|In 1994, the National Institutes of
released the results of their
longitudinal study and specific research projects. The research
projects have been independently replicated, have yielded the same
results, and the results from those 18 university-based research centers
have now been replicated by dyslexia researchers around the world.
Yet most people are unaware of these
results. So as a parent or advocate, you will encounter the following
|Myths about Dyslexia
Myth: Dyslexia does not
Fact: Dyslexia is one of the most
researched and documented conditions that will impact children. Over
30 years of independent, scientific, replicated, published research
exists on dyslexia -- much of it done through the National
Institutes of Health, funded by taxpayer dollars.
Some of that research is quoted on
this webpage. More is quoted on our
What We Now Know
page. Even more research is contained in the books
and websites on our
To Learn More
Take a look at the
Fact Sheet published by the International Dyslexia Association.
Myth: Dyslexia is a "catch
Fact: That was true back in the
1960's and 1970's before the research existed. But we now have a
research-based definition of dyslexia, which is:
Dyslexia is a specific learning
disability that is neurological in origin.
It is characterized by difficulties
with accurate and/or fluent word recognition, and by poor spelling
and decoding abilities.
These difficulties typically result
from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is
often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the
provision of effective classroom instruction.
Secondary consequences may include
problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience
that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.
Myth: Intelligence and
ability to read are related. So if someone doesn't read well, they
can't be very smart.
Myth: Gifted children cannot
be dyslexic or have a learning disability.
Fact: Dyslexia is not
related to IQ. That means you can have a very high IQ and be
dyslexic, you can have an average IQ and be dyslexic, and you can
have low IQ and be dyslexic.
Many people with dyslexia are very
bright and accomplish amazing things as adults. Take a look at our
list of over
200 famous dyslexics.
Myth: People with dyslexia
Fact: Everyone with dyslexia can
read -- up to a point. But they will "hit the wall" in reading
development by third grade, if not sooner.
When reading, they have great
difficulty sounding out an unknown word -- despite being taught
They will often read a word fine on
one page, but not recognize the very same word on the next page.
But it is spelling
that separates kids with dyslexia from kids who struggle with
reading for some other reason.
If the child and their parents spend
hours and hours studying the spelling list, the child may be able to
learn the list of 20 spelling words long enough to do "okay" on
Friday's test. But , they cannot retain those spelling words from
one week to the next.
They also cannot spell when writing
sentences or paragraphs -- not even the high frequency words such as
because, friend, or does.
That's why extreme difficulty with
spelling is considered a classic warning sign of dyslexia -- and why
the International Dyslexia Association publishes a
Sheet on Spelling.
Myth: People with dyslexia
see things backwards.
Fact: People with dyslexia do not
see things backwards. They see things the same way you and I do.
Dyslexia is not caused by a vision
problem. That is why vision therapy does not work for this
population. There is nothing wrong with their eyes.
Yes, they reverse their b's and
their d's and say was for saw. But that's caused by their lifelong
confusion over left versus right and by their difficulty reading by
Myth: Dyslexia is rare.
Fact: According to the NIH
researchers, in the United States, dyslexia impacts 20% of our
population. That's 1 out of every 5 people.
But it does come in degrees. Some
have it only mildly, some have it moderately, some have it severely,
and some have it profoundly.
Very few children with dyslexia are
in the special education system. Only 1 in 10 will be eligible for
an IEP (when tested in second or third grade) under the category of
Learning Disability (LD).
That means 9 out of 10 "fall through
the cracks." Although the parents and the teacher know there's
something different about the child, the child does not qualify for
special education services, and most will no longer get help from
the reading specialist after first or second grade.
Dyslexia is not rare. It is the most
common reason a child will struggle first with spelling, then with
written expression, and eventually "hit the wall" in reading
development by third grade.
Myth: There is no way to
Fact: Professionals with in-depth
training can accurately diagnose dyslexia as early as age 5.
To learn who should, and should
not, test for dyslexia, the types of tests that are
given, and the types of errors and difficulties that a tester is
looking for, click
Myth: Dyslexia is a medical
Fact: Doctors do not
test for dyslexia. Dyslexia is not classified as a
Doctors have no training in how to
test for reading, spelling, and writing problems. And there is no
medical solution (no pill or operation) for those types of academic
That is also why medical insurance
does not cover anything having to do with dyslexia. Dyslexia is not
classified as a medical issue.
