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Debunking Dyslexia

Updated: Jul 12, 2021

Let's talk about the many myths surrounding dyslexia.

Dyslexia doesn’t show up until Elementary School.

While it is true that symptoms may become more apparent when children learn to read (around age 5 or 6), there are signs that may indicate a problem early on.

In Preschool, challenges such as difficulty rhyming, trouble separating sounds in words and blending sounds to make words, problems learning the alphabet, numbers, days of the week, colors, shapes and how to spell or write his/her name could associated with dyslexia or another language-based learning disability.

Kids with dyslexia just need to try harder to read.

If only it were that simple. This loaded assumption can have many negative consequences and must be put to rest. Dyslexia is NOT a focus or effort problem, and it is vital that we shift the conversation away from evaluating how much invisible effort an individual with dyslexia is expending and move toward addressing the various obstacles he/she faces.

Dyslexia is a vision problem.

Kids with dyslexia have the same risk of vision problems as kids without dyslexia. Dyslexia is a language-based learning difference, not a problem with the eyes. The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) published the following definition:

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede the growth of vocabulary and background knowledge (2002).

Dyslexia is caused by not reading enough at home.

Dyslexia is not caused by a lack of exposure to reading. It is a neurological condition. The exact causes of dyslexia are still not completely clear, but anatomical and brain imagery studies show differences in the way the brain of a person with dyslexia develops and functions.

Reading and writing letters backwards is the main sign of dyslexia.

Many people think that dyslexia causes people to reverse letters & numbers and see words backwards. But reversals happen as a normal part of development, and are seen in many kids until first or even second grade. Individuals with dyslexia note problems with identifying the separate speech sounds within a word and/or learning how letters represent those sounds, as a key factor in their reading difficulties.

Dyslexia goes away once children learn to read & write.

Since dyslexia is a word used to describe a pattern of thinking and learning that is characteristic of a dyslexic person, it will not go away. Children do not ‘outgrow’ dyslexia, but many overcome the learning problems associated with their dyslexia. The specific symptoms or problems identified early on may no longer exist in adulthood.

A dyslexic adult who has learned to read well is still considered dyslexic – even though the individual has acquired the skills that were once difficult. If this person performs well on a reading test, some might conclude that she is not dyslexic, but this likely reflects the limitations of the test, as the person’s overall style of thinking and learning has probably not changed.

Kids who don’t speak English can’t have dyslexia.

Dyslexia affects up to 20% of the population of those who read English; that’s one in five people (Shaywitz, 2005). However, Snowling (2000) suggested that when the language is more transparent than English, such as Spanish, Finnish, and German, that number decreases to about 5%.

Therefore, when we broaden the discussion to include the ELL (English Language Learner), we must remember that dyslexia is a human condition that is not bound by country, it has no language borders, and it can affect anyone attempting to decode a printed alphabetic language.

Disclaimer: In order to verify that an individual may have dyslexia, it is important that he/she is tested by a qualified testing examiner.

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