The History of Dyslexia

There’s really no way to know who the first person was to struggle with dyslexia because it surely went undiagnosed. It was not until the 1800’s that the neurodiversity we know as “dyslexia” truly became a focus of study for anyone.

Beginning in the 1800’s, German neurologist, Adolf Kussmaul, referred to dyslexia as “word blindness or complete text blindness.” Kussmaul famously stated, “Although the power of sight, the intellect, and the powers of speech are intact.” In other words, having dyslexia does not make someone unintelligent.

About 10 years later, a German physician named Rudolph Berlin finally coined the term “dyslexia.” In doing so, Berlin officially gave a name to the reading challenges thousands of people had likely experienced for thousands of years.

Flash forward to the roaring 1920’s and Dr. Samuel Torrey Orton redefined dyslexia as “cross-lateralization of the brain.” In other words, Dr. Orton discovered the right side of the brain was doing what the left side of the brain should be doing, and vice versa.

It wasn’t until 1963 that dyslexia became an official “learning disability.” Along with hundreds of other medical diagnoses and brain dysfunctions, dyslexia became one of the first “learning disabilities” when the term became a household name.

In April 1968, the Scottish Rite Hospital of Dallas hosted the World Federation of Neurology’s Research Group on Developmental Dyslexia and World Illiteracy for the first time to officially define dyslexia in a consensus as:

“A disorder manifested by difficulty in learning to read despite conventional instruction, adequate intelligence, and socio-cultural opportunity. It is dependent upon fundamental cognitive disabilities which are frequently of constitutional origin.”

Today, one in five people are diagnosed with dyslexia nearly everyday. Access to the right tools, therapy and educational environment to learn reading and writing skills for success is few and far between. That’s why Dyslexia School of Houston is so passionate about bringing awareness to dyslexia and the tools that can change the lives of one in every five. For more information about dyslexia therapy for all, please visit

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