Do you wonder if your child has dyslexia? Maybe you wonder if you have dyslexia. You are definitely not alone. As a special education teacher and reading tutor, one of the most common questions that I am asked by parents is, “Do you think my student has dyslexia?” I have found that parents and even teachers have lots of questions and also quite a few misconceptions about dyslexia. Many parents are concerned that their child may have dyslexia but don’t quite understand what it is. In honor of National Dyslexia Awareness Month, here are five myths or misconceptions about dyslexia and five corresponding facts about the common reading issue:
Myth: Dyslexia is seeing letters backwards.
Fact: Developmentally, in the process of learning to recognize letters and to read, many students write or read letters backwards. Commonly reversed letters are b and d, p and q, or m and w. This is normal for young children in Kindergarten all the way up to second grade who are learning to read and it is often outgrown. In older children, reversing letters or mirror writing is not always a sign of dyslexia and instead can be evidence of a visual processing issue or difficulty with remembering how to form letters.
Myth: People with dyslexia see things differently or dyslexia is a visual disorder.
Fact: People with dyslexia actually see things the same way as everyone else. Dyslexia is not a problem with seeing language but with manipulating it. Dyslexia is a phonological processing issue. This means that people with dyslexia may have difficulty with changing and the process of using language as illustrated in the following tasks:
- Taking a word like Sit and asking, “If I remove the s what word do I have?” Students who do not have difficulty would immediately know that the answer would be it. Students with phonological processing issues may struggle with this task or similar tasks that require sound manipulation.
- Difficulty reading without decoding each word, for example, having to break words into syllables and sound out each syllable. This process of “sounding out” each word makes reading very laborious. So, having to read words like establish saying: es tab lish.
- Spelling words phonetically, or by how they sound. For example, “letr” for letter.
Interestingly, Studies have also found that people with dyslexia rely more on the right hemisphere of their brain (used for spatial concepts, music, art, and creativity) than the left (used for language, logic, and math). Thus, when they read a word, it takes a longer “trip” through their brain, causing more difficulty when reading.
Myth: Dyslexia always looks the same or has the same symptoms.
Fact: Dyslexia runs in families, but even in the same family symptoms of dyslexia can look very different. Some family members may have difficulty spelling whereas others may have trouble with decoding or sounding out words. It is important to note that dyslexia, like many learning difficulties, occurs on a continuum from mild to severe. Some students may have mild symptoms while others may display difficulties that are more profound with reading, spelling, or writing. Here are some questions to consider if you think you or your child may have dyslexia.
Myth: Dyslexia is rare and only affects reading.
Fact: Dyslexia affects about 20 percent of the population or 1 in 5 students. So, if you have a class of twenty students it would be reasonable to assume that around four are affected by dyslexia.
Students with dyslexia sometimes struggle with other subjects like math and learning a foreign language. They will often have difficulty in any area where reading is required. Thus, dyslexia tends to affect students in all academic classes.
Myth: Students with dyslexia cannot learn to read.
Fact: Students with dyslexia can learn to read but often fail to learn to read in school because they are not provided with the correct instruction. Students with dyslexia need reading instruction that is very specific. This instruction should be based on syllable types and spelling rules. A program based on the Orton-Gillingham approach with the following characteristics should be used.
It is most important to understand that although having dyslexia is frustrating and often causes students to struggle in school, it is in no way related to intelligence. In fact, many students with dyslexia are exceptionally creative, hardworking, and innovative. Not surprisingly, an abundance of very talented individuals such as Thomas Edison, Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg, Whoopi Goldberg, and Picasso have had dyslexia. Although dyslexia is not outgrown, many individuals with dyslexia not only learn to read and become successful in school with the proper instruction, they also possess the determination necessary to truly excel as adults.
Still have questions? Watch this very informative video about dyslexia from Kelli Sandman-Hurley.
-Nina Parrish, M.Ed.
Owner | Parrish Learning Zone, LLC