Debunking Myths About Dyslexia

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Debunking Myths About Dyslexia

Dyslexia is one of the most studied and best understood of all the different types of learning challenges. Yet, several myths about dyslexia persist. This is largely due to the fact that there is insufficient transfer of knowledge about the science of reading into teacher university programs and professional development opportunities for educators. Consequently, almost as important as understanding the facts about dyslexia is knowing the most common myths that surround the community and beyond.

Here are seven widespread myths about dyslexia:

Myth #1: Transposing letters and/or numbers is a sure sign of dyslexia 

One of the most common myths surrounding dyslexia is defining the disability as an issue of letter reversal, where the reading and writing of characters (such as letters and/or numbers) are upside down or backwards. In the early years of school it is quite common for children to transpose letters and numbers.  If the issue persists beyond second grade after appropriate instruction then further investigation is warranted and the child may be showing signs of dyslexia. In reality, those with dyslexia have trouble associating the right sounds to printed letters. 

Check out the FAQs About Reversing Letters, Writing Letters Backwards, and Dyslexia via Understood.org.

Myth #2: Dyslexia can be cured

Dyslexia cannot be cured.  To some degree, it’s a lifelong challenge. However, when given the right tools and interventions, the majority of students with dyslexia can become successful readers. It’s important to remember that there is a great deal of variability in terms of the intensity of dyslexia and the impairment of reading, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Throughout the educational journey and beyond, many students with dyslexia will require continued support to close the gap between their skills and the demands of the classroom.   

Myth #3:  Dyslexia and ADHD are the same thing

At a biological level, dyslexia and ADHD are different in terms of how the person’s brain is wired and what parts of the brain are impacted by each issue. Simply put, dyslexia is a language-based learning issue that specifically impacts how well and how quickly a person becomes a proficient reader. ADHD is different in terms of the parts of the brain functioning involved that, in broad terms, affects a person’s ability to self-regulate, specifically manifesting in inattentiveness, hyperactivity or a combination of both. 

Myth #4:  Dyslexia can be outgrown

As noted above, dyslexia is a lifelong condition. The good news is, with proper intervention, the majority of dyslexics become proficient readers. The key is the interaction between the person with dyslexia and the specific environmental demands in their life. For instance, visual artists may find fewer challenges with dyslexia in adulthood as opposed to a lawyer. Regardless, for most dyslexics reading remains a challenge in some way throughout life. 

Myth #5:  Dyslexia is a sign of intelligence

When unidentified, dyslexia can be mistaken for a lack of intelligence. In reality, it’s not an indication of intelligence at all. Intelligence is a much broader construct that encompasses a variety of different cognitive tasks. Meanwhile, dyslexia is a specific language-based issue that many times results in students struggling to express themselves in writing or to speak at a level that is consistent with their verbal reasoning abilities. If an educator is not trained to understand and identify this learning difference, the student is at risk of being underestimated in their level of content understanding. 

In addition, a learner who has gone undiagnosed will likely continue to struggle with reading proficiency and may not have the opportunity to develop a vocabulary consistent with their true intelligence. Early diagnosis and intervention is key to success in the classroom and beyond. 

Myth #6: People with dyslexia are lazy

This myth may be the most damaging of all.  Without proper intervention, dyslexic students often avoid reading because it is a painful, confusing process. It has nothing to do with being lazy but without proper training educators can easily misunderstand where the avoidant behavior is coming from.  It is important that students feel supported in their learning journey and receive proper support as soon as possible. 

Myth #7:  Dyslexia is a vision problem

There are no peer-reviewed studies that support vision-based dyslexia. While vision problems do not cause dyslexia, the two may co-occur. However, children with dyslexia are no more likely than non-dyslexic children to have visual problems. Remember that dyslexia is a language processing issue, so colored overlays and vision training are not effective treatments.  

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