Myths about Dyslexia

by Lynell Nissley


Students with dyslexia see things backwards.

This is the most common myth about dyslexia—that something is wrong with the eyes or the vision portion of the brain.  While legitimate vision problems do exist, they are not the cause of the common dyslexia that affects up to 20% of children.  Rather, phonological awareness, or the way the brain processes sounds, is the core skill deficit.  This has been proven extensively through functional MRI scans taken of individuals with and without dyslexia as they are reading, as well as other research into reading and dyslexia.

It is true that students with dyslexia will sometimes read saw for was…and they also read house for home or horse.  The problem lies not with their eyes, but with their difficulty in applying phonics to sound out the words and in finding the names for what they see.  It is a sound awareness and word-finding/naming deficit, not a vision deficit.

Confusing b and d is a sign of dyslexia.

Actually, when a child is first learning to read and write, it is normal to display some b/d confusion.  Advice varies on how long this is normal, but I have heard suggestions normalizing it during their first two years of learning their letters or even until third grade.  So don’t panic if your kindergarteners or new first graders are swapping b/d—give them a visual cue for remembering each letter shape (ex: b made out of a bat & ball; d on a dog facing left with his tail providing the stem of the d).  The time to really get concerned is when they cannot verbally answer the question, “What is the first sound in ball?” by saying “b,” rather than when they write (or read) the wrong letter.

Dyslexia is more common among boys than girls.

When looking at school-identified rates of dyslexia, boys are identified 3 to 4 times more often than girls.  However, when researchers test every student individually to assess their skills, there is no significant difference in the occurrence of dyslexia between genders.

So why the difference?  When boys are struggling academically, they are much more likely than girls to act out, develop a don’t-care attitude, or otherwise display behaviors that teachers do not appreciate.  Girls, on the other hand, tend to become quiet, withdrawn, and remain compliant.  Since most teachers are female, girls instinctively do “teacher pleasing behaviors” much more easily than boys.  Therefore, a teacher is much more likely to notice the boy’s problem behaviors than the girl’s compliant, withdrawn behavior, and teacher complaints are a primary source of school-based problem identification.

Students will outgrow their dyslexia. OR Students with dyslexia will always be poor readers.

Reading is like most other skills. Those who start out struggling significantly compared to peers will always struggle compared to peers—if they are given only the same instruction their peers are given.  The reading difficulty you are seeing in a young student will not miraculously disappear.  This persistence is so strong that researchers have named it the Matthew effect after Matthew 13:12. “For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (ESV).

On the other hand, students with dyslexia can learn to read very fluently—IF they receive appropriate interventions.  With the increased understanding of dyslexia has come significantly improved resources for interventions.  In a nutshell, Ortan-Gillingham (OG) based programs, such as the Barton Reading & Spelling System, are ofthe most trustworthy programs for dyslexia interventions.

Please change the life of your students with dyslexia by learning the science behind it and the interventions available. In doing so, you have the power to redeem their entire educational experience.

 

Resources

To learn more about dyslexia and/or fact-check any of this information, please see the following sources:

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