The International Dyslexia
Association publishes a
Sheet on Testing.
Myth: Dyslexia cannot be
diagnosed until third grade.
Fact: Professionals with in-depth
training can accurately diagnose dyslexia as early as age 5.
Myth: Most children outgrow
early reading and spelling problems. It is just a developmental
Fact: Independent, scientific,
replicated research on reading development shows just the opposite.
It shows that if a child is struggling with reading, writing, and
spelling in mid-first grade, that child has better than 90% odds of
still struggling with those skills in eighth grade and on into
adulthood if someone doesn't step in and do something.
That means less than 10% of the time
will a child outgrow those struggles.
That also means waiting is the worst
thing you can do. The child is only going to get further and further
Myth: Retaining a child will
improve their academic struggles.
Fact: Retention is a failed
educational policy. It has never improved academic
That's why these organizations are
The National Association of School
"Through many years of research, the practice of retaining children
has been shown to be ineffective in meeting the needs of children
who are academically delayed."
The American Federation of Teachers:
"Social promotion and grade retention are mechanical responses to an
educational problem. The scandal is how little attention they give
to preventing failure in the first place."
The U.S. Department of Education:
"Neither social promotion nor retention is appropriate for students
who do not meet high academic standards."
The National Joint Committee on
Learning Disabilities (NJCLD):
"The weight of the evidence of literally hundreds of studies shows
that retaining children does NOT produce higher achievement."
For links to these studies, go to:
Myth: Children outgrow
Fact: Dyslexia is a lifelong issue.
That means waiting -- due to a false hope that it will disappear as
the child gets older -- is the worst thing you can do.
It will not go away. The child will
only get further and further behind -- unless that child gets the
right type of intervention or tutoring.
All the experts agree:
waiting is the
worst thing you can do.
effective research-based methods that will bring their reading,
spelling, and writing skills up to -- and beyond -- grade level.
Although it is never too late to
greatly improve their skills,
intervention is the best way to prevent or minimize the damage
to their self-esteem, their emotional distress, and their fear of
going to school.
Myth: Dyslexia is caused by
a lack of phonics instruction.
Fact: That is not true. Phonics is
not the answer for a child with dyslexia. The teacher can use the
best phonics program in the world, but it will not prevent a child
with dyslexia from "hitting the wall" by third grade.
Most parents already know that
phonics does not help. Most parent have already tried Hooked on
Phonics -- and it did not improve their child's reading or spelling.
Children with dyslexia can learn
phonics. They just can't apply it. That's why a classic
warning sign of dyslexia is a child who can not sound out
an unknown word -- despite being taught phonics.
Myth: Dyslexia affects four
times more boys than girls.
Fact: Although more boys are sent
for testing than girls, research shows that dyslexia impacts just as
many girls as boys.
So why are more boys sent for
testing than girls? It's because of their behavior.
It seems when boys in first, second,
or third grade can't do classroom assignments or homework, they get
frustrated and act out their frustration. Parents and teachers
notice that behavior and then try to figure out why they are
behaving that way -- by sending them for testing.
But often, when girls in first,
second, or third grade can't do the work, they tend to get quiet,
move to the back of the room, and try to become invisible. So they
don't get noticed as early. Often, their dyslexia is not discovered
until high school or even college.
Myth: Any child who reverses
letters or numbers has dyslexia.
Fact: Most children will reverse
some of their letters and some of their numbers while they are
learning. Up to a certain point, that is considered perfectly
But those reversals should be gone
after two years of handwriting instruction and practice.
But letter or number reversals that
continue after two years of handwriting and
practice are a classic warning sign of dyslexia.
If a child truly has dyslexia,
however, the child will have many of the other
signs of dyslexia.
Myth: Every child who
struggles with reading is dyslexic.
Fact: Dyslexia is not the only
reason a child will struggle with reading, but it is the most common
How can you tell whether dyslexia is
the cause of the child's reading struggles?
