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Myths about Dyslexia

Myth: Dyslexia does not exist
Fact: Dyslexia is one of the most researched and documented conditions that will impact children. Over 30 years of independent, scientific, replicated, published research exists on dyslexia—much of it done through the National Institutes of Health, funded by taxpayer dollars.


Myth: Dyslexia is rare
Fact: Dyslexia is not rare. It is the most common reason a child will struggle first with spelling, then with written expression, and eventually “hit the wall” in reading development by third grade.

According to the NIH researchers, in the United States, dyslexia impacts 20% of our population. That’s 1 out of every 5 people.  But it does come in degrees. Some have it only mildly, some have it moderately, some have it severely, and some have it profoundly.

Very few children with dyslexia are in the special education system. Only 1 in 10 will be eligible for an IEP (when tested in second or third grade) under the category of Learning Disability (LD).

That means 9 out of 10 “fall through the cracks.” Although the parents and the teacher know there’s something different about the child, the child does not qualify for special education services, and most will no longer get help from the reading specialist after first or second grade.

Dyslexia is not rare. It is the most common reason a child will struggle first with spelling, then with written expression, and eventually “hit the wall” in reading development by third grade.

Myth: Dyslexia is a “catch all” term
Fact: That was true back in the 1960’s and 1970’s before the research existed. But we now have a research-based definition of dyslexia, which is:

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin.
It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition, and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.
These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction.
Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.


Myth: Dyslexia affects four times more boys than girls
Fact: Although more boys are sent for testing than girls, research shows that dyslexia impacts just as many girls as boys.

So why are more boys sent for testing than girls? It’s because of their behavior.  Boys get frustrated and act out their frustration. Parents and teachers notice that behavior and then try to figure out why they are behaving that way—by sending them for testing.  Girls that struggle often tend to get quiet and try to become invisible so they don’t get noticed as early. Often, their dyslexia is not discovered until high school or even college.


Myth: People with dyslexia see things backwards
Fact: People with dyslexia do not see things backwards. They see things the same way you and I do.  Dyslexia is not caused by a vision problem. That is why vision therapy does not work for this population. There is nothing wrong with their eyes.  Yes, they reverse their b’s and their d’s and say “was” for “saw.” But that’s caused by their lifelong confusion over left versus right and by their difficulty reading by sounding out.


Myth: Children outgrow dyslexia
Fact: Dyslexia is a lifelong issue. That means waiting—due to a false hope that it will disappear as the child gets older—is the worst thing you can do.  It will not go away. The child will only get further and further behind—unless that child gets the right type of intervention or tutoring.  Experts agree: Waiting is the worst thing you can do.  There are effective research-based methods that will bring their reading, spelling, and writing skills up to—and beyond—grade level.

Although it is never too late to greatly improve their skills, early intervention is the best way to prevent or minimize the damage to their self-esteem, their emotional distress, and their fear of going to school.


Myth: Any child who reverses letters or numbers has dyslexia
Fact: Most children will reverse some of their letters and some of their numbers while they are learning. Up to a certain point, that is considered perfectly normal. But those reversals should be gone after two years of handwriting instruction and practice.

But letter or number reversals that continue after two years of handwriting instruction and practice are a classic warning sign of dyslexia.  If a child truly has dyslexia, however, the child will have many of the other classic warning signs of dyslexia.


Myth: Dyslexia is a medical diagnosis
Fact: Doctors do not test for dyslexia. Dyslexia is not classified as a medical problem.  Doctors have no training in how to test for reading, spelling, and writing problems. And there is no medical solution (no pill or operation) for those types of academic struggles.  That is also why medical insurance does not cover anything having to do with dyslexia. Dyslexia is not classified as a medical issue.


Myth: Dyslexia cannot be diagnosed until third grade
Fact: Professionals with in-depth training can accurately diagnose dyslexia as early as age 5.

Myth: If you don’t teach a child to read by age 9, it is too late.
Fact: It is never ever too late to greatly improve the reading, spelling, and writing skills of someone with dyslexia.


Myth: Intelligence and ability to read are related. So if someone doesn’t read well, they can’t be very smart.  Related Myth: Gifted children cannot be dyslexic or have a learning disability.
Fact: Dyslexia is not related to IQ. That means you can have a very high IQ and be dyslexic, you can have an average IQ and be dyslexic, and you can have low IQ and be dyslexic.  Many people with dyslexia are very bright and accomplish amazing things as adults.


