Common Myths About Dyslexia

There are many common myths about dyslexia. These myths can be damaging to students and adults with dyslexia. It is understandable that parents may be confused as to what dyslexia is. However, it is alarming that some of these myths come from professional educators.

I still remember, about four years ago, I was in the process of applying for accomodations for a high school student when I contacted the high school special education director. She was a highly educated (working on her PhD.), well-loved, and highly regarded teacher in her district. When I informed her that I was working with a dyslexic student and was looking into getting him accomodations, she informed me that dyslexia was not a learning disability! I was shocked (because it is listed under DSM 315.0 published by the American Psychiatric Association, which I will address next week), but also prepared. I was prepared because I had already come across this myth. So, as parents and teachers we need to be aware of the common myths about dyslexia so that we can better serve our children and debunk these myths.

Common Myths:

  • Dyslexia doesn’t exist. Fact: There is over 30 years of well-documented research on dyslexia. One such study, the Connecticut Longitudinal Study, began in 1978.
  • People with high I.Q.s cannot have a learning disability. Fact: Many bright and creative children and adults have dyslexia.
  • Dyslexia is a visual problem. They see everything backwards. Fact: Dyslexics do not see things backwards! It is not a vision problem, it is a language processing disorder. This is why vision therapy does not work. Dyslexics require a research based, explicit, systematic, multisensory approach to learning to read and spell.
  • Dyslexics are lazy. Fact: This is such a damaging myth to anyone with dyslexia. Many dyslexics already struggle with self-esteem. They already have to work harder than other kids. The truth is that dyslexics use different parts of their brain to read than people without dyslexia. That’s why some of us prefer the term “learning difference” over “learning disorder”. Dyslexics learn differently than those without dyslexia.
  • You cannot diagnose dyslexia until after the 3rd grade. Fact: Research has shown that early intervention works best. Students can be diagnosed as early as kindergarten. If a student struggles with reading and spelling in the first grade, chances are they will continue to struggle into adulthood.
  • Most teachers know the warning signs of dyslexia. Fact: Most teachers have not had formal training in dyslexia. I am not saying all teachers, just most. I did not receive any teacher training on dyslexia in my teacher training program. However, I know a teacher in California that recently shared that her school district provides Orton-Gillingham training to their teachers. This is rare and awesome! However, because most teachers are not formally trained in dyslexia, they do not have the tools to recognize or provide explicit, systematic, multisensory teaching to their students.

These are just a few of the common myths that I’ve come across. Unfortunately, there are many more. So what can we do to combat these myths? We can educate ourselves about the truth of dyslexia. Next week I will address the truth about dyslexia. In the meantime, if you are interested in learning more, Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz, M.D. is an excellent resource.

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