Debunking the Myths about Dyslexia

There are many signs or clues to dyslexia which are discussed in depth on this website; however it is also important to be aware of the misconceptions and myths surrounding the disorder. There are a number of myths regarding dyslexia. We have highlighted some of the more common ones.

  • Myth: Public schools don’t admit that dyslexia exists.
    Fact: Some schools may try to deny the existence of dyslexia despite years of research and hard evidence, however, as more people including parents and educators are becoming aware of how common dyslexia is, some states are beginning to pass state-wide dyslexia laws. These laws may require schools to screen children for dyslexia. Other states require college courses intended to educate teachers about dyslexia.
  • Myth: Schools test children for dyslexia.
    Fact: Most public schools do not screen students for dyslexia because federal funding does not require them to do so. A school, however, may test a child with dyslexia to see if he qualifies for special education under the guidelines for specific learning disability (LD).
  • Myth: If a child is not eligible for special education services or an IEP, then that child doesn’t have dyslexia.
    Fact: Dyslexia comes in many degrees from mild to severe. Most children with dyslexia will not receive special education services unless they score very poorly, usually under the 10th percentile. Unfortunately, even children with mild dyslexia can easily fall behind in school.
  • Myth: Only children with an IEP can get classroom accommodations.
    Fact: Children with 504 Plans can get the same classroom accommodations as children with IEPs. Also, teachers can give classroom accommodations to any student, regardless of whether that student has an IEP or a 504 Plan or not.
  • Myth: There is not enough money in the education budget to pay for accommodations or additional teacher training.
    Fact: Most classroom accommodations don’t cost anything, nor do they require any special teacher training.
  • Myth: Teachers can’t make accommodations for a dyslexic child because they can’t change the curriculum.
    Fact: Accommodations do not alter the curriculum. Accommodations are a slight change in the way a teacher will present new ideas, has students practice new skills, or tests the new subject material. Accommodations change methods of teaching, not classroom material.
  • Myth: It isn’t fair for a teacher to make accommodations for one dyslexic child in a classroom when these accommodations are not given to every student.
    Fact: A fair approach to teaching means providing each student with what he/she needs in order to succeed. A student has to be willing to utilize the accommodations made for him in order to succeed so ultimately, a child with accommodations made for him still has to work just as hard to succeed as any other student.
  • Myth: If a teacher doesn’t count off for spelling for a dyslexic child, then that child will never learn how to spell.
    Fact: By virtue of a diagnosis of dyslexia, a dyslexic child has great difficulty learning to spell in the traditional way, so marking off for spelling will not teach him how to spell. They need to be taught spelling using alternative methods, such as the Orton-Gillingham approach. Unless it is specifically a spelling test (and then Dr. Pierson would recommend reducing the number of words that a dyslexic child would have to spell to demonstrate that he has learned a particular spelling pattern), a dyslexic student’s papers should be graded for content only, and not spelling.
  • Myth: Some schools are reluctant to use the “D” word and don’t allow their teachers to say the word “dyslexia” while on campus.
    Fact: Some schools are in fact reluctant to use the term “dyslexia” because it has become taboo by “over-zealous and demanding parents” and many consider it a medical versus an educational diagnosis; however, as more school personnel are learning about dyslexia and how common it actually is, more are starting to recognize it and look for the warning signs in students.
  • Myth: Most reading and resource teachers are highly trained in dyslexia and its remediation methods.
    Fact: Unfortunately, this is not true. Recent graduate students with a Masters degree in reading have not had any courses on dyslexia. Additionally, few literary coaches and resource specialists have had training in dyslexia either.
  • Myth: Most reading specialists know the latest research on dyslexia.
    Fact: Unfortunately, recent research has shown that most teacher-training programs aren’t teaching the science of reading including early identification of children at risk for reading failure, daily training in linguistic and oral skills, implicit instruction in letter sounds and syllables, and teaching phonics in a sequential order that research has shown will be most beneficial to students.
  • Myth: Reading specialists can always tell who has dyslexia and who doesn’t.
    Fact: Few educators have training in dyslexia; diagnosis requires a special skill set in understanding the underlying phonological component of dyslexia.
  • Myth: Evidence from twin studies shows that dyslexia is caused by inherited faulty genes.
    Fact: There is no indisputable way of diagnosing dyslexia, so it is difficult to find a valid, scientific study. The ‘Twin Study’ has several statistical errors and assumptions that invalidate it.
  • Myth: Dyslexia can be cured or helped by special balancing exercises, fish-oils, glasses with tinted lenses, vision exercises, NLP magical spelling, modeling clay letters, inner-ear-improving medications, training primitive reflexes, eye occlusion (patching), etc.
    Fact: None of these remedies have been found to be effective based on scientific evidence. Dyslexics require explicit and systematic instruction in phonological awareness, phonics, and spelling patterns and rules. Additionally, they may need strategies for vocabulary, reading comprehension and writing, as well as verbal expression and word retrieval.