Dyslexic Myths

Dyslexia is a neurological condition that has been studied for over a century, and there is over 30 years of solid research showing that it exists.  There is a lot of valuable information available from many reliable sources.  However, many myths still remain about dyslexia. 

Myth:  People with dyslexia see things BACKWARDS.
Truth:  People with dyslexia see things the same as those without dyslexia

The way a person with dyslexia processes the words they see is different.  Since it is more difficult for them to assign meaning to the symbols of language, and many have difficulty with directionality, it appears they are seeing letters and words backwards.

Myth:  People with dyslexia CAN’T READ.
Truth: People with dyslexia CAN and DO READ! 

Dyslexics CAN read, though it requires more effort. Many people with dyslexia become great readers when given appropriate intervention that is research-based, systematic, and explicit.  Instruction using a multi-sensory, incremental approach such as the Slingerland® method can give dyslexic learners the tools they need to become effective readers.

Myth:  Smart people CAN’T have dyslexia.
Truth:  Dyslexia affects people of all intelligence levels at the same rate. 

A student with dyslexia and high intelligence might appear to be a normal kid performing in the average range.  There are high performing students in classrooms who are working very hard to mask their struggles.  To a classroom teacher, it might appear that there is no problem.  To the student and the parent who experience the frustration of hours of reading homework, the learning difference is more evident.  A student’s intelligence is not an indicator of whether or not they have dyslexia.

Myth:  Dyslexia is a BOY thing.
Truth:  Both boys and girls can be dyslexic. 

In fact, dyslexia is just as prevalent in each sex.  Studies show that boys are identified earlier and more frequently than girls because they are more likely to act out their frustrations.  Their behavior causes parents and teachers to notice their struggles.   Many girls with learning difficulties become invisible in a classroom, hoping no one will notice their struggles.  Often, girls’ dyslexia is not discovered until later grades.

Myth:  It’s not possible to identify dyslexia until 3rd grade.
Truth: Dyslexia can be detected as early as pre-school. 

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability; many children will show signs of their difficulty before they even begin school.  The child may have been slow to speak, has difficulty rhyming word, struggles to recall the letters in the alphabet, can’t recognize their name when written, mixes up words or persists with baby talk.  Some studies have suggested that early intervention can correct brain anomalies in children with dyslexia. 

Myth:  Dyslexia can be CURED.
Truth:  Dyslexia is more than just a list of symptoms that can be cured. 

Dyslexia is a difference in how the brain processes information.  It can be effectively treated with a research-based, intensive intervention.  These approaches understand that dyslexic learners will learn when they are taught in a way that works for their brain.   The myth of a cure is a dangerous myth that has many parents seeking fixes through special balancing or vision exercises, supplements, tinted glasses, wearing eye patches, training primitive reflexes, or clay modeling to name a few.  None of these remedies are based on scientific evidence and often give parents false hope while delaying the decision to seek effective intervention.

Myth:  The student is just LAZY and needs to try harder and practice more.
Truth:  Students with learning differences are often LABELED lazy by adults who are unaware. 

Students with dyslexia can appear lazy to the adults around them.  Often, they have learned that it is better to not try at a task they know they will fail than to continue to attempt the impossible.  Research on the brain using functional MRI shows that dyslexic people use a different part of their brain when reading than non-dyslexics.  They are working as hard, or harder, than their peers with less results.  If simply practicing reading more were the solution, most people with dyslexia would catch up to their peers with a simple, daily reading session.  It is important that a person with dyslexia finds appropriate help to gain the tools needed to succeed.

Myth:  The best education for someone with dyslexia is the school of hard knocks.
Truth:  Dyslexic learners, like all people, will experience enough struggle even when given appropriate interventions. 

It is tempting to look into the past and see how the struggles that one generation faced formed their strengths.  Parents and grandparents who themselves may be dyslexics had to navigate their education without the benefit of the effective interventions available to dyslexic children today.  Additionally, it is not in the best interest of the child to say they just need to get used to being frustrated since that is what their life will be like.  There are excellent, research-based approaches to teaching dyslexic learners the way that their brains process.  When given the appropriate tools, people with dyslexia can thrive.

For more information about other myths about dyslexia, visit these sites:

Dyslexia Help at the University of Michigan:  Debunking the Myths about Dyslexia

The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity:  Myths and Truth about Dyslexia

The Dana Foundation:  Ability to Catch Dyslexia Early May Help Stem Its Effects