In a classroom at Weining Dyslexia Education Center, several kids around 10 years old excitedly grab colored pens and begin highlighting patterns in a series of Chinese characters. The exercise is one of many designed to help the children overcome dyslexia. Inside the classroom, they are surrounded by peers who struggle with the same disorder, but outside, they are often seen as bad students and called “stupid” or “lazy” by teachers.
The need for recognition of the learning disability in China is pressing: An estimated 11 percent of the country’s primary school students have dyslexia, a total of about 10 million children, according to research published in 2016 by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Despite this staggering number, there is little understanding of and barely any support for dyslexic students on the Chinese mainland — the Weining center, located in southern tech hub Shenzhen, is one of few organizations dedicated to the cause. Dyslexia is well-known and well-researched in many Western countries, but awareness of the disability remains low across the Chinese mainland; without support, those affected are unable to compete in school, stifling their future potential.