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Posted at 6:30 AM ET, 01/19/2010

New study on dyslexia and IQ

By Valerie Strauss

A lot of people instinctively believe--without really knowing--that poor readers are not especially smart.

A new study by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine and the University of California at Davis explains how it is that exceedingly bright and accomplished people can have great difficulty reading.

What gets in the way of many people’s ability to read is dyslexia, the most common learning disability. It is an unexpected difficulty in reading in people who have the intelligence and motivation thought to be necessary to be fluent readers.

The brains of people with dyslexia have difficulty taking images that they see or hear and turning it into understandable language, explained Sally E. Shaywitz, co-director of the newly formed Center for Dyslexia and Creativity at Yale University.

This mean that someone with dyslexia not only has trouble reading but may also have difficulty speaking quickly. Typical readers can automatically recognize words after seeing them a few times; dyslexics don’t.

There is a range of estimates of the prevalence of dyslexia in the United States but Shaywitz said it may be as high as one in five school-age children.

The new study, by Shaywitz and several other researchers and published this month in the journal Psychological Science, provides empirical evidence for the first time showing that the relationship between IQ and reading over time is not the same for dyslexic readers as it is for non-dyslexics.

In people without dyslexia, intelligence and reading do in fact connect and can influence each other over time. But in dyslexics, IQ and reading are not linked over time and do not have an affect on each other, the researchers showed.

“People expect that if you are a very good reader you must be very smart and if you don’t read well you must not be so smart,” said Shaywitz, who is the Audrey G. Ratner Professor in Learning Development at Yale School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics and one of the country’s leading dyslexia researchers.

“Dyslexia is a paradox because it violates that assumption,” she said. “You can NOT be a great reader and be exceptionally smart.”

I’m going to be writing more about dyslexia in the coming days. Along with an interview with Shaywitz, I will write about some of the difficulties that people with dyslexia face. If you have any stories you’d like me to know, write to me at


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By Valerie Strauss  | January 19, 2010; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Learning Disabilities  | Tags:  dyslexia  
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I totally agree. One of the smartest students I have had the joy of teaching had great difficulty reading. He had a very creative & intuitive mind. He was capable of making mental leaps that many of my "gifted" students only wish they were able to do.

Posted by: jbengs | January 19, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Does anyone else think it's odd that we assume people who aren't talented with words are stupid, but people who aren't talented with music--can't sing on key or have two left feet--or people who can't hit the side of a barn with a baseball if they are inside the barn are merely untalented?

Posted by: sideswiththekids | January 19, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

I taught art to dyslexic students for many years; not only are these students often just as smart as non-dyslexics,they are often gifted, even brilliant (Einstein, Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci)and highly imaginative. Chuck Close, one of the most famous currently living artists in the world, made it to Yale despite struggling with dyslexia in school long before the diagnosis was easily made.

Additionally, many dyslexics have strong right-brain functioning, actually giving them an advantage when it comes to fields that demand high performance in non-verbal or creative areas such as architecture,the visual arts, mechanics, hair or fashion design, etc.

Posted by: PLMichaelsArtist-at-Large | January 19, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

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