Myths About Dyslexia

Miriam Sagan, an artist, writer, and college instructor who lives in New Mexico, recently posted an intriguing entry on her blog: “My Dyslexia: Should I Seek A Cure?

Here are a few excerpts from her post (used with permission):

I have dyslexia…. I can’t spell or am apt to go right when told to turn left…. I was diagnosed as a six year old, looking into a machine. Asked how many squares I saw I said three. This was the wrong answer, I quickly ascertained, as the tester asked me over and over in an increasingly irritated tone. I’d have lied, but I had absolutely no idea how many squares there were.

I couldn’t read until the summer of fourth grade, when mysteriously words came together. In elementary school I was often criticized for being lazy and told I wasn’t living up to my potential.

Recently, an alternative health care practitioner I’ve been working with told me she could ‘heal’ the dyslexia….But, if it were even possible, do I want to be cured of my dyslexia?….Dyslexia is seen as a bad thing, but my kind is called ‘mixed dominance.’ It sounds kinky, but just means one hemisphere of the brain doesn’t dominate the other….I think I’ll stay the way I am.”

Somehow Miriam developed a strong and flexible vocabulary even though she didn’t read until she was in 4th grade. My guess was that Miriam’s parents read to her, and, indeed, she confirmed this: “Yes–I was read aloud to as a child and even as a young adult.”

When I read Miriam’s poetry, elsewhere on her blog, it’s apparent that she has an exceptional ability to visualize. She clearly “sees” the world in rich, vivid colors and can hold images in her mind’s eye as she turns them into words. This kind of “whole brain” thinking is actually common in dyslexics.

Miriam or, more accurately, her practitioners, seem to have some beliefs about dyslexia that research does not support. In particular:

  • Dyslexia can be “cured”
  • Dyslexia is a visual problem (with a “mixed dominance” type that can be diagnosed by “looking into a machine” and counting squares)

These are myths.

Dyslexia is caused by weak speech-sound processing in the brain. It cannot be “cured,” although dyslexics can strengthen their language skills with appropriate therapy. While Miriam expresses some concern that treating her dyslexia would somehow undermine her talent for visualization, there is no credible evidence supporting that fear. Strengthening speech-sound processing skills does not cause a weakening of visualization abilities.

It also bears saying, again, emphatically, that dyslexia is not a visual problem. Please read my earlier post on this subject.

Miriam’s post can help us appreciate the value of listening, shared reading aloud, and conversation. It also alerts us to the lingering myths that surround this complex and fascinating condition.

If you have questions about dyslexia or other language-processing disorders, please contact us at or 1-919-747-4557.

2 Responses to Myths About Dyslexia

  • Miriam Sagan commented

    Thank you for the link–and always glad to learn more.

  • I am beyond happy and in shock…I thought my entire life having dyslexia was all about “training your eyes” As a child my parents had to take me into Boston, for what I remember it was a while. moving onto my adult life having dyslexia and having so many problems with it, I don’t know what to do, who to talk to or if there is any hope/help for me. My life sucks, I can barely read, spell or talk without sounding like the biggest stupidest woman ever! I cant hold a job, I am always late to everything. I don’t know what its like to start any project and actually finish it completely. I cant focus, even on methadate. There’s so much more I need help with. My life is very depressing, below poverty level and a looser in the eyes of my family, friend and the world. I doubt you will see this or even respond. Thanks for putting up this website and looking forward to hearing back from you guys.

    Karen Higgins
    God Bless

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Sandie Barrie Blackley, MA/CCC

MA/CCC - Cofounder and CKO

Sandie is a speech-language pathologist with more than 30 years of experience in the private practice sector. She is Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at University of North Carolina Greensboro, and founder/owner of the Language & Learning Clinic, PLLC, a private practice in Elkin, NC, and Greensboro, NC, specializing in communication disorders, including disorders of reading and written language.