4 Dyslexia Myths That Can Confuse Parents

As Lexercise therapists communicate with the families of children with dyslexia, they are continually impressed by the amount of research parents have done. Getting a dyslexia diagnosis for their child and then finding the right treatment for a student with learning differences is never simple. 

At the same time, Lexercise therapists express their surprise and concern at the prevailing myths and misunderstandings surrounding dyslexia. Thanks to these myths, some parents may even be persuaded that their child’s learning difficulties are not treatable.

Below is an infographic that gives you a quick overview of four of these dyslexia myths. Keep on reading for more information.

Here is more information on the four dyslexia myths that persist in spite of solid evidence:

MYTH #1: Dyslexia causes people to see words and letters backward. 

In 1925, Dr. Samuel Orton used the term strephosymbolia, literally reversed symbols, in explaining why some people have great trouble reading despite adequate intelligence. A decade later, Orton said that he thought the main problem was actually in “the process of synthesizing the word as a spoken unit from its component sounds.” (See What is Orton-Gillingham and How Does it Treat Dyslexia?

Since the 1970s, with modern neuroscience technologies, it has become clear that most dyslexics do not have difficulties with vision or visual perception. Instead, most people with dyslexia have difficulties with processing speech sounds. Still, the old idea that dyslexics see words and letters backward or reversed has persisted and become a popular myth. Some recent research suggests that a minority of struggling readers may have difficulty with some aspects of vision, such as visual spatial attention. In his book, Reading in the Brain: the New Science of How We Read, French neuroscientist Dr. Stanislas Dehaene sums up the current science: “…brain imaging supports the claim that the crux of the problem often lies at the interface between vision and speech….” For more information, see a related post by Dr. William O. Young, Five Ways Not to Treat Dyslexia.

MYTH #2: A student who is making good grades must not have dyslexia.

Good grades do not rule out dyslexia! We are going to address common concerns about grade level in an upcoming post, but meanwhile, see 5 Reasons Why Good Grades Don’t Rule Out Dyslexia.

 

MYTH #3: Dyslexia is a medical diagnosis that can only be used by a healthcare practitioner. 

Learning disorders, including dyslexia, have well-documented lifelong negative effects on health and wellbeing, especially when treatment is withheld or delayed. But a learning disorder like dyslexia is not considered a medical diagnosis, nor, in most cases, is the treatment for dyslexia covered by medical insurance.

Neither the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases, 11th Edition (ICD-11) nor the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, has a specific classification code for dyslexia. Instead, both include reading disorders under a broader category of learning disorders

Physicians and other medical providers are typically not trained in how to evaluate learning disorders like dyslexia. The exception might be some developmental pediatricians, who have additional training in cognition and learning. The professionals who are trained to evaluate learning disorders more often include psychologists, special educators, and speech-language pathologists. See Who is Qualified to Make a Dyslexia Diagnosis?

 

MYTH #4: People with dyslexia will never read well, so it’s best to just give them accommodations and other ways to compensate.

With targeted, science-backed intervention, people with dyslexia can become highly proficient readers. In conjunction with appropriate intervention, accommodations and technologies can certainly play a role in reducing fatigue and improving academic performance (see The Limits of Reading Accommodations). It is the appropriate intervention–consistent, targeted therapy plus consistent daily practice–that turns struggling students into confident readers.

 

To find out more about the diagnosis and treatment of dyslexia, or to learn more about myth-busting dyslexia research, contact Lexercise today.

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

Dyslexia Myths: Distinguishing Fact from Fiction

board with true or false representing dyslexia mythsAs you can imagine, we have scores of parents contacting us who are unfamiliar with dyslexia and looking to learn more.

Like most learning disabilities, there are several misconceptions and bits of misinformation surrounding dyslexia, and for parents who don’t know much about it; it can be hard to distinguish fact from fiction.

We’ve talked about it before, but the myths surrounding dyslexia bear repeating. In today’s post, I’ll touch on a few that seem most prevalent:

  • “People with dyslexia are less intelligent.” On the contrary, dyslexia and intelligence are not at all connected. Dyslexia occurs at all levels of intelligence and is not related to IQ. Many extremely intelligent people also struggle with dyslexia.
  •  “Dyslexia is something you outgrow.” Dyslexia is a lifelong condition. It cannot be “cured” or outgrown. However, individuals can learn to overcome their reading difficulties with the proper help.
  •  “Reversing letters is a definite indication of dyslexia.”  Difficulties with reversible letters like b and d and p and q may be the symptom that is most associated with dyslexia in many people’s minds. The truth is, many children, dyslexic or not, reverse letters when they are first learning to read and write. In truth, there is no single symptom that serves as a hallmark of dyslexia. But, if difficulty distinguishing among similar letters persists past the first years or so of beginning literacy instruction it is certainly a red flag.
  • “People with dyslexia will never be good readers.” On the contrary, dyslexics can become excellent and even award-winning readers and writers. (Stay tuned for my next blog about Pulitzer Prize winning poets with dyslexia!) That’s not to say they are likely to be speed-readers.  While dyslexia can be overcome, it is not “cured.” Even though reading and spelling are likely to continue to be more laborious for dyslexics, with proper diagnosis and instruction, hard work and support from family and teachers and with appropriate technology, people with dyslexia can certainly excel academically.
  • “Dyslexia is uncommon.” Unfortunately, dyslexia is all too common. According to the International Dyslexia Association, approximately 20% of people, 11 million people in the United States, are affected by dyslexia. Teachers may not recognize their difficulties as dyslexia, but this prevalence data means that in an average class with 28 students from 4 to 6 students are likely to be dyslexic.
  • “Dyslexia cannot be diagnosed until 3rd grade.” This misconception is all too common. The truth is if you are noticing problems before 3rd grade, you need to act! According to the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), if children who are dyslexic get effective intervention in Kindergarten and 1st grade, they will have significantly fewer problems in learning to read at grade level than do children who are not identified or helped until 3rd grade.  According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 74% of the children who are poor readers in 3rd grade remain poor readers in the 9th grade. Often they can’t read well as adults either.

If your child struggles with reading, writing, or spelling, the most important first step is a professional evaluation. No matter where you live, your child can be tested and treated individually, face-to-face, online, by the clinical educators at Lexercise. Learn more here, or contact us directly at Info@Lexercise.com or 1-919-747-4557.

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 Info@Lexercise.com or 1-919-747-4557.