10 Dyslexia Facts Literacy Therapists Wish Everyone Knew

Learning Ally recently published a terrific list of ten things parents of children with dyslexia wish others knew, which inspired me to come up with a list of my own: “10 Dyslexia Facts Literacy Therapists Wish Everyone Knew.”

1. People with dyslexia are born with dyslexia.

Evidence suggests that people with dyslexia are born with neurological differences that show up when they begin to learn to read.

Because it begins so early, its symptoms can be recognized and treatment can begin at the same time as literacy instruction.

2. The symptoms aren’t always what you think they are.

“I never saw her reverse b and d!”
“He loves listening to books and would sit and read along when he was young!”

Sometimes parents and teachers don’t recognize dyslexia because it doesn’t look like they expect it to. While some people with dyslexia really struggle with reversals of letters and numbers, not all do. Other signs your child might have dyslexia include:

  • Substitutes words in sentences for other words that make sense
  • Memorizes words but cannot sound them out
  • Does well on spelling tests but struggles with the same words a week later

3. Even if a teacher says your child is reading on grade level, she still may have dyslexia.

Teachers use all kinds of assessments to determine a child’s grade level. Some of these tests have a stronger research base than others, and some miss identifying symptoms of dyslexia altogether because of the way they define “on grade level.”

dyslexia classroom4. You can’t count on your school to treat your child’s dyslexia.

Teaching kids with dyslexia to read sounds like it should be your school’s job. But time and time again we hear about the struggles parents have getting appropriate literacy services from school. While parents should advocate for improvements in the system, the wait time for that type of improvement can be precious years of your child’s life.

5. The school’s testing for learning disabilities is not the same as a dyslexia evaluation.

Even if you beat the odds and are able to get an evaluation from the school, it still may not help!

Schools typically administer two types of testing: (1) a broad achievement battery and (2) an intellectual battery. The problem is children with dyslexia who are also very bright may score in the “average” range on both of these assessments, so their dyslexia goes undetected.

What we are looking for with dyslexia, especially in lower elementary grades, is not just whether a child is able to read words on the page, but what strategies he or she is using. Kids who memorize words may appear to be average readers, but when the demands of reading increase (typically in upper elementary or middle school) the holes in their foundations cause them serious problems. Those kids need help too, even though they may not qualify for school services according to their assessment.

6. Accommodations are not the same thing as instruction.

Once you have a dyslexia diagnosis, your child may be eligible for a 504 plan. This plan is designed to improve your child’s access to the general education curriculum and may include accommodations such as extended time on tests or having test items read aloud. While such accommodations might improve your child’s grades, they are not a replacement for intervention! Accommodations will not teach your child to read or spell.

frustrated child7. Start the right interventions early to prevent academic and emotional problems.

Have you ever read about how much easier it is to learn a second language when you are young? The same is true for reading!

If your school is resistant to providing the services your child needs, don’t wait for them to get on board. You may have to pay for the services now, but the cost of waiting may be far higher.

  • First, the financial cost increases when children get older because it may take them longer to master the skills.
  • More importantly, there is a deep emotional cost on your child of not learning to read at a young age. Ongoing struggles in school may lead your child to conclude that he or she is dumb, that school and reading are for other people and that there is no point in trying. This accounts for the increased rate of depression and anxiety in people with dyslexia.

8. The program is less important than the person delivering it.

Parents often ask, “What is a good curriculum for children with dyslexia?”—either so they can (a) purchase it and teach it themselves or (b) demand that their school purchase it.

Using research-based instruction materials is vital, but it is not enough. Each dyslexic has a different combination of literacy and emotional issues that need individual, expert attention. That means that even if a curriculum is delivered exactly as prescribed, this one-size-fits-all approach cannot meet the needs of all children.

9. The way a program is delivered is as important as the program itself.

Even if your school has purchased a high quality, Orton-Gillingham based, structured literacy program and trained teachers to deliver it, your child may not get his or her needs met. The following aspects of a treatment program are particularly critical and under-served:

  • One-on-one attention: Schools rarely deliver instruction in very small groups or one-to-one, which research shows is how it’s most effective.
  • Repetition: Students need repeated “at bats” to practice these skills, as well as immediate, specific error correction.
  • Individualized pacing: Effective dyslexia intervention moves at a pace that is individualized for each student, and that is hard to do in a group setting. Schools often feel pressure to close the gap as swiftly as possible and thus move at a pace that is too fast for some children.
  • Motivation: Intervention delivered during the school day often comes at the expense of another subject. When a child has to miss a subject she enjoys and is motivated by to attend reading intervention, the intervention is naturally resented and thus less effective.

10. You’re going to make it!

Every time I deliver a diagnosis, I want to accompany it with a pep talk and a hug! By the time most kids are identified, both they and their parents have been through the wringer. I wish I could say it’s all smooth sailing from there, but for too many, it’s just the start of the battle. Still, people with dyslexia are succeeding all the time in just about any and every profession you can think of. They are doctors, lawyers, politicians, artists, entrepreneurs, and innovators. All of the brilliance and potential you see in your child is exactly what our world needs, and there is no good reason to allow dyslexia to take that away. Your child has talents and strengths that run deeper than dyslexia, and there is light at the end of the tunnel. You can make it!

