Myth vs. Fact

  • Myth: Smart people cannot be dyslexic or have a learning disability.
    Fact: Dyslexia and intelligence are NOT connected. Many dyslexic individuals are very bright and creative and have accomplished amazing things as adults.
  • Myth: Dyslexia does not exist.
    Fact: There has been over 30 years of documented, scientific evidence and research proving the existence of dyslexia. It is one of the most common learning disabilities to affect children.
  • Myth: Dyslexia is rare.
    Fact: In the United States, NIH research has shown that dyslexia affects 5-10% of the population, with estimates as high as 17%. Some people may have more mild forms, while others may experience it more severely. Dyslexia is one of the most common causes of reading difficulties in elementary school children. Only 1 in 10 dyslexics will qualify for an IEP and receive the special education services in order to get the help in reading that they need.
  • Myth: Dyslexia is very uncommon.
    Fact: Similar to the above myth, the International Dyslexia Foundation states that between 15% and 20% of the population have a language-based learning disability, dyslexia being the most common of these. The United States Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 15% of the U.S. population has dyslexia.
  • Myth: Dyslexia can be outgrown.
    Fact: Dyslexia is a lifelong issue; yearly monitoring of phonological skills from first through twelfth grade shows that the disability persists into adulthood. Although many dyslexics learn to read accurately they may continue to read slowly and not automatically.
  • Myth: Dyslexia is a "catch-all" term.
    Fact: Research has shown that dyslexia is a specific neurological learning disability that is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition, poor spelling, and decoding abilities. Other secondary problems in vocabulary, reading comprehension, and writing may also arise.
  • Myth: Dyslexia is innate, incurable, and permanent.
    Fact: While dyslexia is a lifelong learning disability, early, intensive, and systematic intervention can help a student keep up and retain his grade level in school, as well as minimize the negative effects dyslexia can have, such as low self-esteem and poor self-concept as a learner.
  • Myth: The prevalence of dyslexia is estimated to be between 4-8% of the total population in English speaking countries.
    Fact: Statistics like these can never be certain, because each English-speaking country has its own identification criteria. All that can be known for certain is that in every English-speaking country, a significant percentage of the population has reading and spelling difficulties that range from mild to profound. For example, this percentage in the United States is between 5-17%. The most common of these learning disabilities is dyslexia.
  • Myth: There is no way to diagnose dyslexia.
    Fact: We can accurately identify those who are at-risk for dyslexia as early as preschool; and identify dyslexia as early as 1st grade.
  • Myth: Dyslexia cannot be diagnosed until third grade.
    Fact: Professionals with extensive training in diagnosis can accurately identify the precursors to developing dyslexia as early as age 5. We can make a definitive diagnosis as soon as the child begins to struggle with learning to read, spell, and write. The sooner a diagnosis is made, the quicker the child can get help, and the more likely we are to prevent secondary blows to their self-esteem. A combination of a family history of dyslexia and symptoms of difficulties in spoken language can help identify a vulnerable child even before he/she begins formal schooling.
  • Myth: Dyslexia can be accurately diagnosed by an educational psychologist or a 'specialist dyslexia teacher' by using special tests.  Technically, yes. Although, depending which professional is doing the assessment, the diagnosis may differ. Often, specialists will use phrases in a written report such as “child has a specific weakness in phonological development” instead of saying "child has dyslexia." Additionally, many times the school personnel will say that they don't diagnose dyslexia. It's a matter of semantics -- in most states, dyslexia falls under the special education code. It is a specific learning disability (SLD) in reading, spelling, and/or writing and may be coupled with challenges in oral expression. Don’t give up hope, though! Dyslexia can be diagnosed and early, systematic and explicit intervention can help minimize its negative effects.
  • Myth: Dyslexia is a medical diagnosis.
    Fact: Dyslexia is not characterized as a medical problem and is not typically diagnosed by doctors because they don’t have training in oral language, reading, writing, or spelling assessment and diagnosis. That said, developmental pediatricians have additional training in cognition and learning, and some have expertise in the clinical and neurobiological features of dyslexia. There is no pill or medication that can heal dyslexia. Additionally, dyslexia is typically not covered by medical insurance (i.e., it is not a medical problem), although it does have lifelong negative effects that can encompass feelings of wellbeing.
  • Myth: Dyslexia is a specific brain weakness. It is a genetically-based, neurological difficulty with phoneme awareness and processing skills (the ability to perceive and manipulate speech sounds). 
    Fact: Phonemic awareness is only necessary when learning to read and spell, which involves using an alphabet code. Research has shown that this aptitude is not acquired often in children. Usually, students need systematic phonics instruction in order to become proficient in reading and processing. Some people find this ability to learn how to recognize and manipulate phonemes more difficult than others due to normal genetic variation, rather than a brain weakness. (Source: dyslexics.org.uk)
  • Myth: fMRI brain scan studies show that dyslexics’ brains work differently from those of non-dyslexics.
