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Brain News: 12 Dyslexia Myths

12 Myths We Often Can’t Help But Believe About Dyslexia

What is your dyslexia IQ? Take a little quiz to find out…before reading these myths.

1. People with dyslexia see words backward like “dog” instead of “god” or “was” instead of “saw”.

This myth is incorrect. Dyslexia is not caused by a vision problem. Many people have a lifelong confusion over left and right. Plus, they have difficulty sounding out the words in the first place and may simply mix up the words. They do not see things backwards.

2. Dyslexia is a medical diagnosis.

Physicians do not test for dyslexia and it is not classified as a medical term. Physicians are not trained to test for reading, spelling, and writing difficulties and there is not a pill or medical procedure to help with these types of issues.

3. Dyslexia can’t be diagnosed until 3rd grade.

False. Professionals who conduct cognitive testing can accurately diagnose reading problems as early as 5 years old. Parents need to be aware of the warning signs of a risk for dyslexia before 3rd grade:

Ages 8 and Under

Children as young as 5 years old can be screened for reading problems with simple phonemic awareness tests. Consider a screening that probes for reading difficulties or schedule a complete cognitive skills evaluation if you see any of the following risk factors:


Pre-K or Kindergarten – Difficulty…

  • Recognizing rhymes
  • Remembering names of friends, peers, etc.
  • With normal language development
  • Recognizing some letter shapes

End of 1st Grade – Difficulty…

  • Learning the alphabet and corresponding letter sounds
  • Applying “phonics” to reading and spelling
  • Spelling common sight words
  • Retelling stories in sequence and making predictions
  • Reading aloud with some fluency and comprehension

End of 2nd Grade – Difficulty…

  • Recalling facts and details
  • Using phonics to sound out words including multi-syllable words
  • Correctly spelling previously studied and commonly seen words

Ages 9 and up

Training is available to help older students overcome life-long reading difficulties. Does your older child need help?

Warnings Signs to Watch in Your Older Child:

  • The mispronunciation of the names of people and places
  • Struggling to retrieve the right word to express a thought
  • A hesitation to say or read words aloud that might be mispronounced
  • A history of reading and spelling difficulties
  • A lack of fluency in reading
  • Embarrassment about or not wanting to read out loud
  • Spending inordinate amounts of time doing homework
  • A dislike of reading
  • Showing a preference for books that have fewer words per page
  • Persistent spelling difficulties or selecting easy-to-spell alternatives when writing
  • The substitution of made-up words during reading for words that are too difficult for the reader to pronounce

4. Most kids outgrow their reading and spelling problems. It’s just a temporary glitch.

Incorrect. Independent scientific research shows that in reading development—once a child struggles with reading, spelling, and writing in the middle of 1st grade—there is a 90 percent chance that the same child will struggle with those same issues into 8th grade and adulthood if intervention is not taken to correct and improve those difficulties right away. That means that only 10 percent of those kids will outgrow their reading, spelling, and writing issues with no outside intervention. Waiting is the worst possible thing to do. A child with reading difficulties will only fall further and further behind, leading to frustration, lack of motivation, and plummeting self-confidence.

5. Dyslexia affects 4 times more boys than girls.

Not completely correct. More boys are tested for dyslexia than girls, but the numbers with dyslexia are about equal. Boys are more apt to act out their frustration in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade when they are unable or ill-equipped to do their homework or assignments. Parents and teachers see that frustration and send them for testing to pinpoint the problems. Girls, on the other hand, are more quiet and become “invisible”. Their reading problems are not noticed as early and may remain undetected until high school or college.

6. Children with dyslexia will never read well. You need to just teach them how to compensate for their problems.

People with dyslexia can become terrific readers with the right intervention. Teaching them the basic code (and subsequently the complex code) of the English language and helping them successfully navigate how to understand what is written can open up the world of reading, spelling, and writing (3 skills fundamental to almost all areas of academia). Testing a child early in his or her educational career can pinpoint problems and prevent major reading difficulties before they even begin.

7. People who struggle to read are not very intelligent.

Some of the most intelligent men and women struggle to read because difficulties with the written word occur at all levels of intelligence and IQ score. In reverse, low intelligence does not lead to reading difficulties unless a child is mentally handicapped. Intelligence is only moderately positively correlated with reading ability. Some famous and highly successful people who have (or had) reading problems are Charles Schwab, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Anderson Cooper, Albert Einstein and Agatha Christie.

8. Dyslexia only occurs in languages using the alphabet, not in countries with logographic languages like China and Japan.

False. Chinese and Japanese students (or others in countries with a logographic language) make the same sound-based errors or phonological mistakes that English speakers do (using English orthography) or others with alphabetic languages such as Spanish, Italian or French. Reading problems are just as prevalent in China as in the United States. Logographic languages are based on logograms, which are written symbols that represent an entire spoken word without expressing its pronunciation.

9. Dyslexia is rare.

According to researchers at the National Institutes of Health, 1 out of every 5 people are affected by dyslexia. That’s 20 percent of the entire population in the United States. The degree of severity does differ, however. Only 10 percent of children with dyslexia actually qualify for special education to correct those reading problems, leaving 9 of every 10 kids to fend for themselves. Dyslexia is the most common reason a child will struggle with spelling, then writing, and then reading, hitting a glass ceiling by 3rd grade.

10. Dyslexia is a catch-all term.

This was correct in the 60s and 70s. But now, after new academic research, we know much more about reading and the brain. Dyslexia means “trouble with words”, is neurological in origin, and is a specific learning disability. Characteristics include: problems accurately and fluently recognizing words, spelling mistakes, and the inability to decode a word. Reading comprehension issues and a lack of reading experience are unintended consequences that hinder vocabulary and background knowledge.

11. Every child who struggles with reading has dyslexia.

Though dyslexia is not the only reason a child may struggle with reading, it is the most common reason. Dyslexia encompasses more than just reading problems. It impacts spelling, speech, writing, and memorizing sequences and random facts. Some of the characteristics of these problems are:

  • Mixing up sounds in multi-syllable words like helicopter, cinnamon, hospital, and spaghetti.
  • Problems memorizing the days of the week, months of the year, and the sequence of the alphabet.
  • Difficulty remembering the correct spelling of spelling words from one week to the next.

The more warning signs you see, the more confidence you can have that dyslexia is the cause of their academic problems. However, cognitive skills testing is the only way to pinpoint the real, underlying difficulties; the core of why they are struggling to read in the first place.

12. Children with dyslexia are unable to read.

Untrue. Most children and adults are able to read, even if it is at a basic level. Children with dyslexia, however, are likely to reach a certain point in their reading ability unable to move beyond a 3rd-grade reading level. Despite being taught phonics, they have extreme difficulty sounding out an unknown word. They may read a word perfectly on page 1 and forget it by page 2. Their list of 30 spelling words may be memorized for a spelling test and forgotten the next week. Difficulty spelling is one of the classic red flags alerting teachers and parents to an underlying problem. The children are unable to understand the basic code of the English language and cannot break down or reconstruct (by spelling) words using codes (letters).