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Dyslexia is the most common language-based learning disability. However, it is frequently misunderstood. The term is often referenced beside descriptions of letter reversals and reading difficulty. But reversals are an unreliable indicator, challenges occur in varying degrees, and writing and speech are just as likely to be impacted. Dyslexia is characterized by a deficit in phonological awareness, or the familiarity with the sound structure that makes up words, that is not due to lack of instruction. The result is often challenges with word recognition, decoding or sounding out words, comprehension, and spelling.

Common Misconceptions

Individuals with dyslexia write letters backwards and/or read words in reverse.

While vision problems can affect reading, many letter reversals are developmental and occur naturally as students learn to write. These errors should only become a concern if they persist beyond two years of handwriting instruction. Spelling difficulty is often a more accurate indicator because of the phonemic awareness challenges associated with dyslexia. A family history of reading challenges, delayed speech, and an inability to recognize rhyming words are also common among individuals with this learning challenge.

Students with dyslexia can’t read.

Most children and adults with dyslexia can read, though it may be below the expected grade level. They may have to work harder to get through material, however, which can lead to fatigue, insecurity, slower fluency, and eventual disinterest in reading.

More instruction is the solution or cure.

There is no cure for dyslexia, but there are interventions that can help the brain make sense of information and manage symptoms. Students with dyslexia can learn the sounds or phonemes that make up words, but still have difficulty applying them. Simply offering more instruction or even grade level retention, without a change in approach, will not yield different results. Research-based, orderly, and intensive interventions are the most effective.

Dyslexia is a medical condition.

It is not a medical condition or illness. Research suggests that dyslexia is a neurobiological or brain-based learning issue that involves difficulty with reading, beyond a certain threshold, despite adequate instruction.

A pediatrician can diagnose dyslexia.

Educational psychologists (including neuropsychologists and child psychologists) can diagnose dyslexia. A diagnosis can also be obtained through the speech pathology or special education department of some universities.

Dyslexia is more common in boys than girls.

Dyslexia occurs nearly as often in girls as boys. However, girls generally internalize concerns, becoming quieter or less involved in the classroom when there are struggles. Boys, on the other hand, have a tendency to act out when frustrated, drawing attention to the behavior and underlying problem. This results in boys being assessed and diagnosed more often or earlier than girls with similar challenges.

Individuals with dyslexia have lower IQs.

There is no connection between intelligence and dyslexia. In fact, a significant difference between intelligence and academic achievement and/or processing ability is an indicator that a child may have dyslexia or another learning issue.

Individuals with dyslexia do not do well in school.

Individuals with dyslexia can do very well in school. However, this often takes a tremendous amount of additional effort and motivation, especially in instances where no diagnosis or accommodations have been made.

Individuals with dyslexia cannot become good readers.

Individuals with dyslexia can become excellent readers. Students are identified as at-risk for dyslexia as early as kindergarten. Early intervention can help prevent some reading challenges. Effective interventions are research-based, systematic, and intensive.

Adults with dyslexia cannot be successful.

This is entirely false. There are numerous lists and websites dedicated to this topic. A quick search will net hundreds of references to successful men and woman in all professions who live with dyslexia. Some even credit dyslexia with their ability to think outside of the box.

Dyslexia does not define or lessen a student’s potential. If your child is diagnosed with dyslexia, remind him/her every single day – you can achieve, you can succeed, and you should persist.