Dyslexia will impact way more than
just reading. It will impact their spelling
(trouble retaining spelling words from one week to the next; not
able to spell even the high frequency words like because, friend or
does when writing sentences), their speech (mixing
up sounds in multisyllable words such as animal, spaghetti,
helicopter, cinnamon, consonant, caterpillar. hamburger, magazine,
hospital -- and trouble making the R and L sounds correctly),
and cause extreme difficulty memorizing sequences and random
facts (the sequence of the alphabet, the letters in their
last name, the days of the week, the months of the year -- and
random facts such as multiplication tables), to name just a few of
warning signs of dyslexia.
The more warning signs a child has,
the more confident you can be that dyslexia is the cause of their
Myth: If a dyslexic child
reads out loud for 20 minutes a day, it will improve their reading.
Fact: Reading out loud will not
teach a dyslexic child how to sound out unknown words. They will
continue to try to memorize the shape of a word, and use picture
clues or context clues to guess at the words.
If a child cannot easily and
accurately sound out unknown words, especially multi-syllable words,
by the time the child starts third grade, that child will "hit the
wall" in reading development.
Reading out loud for 20 minutes a
day will not teach that missing skill -- reading by sounding out --
which is called decoding. It is also called
The inability to decode is caused by
weak phonemic awareness skills. Part of the
research-based definition of dyslexia is a child who lacks age
phonemic awareness skills.
Myth: Dyslexic children will
never read well, so it is best to teach them to compensate.
Fact: People with dyslexia can
become excellent readers, decent spellers, and good writers if they
receive the right type of intervention or tutoring.
Independent, scientific, replicated
research recommends an
Orton-Gillingham based system as the most effective way to
improve the reading, writing, and spelling skills of people with
That's why the International
Dyslexia Association publishes two
well-known Orton-Gillingham based systems. The Barton Reading &
Spelling System is one of the best. To watch a 20-minute demo, click
Myth: If you don't teach a
dyslexic child to read by age 9, it is too late.
Fact: It is never ever too late to
greatly improve the reading, spelling, and writing skills of someone
Myth: Children with dyslexia
are just lazy. If only they tried harder...
students with dyslexia do not receive the right
type of tutoring and classroom accommodations, they often struggle
in school -- despite being bright, motivated, and spending hours on
I will not allow you to
excerpt of an article by John Colby Whitsante
published February 11, 2008
in the Huntsville, Alabama newspaper
John Colby Whisante has dyslexia. Even though he sometimes fails, he
will not give up on his education. He wrote this open letters to
You have questioned my abilities and my need for help. You have even
questioned my diagnosis of dyslexia.
You have no concept of the effort and time it takes for me to
achieve my accomplishments because you have never allowed me what I
need to show my full potential.
I could give up and walk away from getting an education, but I am
not a quitter. I may fail in the beginning, but I will keep on
trying until I succeed. I will not allow you to defeat me.
As my school official, you have choices. You can assist me in
getting an education by making accommodations that have been proven
to help me, or you can allow me to fail and hope I will go away.
Even if you turn your back on me, I will not go away.
To read the entire article, go to:
Back to top
Myths about Schools
Myth: Schools test children
Fact: Most public schools do not
test children for dyslexia because federal education law does not
yet require them to diagnose why a child is struggling.
Most public schools only test to see
if a child is far enough behind to be eligible for special education
There is a big difference between
eligibility testing and true
Most children with dyslexia will not
be eligible for special education services.
Myth: Public schools do not
admit that dyslexia exists.
Fact: Some public
schools still try to deny that dyslexia exists -- despite more than
30 years of independent, replicated, scientific research that has
been conducted on dyslexia by the National Institutes of Health and
other researchers around the world.
But as more parents, teachers, and
administrators are becoming aware of that research, and the fact
that dyslexia impacts 20% of children in the United States, states
are starting to pass statewide dyslexia laws.
The dyslexia laws in some states
require public schools to screen children for dyslexia, for free,
during kindergarten, first, or second grade.
The dyslexia laws in other states
require teacher training colleges to offer courses on dyslexia --
and to require teachers in schools to get in-services on dyslexia.