    Fact: When a brain scan is done on someone who struggles to read while he is trying to read, the scan will look different than that of someone who has no trouble with reading. 
  • Myth: Dyslexia is caused by a lack of phonics instruction.
    Fact: Increased phonics instruction will not help a child with dyslexia. Children with dyslexia are able to learn phonics once they have the underlying phonemic awareness abilities; although they may continue having trouble applying it. This is why difficulty with phonics and word pronunciation is a good warning sign of dyslexia.
  • Myth: Children who fail to discover how to read from embedded phonics instruction by age 7 or 8 and remain phonologically unaware are likely to have dyslexia. Children who continue to struggle with reading despite receiving conventional remediation (‘treatment non-responders’) have the most severe form of dyslexia.
    Fact: Failure to read is often more to do with the nature of teaching rather than the nature of the child. A child will not develop dyslexia because he has trouble reading. There are many causes of reading difficulty. If a child is dyslexic, he will show many of the other warning signs. (Source: dyslexics.org.uk)
  • Myth: Dyslexics are compensated for their lack of phonological ability by being gifted in the artistic/visual-spatial sphere.
    Fact: Systematic research and investigation has found little evidence to support this theory, comforting though it may be. Yet, there are many successful dyslexics who have gravitated towards fields of these types.
  • Myth: People with dyslexia cannot read.
    Fact: Incorrect. Most children and adults with dyslexia are able to read, even if it is at a basic level. Spelling is one of the classic red flags alerting parents and teachers of a serious underlying problem. The child may be unable to understand the basic code of the English language and cannot break down or reconstruct (with spelling) words using codes (letters).
  • Myth: Dyslexic children will never read well, so it’s best to teach them to compensate.
    Fact: Individuals with dyslexia can become terrific readers with the appropriate intervention (i.e., systematic, explicit, and research-based). It is important to test a child early in his/her school career in order to identify any problems and attempt to prevent major reading difficulties before they even start.
  • Myth: Every child who struggles with reading is dyslexic.
    Fact: Dyslexia is the most common cause of difficulties with reading, but it is by no means the only cause. Children with problems understanding spoken language also have problems with reading comprehension since oral language undergirds learning to read, spell, and write. Dyslexia does not only cause difficulties in reading, but may also be manifested in challenges in spelling, verbal expression, speech, writing, and memorization. If a child is dyslexic, she most likely will show other warning signs besides having trouble with reading.
  • Myth: If a dyslexic child reads out loud for 20 minutes per day, it will improve his or her reading.
    Fact: Reading out loud will not help a child sound out unknown words. Instead, he will continue to try to memorize the shape of a word and use pictures and context clues to try and guess it which will not help his reading development. That said, being exposed to the same texts that his or her peers are reading and learning from is very important, so a dyslexic child should be read to (or read along to audiobooks) every day.
  • Myth: If you don’t teach a dyslexic child to read by age 9, then it’s too late for them to ever learn how to read.
    Fact: It is never too late to improve the reading, spelling, and writing skills of someone with dyslexia.
  • Myth: People with dyslexia see things backwards.
    Fact: Dyslexics do not see things backwards because dyslexia is not a problem with the eyes. The research has demonstrated that there is no difference between the letter reversals of young dyslexic and non-dyslexic children. Dyslexia may cause people to reverse certain words because of their confusion when discerning between left and right and their difficulties comprehending their reading.
  • Myth: Dyslexia is a visual problem – dyslexics see words backwards and letters reversed.
    Fact: This was proven inaccurate by a study by Professor Frank Vellutino while at the University at Albany. He asked dyslexic and non-dyslexic American students to reproduce a series of Hebrew letters that none of them had ever seen before. The dyslexic students were able to perform the task just as accurately as the non-dyslexic students, showing that their dyslexia did not affect their eyesight.
  • Myth: Any child who reverses letters or numbers has dyslexia.
    Fact: Up to a certain point, it is considered normal for children to reverse their letters and numbers, and is actually quite common. However, if this does not stop after two years of handwriting instruction, it becomes a red flag for dyslexia.
  • Myth: Dyslexic children see things backward (i.e., writing letters and words backward) and reversals are an invariable sign of the disability.
    Fact: Many young children reverse letters when learning to write. While it is true that dyslexic children have difficulties attaching the appropriate labels or names to letters and words, there is no evidence that they actually see letters and words backward.
  • Myth: Mirror writing is a symptom of dyslexia.
    Fact: Backwards writing and reversals of letters and words are common in the early stages of writing development among dyslexic and non-dyslexic children alike. Dyslexic children have problems in naming letters (i.e., remembering and quickly accessing the letter names), but not necessarily in copying them. Because many people erroneously, and incorrectly, believe that letter reversals define dyslexia, the children who do not make letter reversals often go undiagnosed.