I was working on my Word Press website the other day and I wanted to paste in a complex object (I forget what it was), but was uncertain about how to proceed.  I knew the code for the object, and I clicked over to the ”text” version of the page where all the coding resides, and I sort of had a general idea of where to paste the new code, but, and here’s the big problem, I didn’t know exactly where to put it.  There were all these < >’s and things, and I knew that if I misjudged the placement by even one of these little code marks, that it might mess up the whole page.  So I emailed my webmaster and had him do it.

Whenever I look at strings of computer code, I feel like a space alien.  It might as well be Greek (I do not speak or read Greek).  But this whole situation reminded me of what Howard Gardner, of multiple intelligences fame, said about symbol systems.  He said there are symbol systems for each of his eight intelligences (you can read about this in his book Frames of Mind), and while you might do well with one set of symbols in a specific intelligence, you might be totally flummoxed by another one in a different intelligence.  I do very well in the world of words (English words, to be exact).  But in the world of HTML I’m piss ignorant (excuse the vulgarity).  And it’s not just that I haven’t learned the code.  It’s that I believe that I’m ”learning disabled” when it comes to learning computer code.

Then I thought to myself, well, people who have trouble with words are considered to have dyslexia.  What would you call people who have a corresponding difficulty with computer codes?  Dyslexia means ”trouble with words” (dys – trouble with – lex – words).   So what would ”trouble with codes” be?  I looked up the Latin for code and it’s really a pretty easy translation:  codex.  So, trouble with words would be ”dyscodexia.”  And no, it doesn’t mean having problems dancing to the soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever.

We sometimes use the word ”code’ to refer to words as well (helping students ”master the code” is a frequent goal of remedial reading teachers), but I think that since we already have ”dyslexia” to describe reading difficulty, that the term ”dyscodexia” be used to describe people who have a serious problem learning HTML, JavaScript, Ruby, or any of the scores of other computer symbol systems that are out there.

Once I had this word within my grasp, I did an Internet search for the term ”dyscodexia” and I came up empty.  Nowhere in the billions of pages that exist on the Internet (as far as I know) does the word ”dyscodexia” pop up.  And yet this is a disability that afflicts hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of children, teens, and adults in this country.  Moreover, with each passing year, we’re becoming more and more of a culture that depends upon people who can ”code.”  Over 45% of students currently know how to code, or are learning to code.  But what about those who have tried and can’t?  Where are the books on coping with dyscodexia?  Why aren’t these students diagnosed and then referred for special education programming.  This is a new group of students who are falling between the cracks, and all because there is no specialty in education in remediating these dyxcodexics.

Fortunately, I am able to get away with not knowing code because I have an excellent webmaster who knows those sorts of things.  But if people start putting computer code on stop signs or in menus in restaurants, then I’m going to start to run into trouble.  As I’ve often told teachers, everybody has a ”disability” in something.  It’s just that some of us are able to get away with it, because it’s in an area not required in school or society.  If we demanded that every child be taught to read musical notation, we’d have a new disability – dysmusia – and many more kids to be worked with intensively so they can master that particular code (I’d also very probably fall into that camp as well).  But as we become more and more a culture of coders, my bet is that you’re going to see the term ”dyscodexia” or something similar, begin to rise as a key concern of educators in our schools.

Anyone who wants to take this challenge on (developing methods to ”treat” dyscodexia) might benefit from seeing how I applied Howard Gardner’s eight intelligences to the task of teaching reading and writing, and then use some of the same approaches to helping kids who struggle with coding.  Get my book The Multiple Intelligences of Reading and Writing.

Follow me on Twitter:  @Dr_Armstrong.

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I’m the author of 20 books including my latest, a novel called Childless, which you can order from Amazon.

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