7 Childhood Conditions You Can Still Correct
It's never too late to fix that problem — a stutter, lazy eye, a crooked smile — that's bugged you since childhood.
Up to one in five Americans have dyslexia, making it challenging for them to get through a best seller -or even a menu. If they weren't diagnosed in school, many may incorrectly assume they're simply slow readers -"or even stupid," says Sally Shaywitz, M.D., codirector of the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity. But dyslexia is neurological: Disruptions in key brain circuits affect the ability to retrieve or correctly order the basic sounds of language, explains Dr. Shaywitz. Telltale clues -beyond reading in a way that feels plodding and deliberate -include exceptionally poor spelling and knowing a word but being unable to utter it correctly.
Although the process is time- consuming, you can overcome dyslexia. It requires relearning the basics of reading, all the way back to learning how to sound out words. Group classes for adults typically meet at libraries, adult education centers, or offices of nonprofit literacy organizations several times a week for a year or longer. You can also have private lessons with a tutor. Two reading programs that Dr. Shaywitz recommends: the Wilson Reading System (wilsonlanguage.com) and Language (voyagerlearning.com/language).
For many years, doctors believed that if you didn't strengthen the vision in a "lazy eye" by the second grade -generally by patching the stronger eye for several hours a day -you were out of luck. "The thinking was that after age 7, the brain would not make the needed corrections," says Michael Repka, M.D., professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. But new research suggests that the age limit might be extended: A University of California, Berkeley study found, for example, that adults playing video games (with the stronger eye patched) for about two hours a day for 40 hours could improve visual acuity by 30% -one to two lines on an eye chart.
If your lazy eye is caused by a muscle weakness (strabismus), the same surgery that straightens out misaligned eyes in children works in adults, too. Susan Reale of Oakland, CA, had that operation at age 38 to correct an extremely turned-in right eye. A dozen years later, she marvels at how much the surgery has changed her life, allowing her to open her own consulting firm, where she interviews customers face-to-face for corporations: "Before, it was difficult to connect with people because they thought I was staring over their shoulders. Now they know I'm looking them right in the eye."
Shannon Armes of Wilsons, VA, worried that her lifelong inability to say even her first name without stuttering would hold back her career. So three years ago, at the age of 31, she enrolled in a 12-day intensive program, spending eight hours each day practicing new techniques until her speech was fluid. "The therapy was incredibly challenging, but it gave me skills that have transformed my life," says Armes, who has been promoted to a new job in customer service. And last summer, she was thrilled to be able to say her wedding vows without stuttering.