and how these dyslexia symptoms came to be so common. The popular rise of the diagnosis of dyslexia seems to have occurred simultaneously with the abandonment of phonics instruction that required that the reader to read from left to right, pronouncing each letter from beginning to end with accuracy.
Dyslexia is not always a learning disability, but often can be instructionally induced, namely, a learned disability, correctable and reversible with systematic, direct, and explicit phonics and reading instruction. If someone is going to diagnose an individual as being dyslexic, they must not assume that the reader has been taught to read using effective strategies.

Let’s consider some of the reading strategies that are taught in many classrooms that experts or individuals use as baselines to diagnose dyslexia.

For example, Dr. Ken Goodman, of Arizona University, wrote in The Whole-Language Catalog (p.207): Whole language classrooms liberate pupils to try new things, to invent spellings, to experiment with a new genre, to guess at meanings in their reading, or to read and write imperfectly. [Underline added.] Our research on reading and writing has strongly supported the importance of error in language development. Miscues represent the tension between invention and convention in reading. . . . In whole-language classrooms risk-taking is not simply tolerated, it is celebrated. Learners have always been free to fail.

If you are SUBSTITUTING words in a passage, MAKING GUESSES if a word seems unfamiliar to too difficult, SKIPPING WORDS OR SENTENCES and then go back, RESTART, you may be using strategies that you were taught to use. If you are able only to GET THE GIST, this is a logical outcome of ineffective instruction. If you are a POOR SPELLERS, you may not have a background in explicit, systematic that would enable you not only to read (decode) well, but they can spell (encode) well.

The bottom line is that, if you are exhibiting dyslexic symptoms, do the following: 1. Try to determine how you learned how to read, write, and spell. Folks who were taught explicit, systematic phonics know exactly how they were taught to read. Other folks generally are a bit fuzzy. 2. If you did not have explicit, systematic, direct instruction of phonics concepts, then by all means, find a way to learn it. You may be pleasantly surprised.
This post offers limited connection with you, the reader, so I do not know your specific situation and reading behaviors. I do want to affirm that I through the many decades that I have been teaching as a classroom teacher, school librarian, college course author and college online and in person instructor, I have met many who told me they were dyslexic. However, I have not met a single individual who has not has his or her dyslexic symptoms significantly lessened or eliminated completely when they learned explicit, systematic phonics strategies and concepts. It is not rocket science, thankfully. In the interest of helping you, let me share that I developed a system for older struggling readers, including those with dyslexia. Pat Doran’s PHONICS STEPS TO READING SUCCESS: A Fast-paced, Word-attack System for Developing and Improving Reading Skills is an effective program, easy to learn. I also wrote, THE SECRET CLUB: Why and How We Must Teach Phonics and Essential Literacy Skills to Readers of All Ages. I wish you the best in your future.

jeffrey benson, Educational elder and author

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Lots of doctors have dyslexia. It is common in many professions. Since dyslexia is different in every person, you have to know how it specifically impacts you, and then take steps to make sure it doesn't impact your patients. It is not enough of a diagnosis to say, "I have dyslexia." Be clearer, such as, "It takes me ten minutes to read what it takes someone else three minutes to read; I can't write in a straight line; my spelling is awful." For each of those weaknesses, and for every weakness associated with dyslexia, there is a work around. If you are honest about the impact of dyslexia on you, and will put in the time to use a work around, you can be almost any profession.

Lisamarie Collaco, ADHD & Dyslexia & EdD

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I never went to medical school but I have a doctorate degree in education. I am dyslexic and have ADHD. There are so many great assistive technology tools out there that helped me write my dissertation and do the reading required. I am now a teacher and find new tools for my students all the time. I think having a plan and learning what works and does not work for you is key. My first semester in grad school I took a lighter course load while I figure out what technology and other accommodations I needed. Find schools that offer support and have someone on board knowledge about AT.

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