As of June 2009, the following
states have statewide dyslexia laws: Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana,
California, Colorado, and Washington.
The following states have dyslexia
laws making their way through the legislature: Kentucky, Ohio, and
If your child's school still denies
that dyslexia exists, try to educate them on the latest research.
Either give them a copy the book Overcoming Dyslexia
by Dr. Sally Shaywitz, or have them go to the
Reading Rockets website
and in the search box near the top of the screen, type in dyslexia,
then click on the Go button.
By the way, the Reading Rockets
website is funded by the U.S. Department of Education. So if the
U.S. Department of Education admits that dyslexia exists, so should
every public school that it governs.
The Florida Center for Reading
Research published a detailed report on dyslexia in an effort to
educate the schools and legislators in Florida.
To download and read that report, go to:
Myth: Teachers are not
allowed to say the word dyslexia on campus.
Fact: Some schools are
reluctant to use the "D" word.
excerpt of an
article in Perspectives on Language and Literacy
published by the International Dyslexia Association
Winter Edition, 2008
The entire Winter 2008 issue of Perspectives
is devoted to demystifying the "D" word -- why and how the term
Dyslexia should be used.
It contains many outstanding articles. In the opening article,
Louisa Moats (the theme editor of this issue), states:
In some circles, especially some public school environments,
dyslexia is such a contaminated term, associated with what are
perceived as unreasonable demands by zealous parents or advocates,
that its use is discouraged or banned.
This issue contains articles written from many different viewpoints,
ranging from Diana Hanbury King (whose first mentor was Anna
Gillingham), to Jack Fletcher and Reid Lyon, but the most
revealing article was written by Ed Steinberg and Daphne Pereles who
both work for the Colorado Department of Education. Ed
Steinberg is the Assistant Commissioner of Education, and Daphne
Pereles is a supervisor with the Exceptional Student Leadership
In their article, entitled Disconnect, the Real "D" Word: A
School Practitioner's Perspective on Dyslexia, they shared
many important points, including:
... we ascribe the lion's share of responsibility [for the
disconnect] to the schools and the practices around services for
students with learning disabilities. Indeed, disputes and
controversy over the term dyslexia seem to us to represent a smoke
screen obscuring the real issues in the education of students with
LD. Hiding behind the smoke screen is the inordinate emphasis the
system has placed on eligibility for special education services,
with eligibility being the big event in the educational life of the
It has been our experience that much of the up-front controversy
surrounding dyslexia (i.e., dueling evaluations, schools' refusal to
accept a dyslexia diagnosis) serves to obscure the stark reality
that our schools have strayed so far from a focus on a systematic,
explicit approach to teaching reading and remediating reading
disabilities that, in reality, we often do not know what to do after
a student is staffed into special education with dyslexia.
Our experience is that the vast majority of special educators have
not been trained, either in preservice licensing or postemployment
experience, to teach reading in this way [research based, explicit,
systematic, cumulative, and structured] to remediate dyslexia.
Adding to this is the lack of focus surrounding many school
districts' professional development programs, (i.e. the
"smorgasbord" approach in which teachers can choose what they want
from an array of offerings rather than receiving instruction in what
Coupled with this scenario is a culture in many schools in which
teachers resist implementing evidence-based reading programs with
comments such as, "It's too prescriptive," "I don't like canned
programs," or "I have a different philosophy."
To read the entire article, go to:
Members of the International Dyslexia Association can read and
download all of the articles from the Winter 2008 issue of
Perspectives (and other issues, as well) on the Members Only section
of the IDA website:
Myth: If a child is not
eligible for special education services or an IEP, the child does
not have dyslexia.
Fact: Dyslexia comes in degrees,
ranging from mild to moderate to severe to profound.
Only children who are severe or
profound are eligible for special education services under the
category of Learning Disability or LD.
That's why most children with
dyslexia do not receive special education services.
Yet even children with mild dyslexia
will "hit the wall" in reading development by third or fourth grade
-- and they will have extreme difficulty getting their wonderful
thoughts and ideas down on paper in acceptable form. Not only will
there be many misspelled words (even high frequency words such as
because, friend, and does), but they will not capitalize correctly
(not even consistently capitalizing the first word in each sentence)
and they won't consistently put periods at the end of their
Myth: Most reading and
resource specialists are highly trained in dyslexia and its
Fact: Sadly, that is not true.
