Twelve Myths We Tend to Believe About Dyslexia

1. People with dyslexia see words backward, such as “dog” for “god” or “was” for “saw”. 

This myth is incorrect. Dyslexia is not caused by a vision problem. Many people have a lifelong confusion over left and right. Plus, they have difficulty sounding out the words in the first place and may simply mix up the words. They do not see things backwards.

2. Dyslexia is a medical diagnosis.

Physicians do not test for dyslexia and it is not classified as a medical term. Physicians are not trained to test for reading, spelling, and writing difficulties and there is not a pill or medical procedure to help with those types of issues.

3. Dyslexia cannot be diagnosed until third grade.

False. Professionals conducting cognitive testing can accurately diagnose reading problems as early as five years old.

Parents need to be aware of the warning signs of a risk for dyslexia before third grade:

Ages Eight and Younger:

Children as young as five can be screened for reading problems with simple phonemic awareness tests. Consider a screening that probes for reading difficulties or schedule a complete cognitive skills evaluation if you see any of the following risk factors:

Pre-Kindergarten or Kindergarten– Difficulty:

  • Recognizing rhymes
  • Remembering names of friends, peers, etc.
  • With normal language development
  • Recognizing some letter shapes

End of First Grade – Difficulty:

  • Learning the alphabet and corresponding letter sounds
  • Applying “phonics” to reading and spelling
  • Spelling common sight words
  • Retelling stories in sequence and making predictions
  • Reading aloud with some fluency and comprehension

End of Second Grade – Difficulty:

  • Recalling facts and details
  • Using phonics to sound out words including multisyllable words
  • Correctly spelling previously studied and commonly seen words

Ages Nine and Older

Training is available to help older students overcome lifelong reading difficulties. Does your older child need help?

Warning Signs to Watch in Your Older Child:

  • The mispronunciation of the names of people and places
  • Struggling to retrieve the right word to express a thought
  • A hesitation to say or read words aloud that might be mispronounced
  • A history of reading and spelling difficulties
  • A lack of fluency in reading
  • Embarrassment about or not wanting to read aloud
  • Spending inordinate amounts of time doing homework
  • A dislike of reading
  • Showing a preference for books that have fewer words per page
  • Persistent spelling difficulties or selecting easy-to-spell alternatives when writing
  • The substitution of made-up words during reading for words that are too difficult for the reader to pronounce.

4. Most kids outgrow their reading and spelling problems.

It’s just a temporary glitch. Incorrect. Scientific, independent research shows that in reading development, once a child struggles with reading, spelling, and writing in the middle of first grade, there is a 90 percent chance that the same child will struggle with those same issues in eighth grade and adulthood if intervention is not taken to correct and improve them right away. That means that only 10 percent of those kids will outgrow their reading, spelling, and writing struggles with no outside intervention. Waiting is the worst possible thing to do because a child with reading difficulties will only fall further and further behind.

5. Dyslexia affects four times more boys than girls.

Not completely correct. More boys are tested for dyslexia than girls, but the numbers are about equal. Boys are more apt to act out their frustration in first, second, and third grade when they are unable or ill-equipped to do their homework or assignments. Parents and teachers see that frustration and send them for testing to pinpoint the problems. Girls on the other hand are more quiet and become invisible. Their reading problems are not noticed as early and may remain undetected until high school or college.

6. Children with dyslexia will never read well. Just teach them to compensate.

People with dyslexia can become terrific readers with the right intervention. Teaching them the basic code (and subsequently the complex code) of the English language and helping them understand how to understand what is written can open up the world of reading, spelling, and writing. Testing a child early in his or her school career can pinpoint problems and prevent major reading difficulties before they even start.

7. People who struggle to read are not very intelligent.

Some of the most intelligent men and women struggle to read because difficulties with the written word occur at all levels of intelligence and IQ score. And, in reverse, low intelligence does not lead to reading difficulties unless a child is mentally retarded. Intelligence is only moderately positively correlated to reading ability. Some famous people who have had reading problems are Charles Schwab, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Anderson Cooper, Albert Einstein, and Agatha Christie.

8. Dyslexia only occurs in languages using the alphabet, not in countries with logographic languages like China and Japan.

False. Chinese and Japanese students (or others in countries with a logographic language) make the same sound-based errors or phonological mistakes that English speakers do or others with alphabetic languages such as Spanish, Italian, or French speakers. Reading problems are just as prevalent in China as in the United States. Logographic languages are based on logograms, written symbols that represent an entire spoken word without expressing its pronunciation.

9. Dyslexia is rare.

According to researchers at the National Institutes of Health, one out of every five people are affected by dyslexia. That’s 20 percent of the entire population. The degree of severity does differ, however. Only 10 percent of children with dyslexia actually qualify for special education to correct those reading problems leaving nine of every ten kids to fend for themselves. Dyslexia is the most common reason that a child will struggle with spelling, then writing, and then reading, hitting a glass ceiling by third grade.

10. Dyslexia is a catch-all term.

This was correct in the 60′s and 70′s, but now, after new academic research, we know much more about reading and the brain. Dyslexia means “trouble with reading”, is neurological in origin, and is a specific learning disability. Characteristics include problems accurately and fluently recognizing words, spelling mistakes, and the inability to decode a word. Reading comprehension and a lack of reading experience are unintended consequences that hinder vocabulary and background knowledge.

11. Every child who struggles with reading has dyslexia.

Though dyslexia is not the only reason a child may struggle with reading, it is the most common reason. Dyslexia encompasses more than just reading problems. It impacts spelling, speech, writing, and memorizing sequences and random facts. Some of the characteristics of each of these problems are:

  • Mixing up sounds in multisyllable words like helicopter, cinnamon, hospital, and spaghetti.
  • Problems memorizing the days of the week, months of the year, and sequence of the alphabet.
  • Difficulty remembering spelling words from one week to the next.
  • The more warning signs you see, the more confidence you can have that dyslexia is a cause of their academic problems. But, cognitive skills testing is the only way to pinpoint the real underlying difficulties.

12. Kids with dyslexia can’t read.

Untrue. Most children and adults are able to read, even if it is at a basic level. But children with dyslexia are likely to reach a certain point in reading ability with the inability to move beyond a third grade reading level. Despite being taught phonics, they have extreme difficulty sounding out an unknown word. They may read a word perfectly on page one and forget it by page two. Their list of 30 spelling words may be memorized for a spelling test and forgotten the next week. Spelling is one of the classic red flags alerting parents and teachers of a serious underlying problem. The children are unable to understand the basic code of the English language and cannot break down or reconstruct (with spelling) words using codes (letters).