Dyslexia 101: Part 4 - Debunking Dyslexia Myths

Welcome to Part IV of our Dyslexia 101 series. Over the next few weeks, our blog series will continue to focus on expanding your understanding of dyslexia.

By the end of LD Expert's Dyslexia 101 series you will be able to:

  • Define dyslexia in a way that friends, family, and teachers can understand.

  • Understand common characteristics of dyslexia.

  • Understand how the common characteristics may impact students in the classroom and adults in the workplace.

  • Recognize common misconceptions and learn the facts that dispel them.

  • Understand what quality intervention looks like and describe why it is important that children have access to and receive early, evidence-based intervention services.

  • Advocate for your child at school or for yourself in the workplace

Today we will focus on debunking some common myths that surround dyslexia. The goal of this blog is to help spread more scientifically researched data and information about this common language disorder that effects 1 in 5 children.

In Part I of this blog series, we broke down the definition of dyslexia for you. In Part II, we examined the characteristics of dyslexia by outlining common struggles and strengths. Part III focused on implications of dyslexia in the classroom and workplace.

Today is a bit more fun - we get to play Myth Busters and debunk the following misconceptions:

  1. Dyslexia is caused by eyes seeing things backwards.

  2. It is always obvious if someone has dyslexia.

  3. People with dyslexia have a lower IQ.

  4. You can cure or grow out of dyslexia.

  5. Dyslexia cannot be diagnosed until second grade.

Myth #1: Dyslexia is a vision problem that causes the eyes to see things backwards. – FALSE

This is a pretty common myth surrounding dyslexia. It likely comes from the fact that many students with dyslexia reverse some letters and numbers while reading and writing. However, dyslexia is not a vision problem, it is a neurological one.

Dyslexia occurs because of a weakness in the phonological module of the brain. This little module is located within the language factory of the brain. The phonological module has two jobs:

  1. Blend sounds into words

  2. Break words back apart into individual sounds

These two skills seem small, but they are not! They are foundational, and every other way we use language is impacted by this part of the brain doing 'it's two little jobs' both rapidly and automatically. The language system used for both reading and speaking is made up of four parts that are stacked onto top of each other. Weakness in one area will result in weakness for everything above it. Think of it like a tower, with the part of the brain effected by dyslexia being at the bottom.

Myth #2: It is always obvious if someone has dyslexia. – FALSE

Unless you know what to look for, it can be difficult to spot specific learning disabilities related to language and reading in the early years (2- to 5-years-old). For tips on what types of activities younger children may struggle with, check out our post about helping your struggling reader.

Additionally, people with dyslexia fall along a spectrum. This means that a student could have a very mild case, very severe, or anything in between.

Many individuals with dyslexia are extremely smart, creative, and resourceful. This means that children can be very good at compensating for reading and spelling struggles by using bypass strategies. This could "hide" their dyslexia, or make it less obvious to parents and teachers until around third grade when students are no longer learning to read, but expected to read-to-learn.

There are even many adults who recognize the struggle in their children, and begin thinking to themselves "I see a lot of the same struggles I had as a child, I wonder if I am actually dyslexic..."

Just know that dyslexia does not have ANYTHING to do with intelligence, and that it may not be extremely obvious that your child is struggling or working harder than most to read and write. This is why it is best to have a specialized and professional Speech-Language Pathologist, Educational Diagnostician, School Psychologist, or Neuropsychologist complete comprehensive diagnostic testing with your child to examine their strengths and weaknesses and make recommendations for intervention.