Not even recent graduates with a
Masters degree in Reading have had a single course in dyslexia, its
warning signs, and appropriate remediation methods.
Most literacy coaches, Reading First
coordinators, and Resource Specialists have had no training in
dyslexia or appropriate remediation methods.
Myth: Most teachers know the
warning signs of dyslexia, so they would warn a parent if their
child had symptoms of it.
Fact: Most teachers have had no
training in dyslexia or its classic warning signs.
New Study: Most Teachers Don't Know Symptoms
excerpt of a study by
the No To Failure project
in conjunction with the charity Xtraordinary People
Supported and funded by the DfES, this
unique No To Failure project has united all the leading charities
and specialists in this field (in the United Kingdom) to create
Did you know that 1 in 5 children continue to leave primary school
each year unable to read, write or do math properly? Many of these
children are dyslexic and may not be receiving the help they need.
However, if supported by dyslexia trained teachers, these children
NUT research found that fewer than 14% of teachers
felt very confident they could recognize a dyslexic child, and
fewer than 9% felt very confident they could teach
77% of teachers said they wanted extra training in dyslexia.
To read more about the study and the No To Failure project, go to:
To read about the U.K. government's new Dyslexia Support initiative,
To read about New Zealand government's acknowledgement of dyslexia,
and their plans to change classroom and teacher training, go to:
Myth: Most reading
specialists know the latest research on dyslexia, can tell who is
dyslexic and who is not, and use research-based reading programs
that work for dyslexic students.
Here are the facts:
Colleges Don't Prepare
New Study: What
education schools aren't teaching about reading
Authored by Kate Walsh,
Deborah Glaser, and Danielle Dunne Wilcox
Published by the National Council on Teacher Quality
Excerpts from the Executive Summary:
Over the last 60 years, scientists from many fields including
psychology, linguistics, pediatrics, education, neurobiology, and
even engineering have been studying the reading process. This
science of reading has led to a number of breakthroughs that can
dramatically reduce the number of children destined to become
functionally illiterate or barely literate adults. By routinely
applying the lessons learned to the classroom, most reading failure
could be avoided. It is estimated that the current failure rate of
20 to 30 percent could be reduced to the range of 2 to 10 percent.
To do so, elementary classrooms must incorporate certain
research-based practices, including:
* Early identification of children at risk of reading failure.
* Daily training in linguistic and oral skills to build awareness of
speech sounds called phonemes.
* Explicit instruction in letter sounds, syllables, and words
accompanied by explicit instruction in spelling.
* Teaching phonics in the sequence that research has found leads to
the least amount of confusion, rather than teaching it in a
scattered fashion and only when children encounter difficulty.
* Practicing skills to the point of "automaticity."
Regardless of social class, race, or income, roughly a third of all
kindergartners require this explicit, systematic approach to learn
how to read.
Yet the resistance from many educators to change has been palpable.
So the National Council on Teacher Quality decided to examine what
aspiring elementary teachers are learning about reading instruction
during their formal undergraduate training. Our analysis provides
the most comprehensive picture to date of what elementary teacher
candidates are learning -- or failing to learn -- about the teaching
In our final sample of 72 colleges, after examining the syllabi and
textbooks of 223 required reading courses for students who aspire to
teach kindergarten through fifth grade, [a few of] our findings
Finding #1: Most education colleges are not teaching the science
* Only 11 out of 72 colleges (15%) were found to actually teach
all the components of the science of reading.
* Nearly a third (32%) make no reference to reading science in any
of their courses.
Finding #2: Even courses claiming to provide a "balanced"
approach ignore the science of reading
The notion of "balanced literacy," which many colleges claim to
promote, was developed in the 1990s. This approach was an effort to
retain the best practices of the whole language method (presumably
preserving the important role of good literature) while injecting
greater emphasis on decoding (phonemic awareness, phonics, and
However, our analysis revealed this balance is rarely achieved. Only
9 percent of the courses described as teaching "balanced literacy"
devoted lecture time to teaching the science of reading as one of
several approaches that teachers might need to know.
