Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that primarily affects language. There are many different kinds of dyslexia: visual dyslexics have difficulty reading words or writing letters the correct way round (they may mistake 'b' for 'd', for example) whereas people with auditory dyslexia have trouble processing sounds and getting phonemes in the correct sequence when they try to write things down. Other difficulties associated with dyslexia include short-term memory problems, a weak attention span, and poor organisational skills.
Dyslexia is not a synonym for stupidity, as most dyslexics have high IQ scores. It is also not a made-up 'excuse', as MRI scans of dyslexic people have found that their brains are shaped differently to those of most people, with the language area in the right hemisphere being the same size as the language area in the left. (In people without dyslexia, the left language processing area is much larger than the one in the right hemisphere.)
Dyslexic people are often particularly gifted in art, music, sport, drama, or anything involving visual creativity. Some are also talented authors - the awardwinning poet Benjamin Zephaniah is dyslexic.
Examples of famous dyslexic people include Steve Redgrave, the Olympic athlete; Whoopi Goldberg, the Oscar-winning actress; and Albert Einstein, the genius who developed the Theory of Relativity. (People who say that 'dyslexia = stupid' are usually completely unaware that Einstein had the condition.)
Dyspraxia comes from two Greek words: 'dys' (meaning abnormal) and 'praxis' (meaning doing). It is also known as Developmental Co-ordination Disorder (DCD). However, this term can be misleading, for although dyspraxia's defining symptoms are excessive clumsiness and problems with balance, the condition can also impact on short-term memory, personal organisation, attention span, mathematical ability, and social skills. There is often an overlap with other specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia and dyscalculia; and with autistic spectrum disorders, such as Asperger's syndrome. Dyspraxic people typically have average or above average IQ scores, just like everybody else; their raw intelligence is not affected by the disability.
While dyspraxia causes significant difficulties for sufferers, it also has its positive aspects - many people with dyspraxia have extremely strong language skills, which accounts for the high number of famous authors who are now thought to have had dyspraxia. These include Emily Bronte and G.K. Chesterton. Modern-day celebrities who are dyspraxic include Richard Branson (owner of the 'Virgin' empire) and David Bailey (photographer).
Dyspraxia is not a life sentence; it's just a different way of thinking.