Myth: People with dyslexia cannot read
Fact: Everyone with dyslexia can read—up to a point. But they will “hit the wall” in reading development by third grade, if not sooner. When reading, they have great difficulty sounding out an unknown word—despite being taught phonics. They will often read a word fine on one page, but not recognize the very same word on the next page.

But it is spelling that separates kids with dyslexia from kids who struggle with reading for some other reason. If the child and their parents spend hours and hours studying the spelling list, the child may be able to learn the list of 20 spelling words long enough to do “okay” on Friday’s test. But they cannot retain those spelling words from one week to the next.

They also cannot spell when writing sentences or paragraphs—not even the high frequency words such as “because,” “friend,” or “does.” That’s why extreme difficulty with spelling is considered a classic warning sign of dyslexia—and why the International Dyslexia Association publishes a Fact Sheet on Spelling.


Myth: Most children outgrow early reading and spelling problems. It is just a developmental delay
Fact: Independent, scientific, replicated research on reading development shows just the opposite. It shows that if a child is struggling with reading, writing, and spelling in mid-first grade, that child has better than 90% odds of still struggling with those skills in eighth grade and on into adulthood if someone doesn’t step in and do something.

That means less than 10% of the time will a child outgrow those struggles. That also means waiting is the worst thing you can do. The child is only going to get further and further behind.

Myth: Every child who struggles with reading is dyslexic
Fact: Dyslexia is not the only reason a child will struggle with reading, but it is the most common reason.  How can you tell whether dyslexia is the cause of the child’s reading struggles?  Dyslexia will impact way more than just reading. It will impact their:

Spelling: trouble retaining spelling words from one week to the next; not able to spell even the high frequency words like because, friend or does when writing sentences

Speech: mixing up sounds in multisyllabic words such as animal, spaghetti, helicopter, cinnamon, consonant, caterpillar, hamburger, magazine, hospital—and trouble making the R and L sounds correctly

And cause extreme difficulty memorizing sequences… : the sequence of the alphabet, the letters in their last name, the days of the week, the months of the year

…and random facts: such as multiplication tables

The more warning signs a child has, the more confident you can be

that dyslexia is the cause of their academic struggles.


Myth: Retaining a child will improve their academic struggles
Fact: Retention is a failed educational policy. It has never improved academic struggles. That’s why these organizations are against retention.

The National Association of School Psychologists:
“Through many years of research, the practice of retaining children has been shown to be ineffective in meeting the needs of children who are academically delayed.”

The American Federation of Teachers:
“Social promotion and grade retention are mechanical responses to an educational problem. The scandal is how little attention they give to preventing failure in the first place.”

The U.S. Department of Education:
“Neither social promotion nor retention is appropriate for students who do not meet high academic standards.”

The National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD):
“The weight of the evidence of literally hundreds of studies shows that retaining children does NOT produce higher achievement.”


Myth: Dyslexic children will never read well, so it is best to teach them to compensate.
Fact: People with dyslexia can become excellent readers, decent spellers, and good writers if they receive the right type of intervention or tutoring.  Independent, scientific, replicated research recommends an Orton-Gillingham based system as the most effective way to improve the reading, writing, and spelling skills of people with dyslexia.

Myth: Children with dyslexia are just lazy. If only they tried harder…
Fact: If students with dyslexia do not receive the right type of tutoring and classroom accommodations, they often struggle in school—despite being bright, motivated, and spending hours on homework assignments.


Myth: If a dyslexic child reads out loud for 20 minutes a day, it will improve their reading
Fact: Reading out loud will not teach a dyslexic child how to sound out unknown words. They will continue to try to memorize the shape of a word, and use picture clues or context clues to guess at the words.

If a child cannot easily and accurately sound out unknown words, especially multisyllabic words, by the time the child starts third grade, that child will “hit the wall” in reading development.

Reading out loud for 20 minutes a day will not teach that missing skill—reading by sounding out, which is also called “decoding” or “word attack.”

The inability to decode is caused by weak phonemic awareness skills. Part of the research-based definition of dyslexia is a child who lacks age appropriate phonemic awareness skills.