Letters to A Dyslexic: Magic Pills and Colored Glasses

Dear Young Dyslexic,

Like most people who’ve had a major challenge, I have often dreamed of having a magic pill that would make life easier. As I’ve written in past blogs, I now know that it would not change my dyslexia. However, the wish for a magic pill to fix things can be very strong in many dyslexics and their parents. This can make them very vulnerable controversial treatments.

I’ve been around long enough to experience many of these fads. I’ve seen treatments for dyslexia that include everything from crawling to walking barefoot across fire. Sometimes these treatments offer techniques that can be helpful to some dyslexics. However, they are not cures.

More often, they give false hope and can be harmful.  They make the implicit promise that if the dyslexic works hard and follows the treatment they will get better or be cured. This promise was made to me many times inside and outside the classroom. I worked my butt off. When I failed, I didn’t blame my teachers or these quasi-professionals, I blamed myself. You and I deserve better than this.

It is interesting to me that most of these controversial treatments have a number of similar characteristics. Watching for these characteristics can alert you to possible hoaxes.

1. The treatments claim to be cures. One recent controversial treatment switched from curing dyslexia to correcting dyslexia.

2. They offer no comprehensive scientific research to validate their claims. Instead, they rely on testimonials. Often the individuals making the testimonial have not been officially diagnosed as being dyslexic.

3. They often develop their own jargon or terminology that normal people or even other disciplines do not understand.

4. Finally, these treatments often claim to cure a wide range of problems from dyslexia to autism to migraine headaches. 100 years ago, quacks would sell snake oil to treat all kinds of illnesses. No one treatment works for everything.

In fact, a great deal of research has been done in the last 25 years. Using scientifically-proven techniques we can identify and treat the vast majority of dyslexics. You just have to be careful not to take any wooden nickels.

Be well and make a bit of noise,

Dr. Michael Ryan

Dr. Michael Ryan