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Debunking the Common Myths and Misconceptions of Dyslexia


Dyslexia, a specific learning disability that affects reading and language processing, is often misunderstood. Despite being extensively studied, myths and misconceptions about dyslexia persist. Some of these myths are even still perpetuated by tutors that treat dyslexia because there is so much misinformation. As a result, these misconceptions can lead to stigma, hinder support, and prevent individuals from receiving the help they need. In this article, I aim to debunk some of the most common myths surrounding dyslexia and clarify the realities of this condition.



Myth 1: Dyslexia is a sign of low intelligence.

Contrary to what many people believe, dyslexia has no relation with intelligence. Many individuals with dyslexia are extremely intelligent and possess stronger logic and reasoning skills, larger vocabularies, and increased creativity. Sally Shaywitz, M.D, Co-Founder of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, emphasizes the strengths of many dyslexic students with her “Sea of Strengths” model. Remember, dyslexia is characterized by unexpected difficulties with reading. 



Myth 2: Dyslexia can be outgrown and/or cured.

Dyslexia is not something that can be outgrown or cured. It is a neurodevelopmental condition that remains present throughout a person's life. However, with early intervention and appropriate support, individuals with dyslexia can learn to overcome many of the challenges associated with the condition so that their symptoms are minimal. It is not currently clinically curable.


Myth 3: Dyslexia is rare.

Dyslexia is so much more common than people realize. It affects about 1 in 5 people, 15-20% of all people, about 12 million in the USA alone. I think that when folks learn how common it is, it also helps them understand that they are not alone, doomed, or without a community and wealth of resources.  


Myth 4: Students with dyslexia see letters flipped, upside, and moving around on the page.

This is one of the most common myths about dyslexia. Dyslexia is NOT a condition that affects the eyes AT ALL. Dyslexic students may write their letters backwards (the b and d flip is extremely common), and they may read the letter b with a /d/ sound and the letter d with a /b/ sound by mistake, but they do not physically see the letter flipped around. Similarly, colored translucent plastic coverings do not “settle” the letters for the dyslexic unless they ALSO have visual stress syndrome. There is no research to support this commonly used tool for dyslexics, and in some cases it actually further decreases reading fluency. 


Myth 5: Dyslexia is more common in boys than girls. 

The Connecticut Longitudinal Study (CLS) has helped to shed light on the gender distribution of dyslexia. What scientists have found is that dyslexia affects males and females equally. Part of the reason that it has been believed that boys are more impacted is that they were simply tested more often! When a young dyslexic student experiences the stress, difficulty, and anxiety that comes with reading, it often impacts behavior. Boys are more likely to act out, hide, voice dislike for reading, or act goofy when they have to read, whereas girls are more likely to become more quiet and shy. Because the female behaviors draw less attention to themselves and don’t disrupt the classroom, they are less likely to be flagged for evaluation. Dyslexia is drastically under-diagnosed in females. 


Myth 6: Dyslexia cannot be diagnosed until the 3rd grade.

If the diagnostic professional has the skill and tools, it can be diagnosed by 1st and 2nd grade. Symptoms begin in kindergarten, even earlier for many students. There is no rule that it cannot be diagnosed before 3rd grade. The reason this belief exists is that 3rd grade is the point when the gap in reading abilities becomes extremely apparent, and diagnosticians want to avoid over-diagnosing it. However, we know that intervention needs to be intense and early for the student to catch up and close the reading gap, so get diagnosed early if you can.


Conclusion

Dyslexia is a nuanced condition that, despite being well studied, continues to have a multitude of misconceptions and myths perpetuated that only do more harm than good. This is just a short list of what dyslexia is NOT. For more about what it actually is, check out this article.


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