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Dyslexia: Separating Fact From Myth

written by: Olivia B. • edited by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • updated: 9/11/2012

Dyslexia is a language based learning disability which affects one in five school children. Without diagnosis and proper intervention dyslexic children often face lifelong academic struggles, poor self-image, and in some cases school failure.

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    The Importance of Knowng the Facts

    Dyslexia can range in severity from mild to severe. The impact the disorder has on an individual depends on the severity of their dyslexia and the method of remediation. The acceptance of prevalent myths and mis-conceptions about dyslexia can be a barrier to early diagnosis and intervention. It is therefore essential to distinguish the facts about dyslexia from commonly accepted myths. Individuals with dyslexia can learn; they just learn in a different way.

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    Myth: Children with dyslexia see words and letters backwards.

    Fact: Dyslexic children do sometimes reverse letters in words, or confuse letters with similar shapes (i.e. “n” and “u”, or “b”, “d” and “p”). However research shows that there is no evidence that dyslexic children actually see letters or words backwards. Letter reversal is not a primary indicator of the presence of dyslexia.

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    Myth: Writing letters backwards is a symptom of dyslexia.

    Fact: Letter and word reversal is common with both dyslexic and non-dyslexic children during the early stages of writing development. This misconception about dyslexia is so pervasive that dyslexic children who do not make reversals often fail to get diagnosed.

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    Myth: A child can’t have dyslexia if he can read.

    Fact: Because dyslexia ranges from mild to severe, many children with milder forms of dyslexia can read to some degree. However, they often use coping mechanisms like context clues, pictures in stories, or guessing based on the shape of words to appear to be reading when in fact they are not actually decoding the words. As a child progresses into the upper elementary grades, where students transition from “learning to read”, into “reading to learn”, these type of coping strategies tend to ultimately fail them.

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    Myth: Dyslexia will eventually be outgrown.

    Fact: Evidence shows that dyslexia is not outgrown. With proper intervention dyslexics can learn to read accurately, but they continue to read slower and with less automaticity than a non-dyslexic individual.

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    Myth: Dyslexia is rare.

    Fact: According to the National Institutes of Health, dyslexia affects 15-20% of the population or one out of every five children.

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    Myth: If a child is tested by the school system and doesn’t qualify for special education, they don’t have dyslexia.

    Fact: Most school systems test for the presence of a “specific learning disability. Children with mild to moderate dyslexia may not meet the criteria that qualifies them for help through the special education system. Without intervention, these children typically remain in the general classroom but with persistent academic struggles. If dyslexia is suspected, the child should be evaluated by a professional who specializes in dyslexia testing. Parents may have to go outside the school system to have this done.

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    Myth: Children with dyslexia are of low intelligence.

    Fact: This is one of the most damaging myths about dyslexia. Because dyslexic children struggle with reading, writing, and spelling they often appear to be less intelligent. However, dyslexia is not related to intelligence. Many children with dyslexia are academically gifted. The fact that their minds process information differently is by no means a reflection of their intellectual abilities.