If you’d like more information about your child’s reading difficulties, I’d recommend taking this free online dyslexia test our team built to help parents quickly identify if their child may be at risk for dyslexia.


Images courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net: Clare Bloomfield, Criminalatt, Stoonn, Stockimages

10 Responses to 10 Dyslexia Facts Literacy Therapists Wish Everyone Knew

  • Dottie Jackson commented


    Thank you for concisely delivering these common Dyslexia facts that very few people know but all should know. I believe people think that they know what Dyslexia is but all too often miss the boat. I wish all educators were required to take at least one class specifically on Dyslexia before they could graduate, but until that day happens, this articles serves as an education in itself for both educators and parents. The more we know…

    With much appreciation,
    Dottie Jackson
    Proud parent of a Dyslexic Student

  • Marlies Blackford commented

    Thank you. I will be printing this for my first support group meeting happening in 2 weeks!
    Another Proud Parent of a Dyslexic Student!

  • Hello Tori,

    Thank you so much for writing this excellent piece! This is one of the best lists of dyslexia facts I have ever read. It very precisely communicates what every one of my clients (parents of dyslexic children) needs to hear in order to understand the urgency of their child’s academic needs. Emailing to all my clients now.

    Julie R. Wood, Ed.S., LPES
    Licensed Psychoeducational Specialist
    SC State Certified School Psychologist II
    Breakwater Associates – Co-Owner

  • Erica Cook commented

    You know, I’m glad that these sort of things are being written about. I think it’s a real injustice to not just the child but society as a whole when children who are struggling aren’t struggling enough. That said, there is something I wish was written about in more detail by people in the know. We hear about the challenges, struggles, and problems dyslexia brings, but nearly never hear about the real talents, gifts and unique abilities dyslexia can bring to a person. Because of this we are seen as suffering and are pitied. It is not all suffering and pain. In fact, if fostered, the things dyslexia brings to our lives can more than make up for the challenges. I may not be able to do some things that others can, but I wouldn’t give up the things I have done for the ability to do what the so called normal people can. It would not be a fare trade.

    • Erica,

      You make a good point.

      As Tori says in #10, “….. people with dyslexia are succeeding all the time in just about any and every profession you can think of. They are doctors, lawyers, politicians, artists, entrepreneurs, innovators. All of the brilliance and potential you see in your child is exactly what our world needs, and there is no good reason to allow dyslexia to take that away. Your child has talents and strengths that run deeper than dyslexia, and there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

      Overcoming dyslexia means overcoming the reading and writing challenges while preserving the “deeper” strengths! This requires self-awareness and a perspective that can be difficult to maintain in a high-stakes testing climate. Thanks for reminding us!


  • Bonnie Pazer commented

    Honestly, I find all of this very frustrating. Although I think that we can all agree that early identification and intervention is useful it sugar coats the fact that not all dyslexics will read. Accommodations are necessary if not essential to success. Intervention without accomadations makes no sense. If your child is truly dyslexic,as mine is, I assure you that one does not exist without the other. No school anywhere should allow a 504 to stand as an accomadations or substitute for actual help. No one ever discusses what happens when all of the above fails bad what you’re suppose to do or how are you suppose to help and prepare a severe dyslexic for life. More notably there is almost nothing on post secondary ed. For these kids.

    • Bonnie,

      I love the analogy that intervention for dyslexia is like a bicycle: One wheel is direct instruction with structured literacy methodology and the other wheel is assistive technologies and accommodations. If either wheel is missing or wobbly the bicycle will be, at the very least, hard to ride.

      We frequently work with high school students on transitioning to higher education. From selecting the right institution of higher learning, to getting the right 504 Plan in place, to learning how to talk to professors about dyslexia and 504 Plans, to developing a growth mind-set —there is much that can be done to prepare even severe dyslexics for success beyond high school. Look for the institutions of higher learning that embrace diversity, including neurodiversity, with enthusiasm.


  • Daniela Boneva commented

    Dear Teri,
    Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us. I have been working with dyslexic children and youngsters for almost 9 years, and I know how important it is more people to know these facts. As a president of Dyslexia Association – Bulgaria I would like to ask your permission to translate your post into Bulgarian and to publish it on our website – of course, under your name and with info about you.
    With all the best,
    Daniela Boneva

    • Daniela,
      Of course, we’d be delighted for you to translate this post and publish is on your website. You have our permission to do this as long as you to preserve all the links in the post exactly as they are, as well as the photo credits (through the “Images courtesy of…” statement).


  • Daniela Boneva commented

    Thank you so much. I will do the translation within next few days and will send you a link to our website where it will be published.

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Tori Whaley

Since 2003, Tori has been a committed special educator, working as an elementary special education teacher. Her drive to improve outcomes for her students with dyslexia led her to the Neuhaus Education Center, where she was trained in Orton-Gillingham the summer after her first year of teaching. "I was so frustrated as a first year teacher, not knowing how to meet my students' needs. I spent the entire summer learning about dyslexia and was thrilled by my students' progress the next year!" Since then, she has used the method in English and Spanish with students in three states. In 2009, Tori completed her M.Ed. in Special Education at the Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, where she focused on educational strategies for students with learning disabilities. Tori joined the Lexercise team full-time in early 2014 after seeing students online for over a year. When she is not working, Tori loves to read, cook, garden, and spend as much time outdoors as possible.