Dyslexia Myths

The Top 8 Dyslexia Mythbusters

In the simplest terms, dyslexia refers to any unexpected reading problem. Here are some things we’ve heard in our journey of learning about our children’s dyslexia, and of learning how to advocate for them in our schools.

1. “Your child is fine. He/she is reading at grade level.”

Stop right there! This is the biggest road block for most parents. Reading “at grade level” doesn’t mean much. Here are some important questions to ask:

Questions of Fluency

Does your child meet the GPS (Georgia Performance Standards) for fluency, phonics and phonological awareness? If not, this could be a red flag for dyslexia.

  • Fluency (rate of words/minute, accurately read): Does he/she meet GPS?
  • Phonics and phonological awareness (letters, sounds and word parts): Is he/she meeting GPS in K and 1st grade? If your 2nd or 3rd grader still doesn’t know letter sounds, this is a BIG red flag.

Questions of spelling, written expression, math word problems

What are his/her skills reflecting? This is important because dyslexia does not just affect reading. Good math students struggle with word problems even though they understand the arithmetic.

Questions of home life

Does your child come from a home rich in language and literature, where he/she has been read to consistently throughout childhood? If so, then a reading delay is a good indication of a potential problem.

2. “It’s too early to identify dyslexia in your child.”

  • Dyslexia may be readily diagnosed in children by age 5 and strong indicators of dyslexia may be readily identified before age 5.
  • Education Law indicates that a child does not have to be failing or doing poorly to be suspected of having a problem. It is not a wait-to-fail model!
  • If you request testing of your child, the school must complete it within 60 days. Put the request in writing and fill out all the appropriate forms, all dated. And make your own copies!

3. “Let’s just wait and see what happens.”

  • Don’t wait. Early identification/remediation is key! The brain hard-wires at age 9 to 10, after which remediation, while still helpful, is less effective.
  • Of those children with reading/spelling/writing difficulties that last into the middle of first grade, only 10% of these students overcome their struggles.  The remaining 90% will continue to struggle through school and adulthood, particularly when intensive remediations are not provided.
  • The problem does not get better as our kids progress though school. It gets worse. Many dyslexic children have strong compensatory skills. In first and second grade, they memorize text and use context to guess at words and meaning. This actually works against them, since teachers believe the child can read. As the child progresses through school, these compensatory skills can’t keep up with the reading demand. Problems often hit hard in third grade, as students transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”

4. “We’ll just slow things down and go over the materials again.”

  • Dyslexia requires different teaching and techniques, not just slower or more repetitious teaching.
  • Teaching must be systematic, sequential, frequent, and cumulative, with scientific backing that proves its effectiveness for dyslexic children.

5. “Dyslexia is a visual issue. It’s a problem with his/her eyes.”

  • Dyslexia is NOT a visual issue. It is a weakness in phonological processing.
  • Though a child may also have visual difficulties, the problem arises when educators start from the assumption that a child’s problem is visual, while overlooking other indicators. This wastes valuable time (often many, many months) that could be used for intensive phonics remediation.

6. “Your child doesn’t qualify for services.”

  • This is an inaccurate, outdated statement. In Decatur schools, struggling learners can receive support services under the RtI (Response to Intervention) process. It is not necessary to “qualify” for anything to start the process of additional support. The simple recognition of a problem/struggle is enough to warrant Tier I investigation.
  • RtI begins with Tier 1, which involves simple extra support in the classroom. Tiers 2 and 3 involve more intensive support and documentation. Children who reach Tier 4 will likely be evaluated for an IEP (Individual Education Plan) which would warrant significant extra learning support.

7. “It’s a behavior issue.”

  • It’s not unusual for a reading difficulty to be blamed on a behavior issue, often with the suggestion that it is related to ADD/ADHD.
  • While ADD/ADHD may be a contributing factor in the struggle to read, this possibility does not in any way negate the importance of investigating other factors a child may be working with.

8. “Girls don’t have dyslexia.”

  • The number of girls and boys who have dyslexia is roughly equal.
  • Girls tend to sit quietly or withdraw while their problems go unnoticed. Boys are more often identified as dyslexic because they’re more likely to show behavior problems due to the incredible frustrations of being unable to learn to read.