Episode 4:What are the Facts & Myths about Dyslexia?
Dyslexia describes a persistent difficulty in deciphering (decoding/ making sense of/ comprehending) single words. Individuals with dyslexia experience difficulties in interpreting phonological components of words. Please visit this blog post to learn more about what it means to interpret phonological components of words.
Dyslexic individuals have weak phonological awareness skills. This means that they have an impaired ability to decode phonological elements of a language which affects their ability to identify and manipulate the distinct sound units that comprise the words in a specific language. Lack of strong phonological awareness skills translates to poor reading and writing skills.
Phonological awareness is the explicit awareness that a word is made up of sounds. You can visit this blog post to learn more about phonological awareness.
8 myths about dyslexia
There is a lot of information out there about dyslexia but a lot of this information is not accurate and has fuelled several myths about dyslexia. So, what are some of these myths?
Dyslexia does not affect smart people
Fact: Dyslexia has no connection with one’s intelligence. It is not uncommon to see very creative and highly intelligent individuals experiencing difficulties in reading that is characteristic with dyslexia. Dyslexia affects all people; those of average and above average intelligence as well as highly gifted individuals.
Dyslexia is curable after diagnosis
Fact: It is important to note that dyslexia is only a descriptive term and not a diagnostic one. This means that dyslexia is not a medical diagnosis to which a definite medical cause is attributable.
Dyslexia is not ‘curable.’ It is a learning disability that remains throughout the life of an individual. The monitoring of the phonological skills of students diagnosed with dyslexia on an annual basis has shown the persistence of the learning disability as one grows into adulthood.
Dyslexia, however, does not necessarily predict lifelong struggles academically and professionally. Early diagnosis of the learning disability can facilitate the use of evidence-based learning interventions and instructional accommodations that can enable dyslexic students to learn how to read and to go on to succeed both academically and professionally.
Children diagnosed with dyslexia see & write letters and words backwards
Fact: This is a myth that has endured over time despite the unavailability of evidence to support it. Many children, when learning how to read and write, often mirror letters and words irrespective of whether they have learning disabilities.
Dyslexia is a language-processing deficit and not a visual processing deficit.
A study by Professor Frank Vellutino found that students with dyslexia were as accurate as their non-dyslexic counterparts when reproducing letters written in Hebrew that they had not seen before the exercise.
Children with dyslexia have enduring reading difficulties because they are lazy
Fact: This is a myth that is fuelled by a lack of awareness about dyslexia among parents and teachers. The difficulties that children with dyslexia experience while reading are not the product of a lethargic attempt at learning. Studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have shown that dyslexic children showed brain function patterns that are abnormal during reading when compared to non-dyslexic children.
These unusual brain functional patterns are characterised by over-activity in some regions of the brain while other areas show a diminished activity. These abnormal brain pattern functions while reading are some of the precipitators of the difficulties that dyslexic students experience when reading.
The innate nature of these brain differences between dyslexic and the non-dyslexic children means that even when bright and motivated dyslexic children commit their efforts and time in learning activities, the abnormal brain patterns will likely predict the endurance of these difficulties during learning.
Holding back children with dyslexia from moving to the next class will help them improve their reading skills
Fact: There is a consensus among institutions such as the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Federation of Teachers and the U.S. Department of Education that holding back children from moving to the next class, irrespective of whether or not they have learning disabilities, does not lead to an improvement in their academic achievement.
This is especially ineffective especially if the instructional approaches do not change during their second year in the same grade. Children with dyslexia, however, can benefit from the application of differentiated interventions such as accommodations in instruction among other explicit, systematic and evidence-based practices in teaching.
Children with dyslexia often perform poorly because of their reading difficulties
Fact: Students diagnosed with dyslexia do not necessarily record poor academic achievement. Many of the students are motivated to perform well. The early identification of the learning disabilities allows the students to benefit from evidence-based interventions and accommodations that offer them a fair learning opportunity.
Students diagnosed with dyslexia usually go on to complete their elementary and high school education and proceed forth to reputable colleges.
Dyslexia is more prevalent in boys than in girls
Fact: This is a myth that stemmed from studies reporting that reading disabilities were identified more in boys compared to girls. This myth has since been debunked. There is no reported statistically significant difference in the prevalence of reading disabilities among boys and girls. While more boys than girls are referred for testing for dyslexia, these increased numbers are attributed more to behaviour than to the presence of risk for dyslexia.
Boys between the first and third grades are more prone to acting out their frustrations when they find themselves struggling in their studies. Unlike their male counterparts, girls suffering from the same struggles behave differently, often retreating quietly to the back of the classrooms. These behavioural tendencies lead to the later discovery of their dyslexia.
People with dyslexia cannot learn how to read
Fact: Most of the children who are diagnosed with dyslexia are able to develop their reading skills over time. However, they will have to put in much more effort than their non-dyslexic classmates. Dyslexic individuals also almost never reach the point of reading fluency. They remain “manual” readers, having to put in a lot of effort while reading.
I hope this article has shed some light on the topic of dyslexia.
You may also find these articles useful:
- What to do if your child is struggling with reading
- 4 ways to help your child with their reading skills
- How to increase your child’s attentions skills
- How to strengthen your child’s reading skills