CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Renee Mora, 49, has loved to sing since she was a little girl. But she has a secret, she's always memorized the songs she hears because she can't read them.
Renee has dyslexia, and she says the first sign of a problem was in grade school.
"Many times I would try to read out and no words would come out, and it's because I did not know the words and how to pronounce the words," Mora said.
Somehow, Renee hid the disorder from everyone even her parents. Renee's teachers thought she was just being lazy and one even called her stupid.
"They made me feel bad many days, crying and I didn't want to go to school and missed a lot of days," Mora said.
Dr. Mark Eckert is an associate professor at MUSC and studies learning disabilities and says most people don't understand dyslexia.
He says it's not just having trouble reading; the developmental reading disorder is also about not being able to sound out words, or understanding what they mean.
"It's a little like trying to read music if you have never read music before," Eckert said."You can hear music and her notes but your ability to link those notes to the symbols on the sheet music is hard."
Eckert says dyslexia is usually diagnosed in elementary school when children are first learning to read. Dyslexia is one of the most common learning disabilities even though you don't hear about it as often as ADD or ADHD.
Dyslexia affects anywhere from 10 to 17 percent of the population. Often times, kids with dyslexia may have problems rhyming words but there are other signs.
"When parents are reading to their kids, and children are having problems sounding out words, then a parent should be alert especially if a reading disability runs in the family," Eckert said.
Even though she never learned to read, Renee graduated high school and got good jobs as a supervisor with the Peace Corps, the IRS and in property management.
It was only five years ago that Renee finally decided to talk about her disability.
The Secret is Out
is a play about her life, that she performs at churches and schools.
"By holding it back, it's just holding you back. But you got to move forward," Mora said.
Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading, writing and spelling difficulties, and Eckert says early intervention and therapy is key.