That means 91% of professors who say their intention is to provide a
"balanced" approach never acknowledge that there is a science of
Finding #7: Many courses reflect low expectations with little
evidence of college level work
College professors make too few demands on their students.
Research papers that encourage or require aspiring teachers to
present anyone's perspective other than their own are a rarity. In a
randomly selected subsample of 75 syllabi, only eight (11%) call for
the students' own feelings and observations. The most common
assignment is a "literacy memoir," which asks students to reflect on
how they themselves learned to read as young children.
Further, no effort to develop practical application of knowledge is
evident. Students rarely have to demonstrate their knowledge by
writing and delivering lesson plans that apply the tools of reading
instruction in a classroom setting.
Among the study's many recommendations are:
* Education schools that do not teach the science of reading
should not be eligible for accreditation.
* Elementary teachers should be required to pass a test in reading
to achieve "highly qualified teacher" status.
To read all of their findings and recommendations, go to:
Back to top
Myths about Classroom Accommodations
Accommodations are free, no-preparation-time-needed things that regular
teachers in regular mainstream classes do to give students with dyslexia
a chance to learn the same curriculum as everyone else,
and to prove their knowledge, despite not yet being able to read, write,
or spell at grade level.
Watch our free one-hour video webcast
Classroom Accommodations for Dyslexic Students.
Or download a
list of those
Here are common myths regarding
Myth: Only children who have
an IEP can get classroom accommodations.
Facts: Children who have 504 Plans
can receive the very same classroom accommodations as a child who
has an IEP.
Teachers can also provide classroom
accommodations to any child who needs them -- whether or not that
child has an IEP or a 504 Plan.
In fact, that's why classroom
accommodations are often listed on a literacy improvement plan or on
the recommendations page of a Student Study Team.
Myth: There is not enough
money in the budget for accommodations -- or to send teachers to
Fact: Most classroom accommodations
do not cost anything, and they do not require any special training.
Myth: Teachers cannot
accommodate because they cannot change the curriculum.
Fact: Accommodations do not
mean changing the curriculum.
Accommodations are either a slight
change in the way the teacher presents information,
a slight change in the way she has students practice
new skills so they can master them, or a slight change in the way
she tests students to determine if they have
mastered the skill.
Myth: Accommodations are a
crutch, and the student will become lazy.
Fact: No student wants to be
different. No student wants to receive accommodations. No student
wants to have dyslexia. They would much rather be able to do the
very same assignments, the very same way, as everyone else.
But until they have had the right
type of intervention or tutoring, they can't.
So accommodations are meant to be
temporary. They will only be needed until the student has had enough
of the right type of intervention or tutoring -- and can now read,
write, and spell at grade level.
But until that point, accommodations
are absolutely necessary.
Myth: It isn't fair to do
something for one student that you don't do for every student.
Fact: Fair does not
mean treating everyone exactly the same because we are not all the
same. We never have been, and we never will be.
So one-size-fits-all education works
no better than one-size-fits-all pantyhose.
Fair means providing each student
what they need to have a chance to succeed. If the
student grabs hold of that chance, and works very hard, then that
student can succeed in your class.
But if the student does not grab
hold of that chance, or does not work hard, then that student will
not do well.
So providing an accommodation does
not mean a student will do well in your class. But
it gives that student a chance to succeed.
Myth: If a teacher gives a
shortened assignment, that student can not get an A because he did
not do all of the problems.
Fact: If a teacher gives a shortened
assignment to a student who reads and writes slowly, or who still
has to count on his fingers to figure out the answers to addition
and subtraction problems, and that student answers all of the
questions correctly, then that student has earned an A.
A student's grade should be
determined by calculating the number of questions answered correctly
divided by the number of questions given -- not the number of
questions given to everyone else.
Myth: If a teacher does not
count off for spelling, then that student will never learn how to
Fact: Children with dyslexia cannot
learn to spell the traditional way. Their spelling will not improve
just because a teacher marks a word wrong.
It will not improve if the teacher
writes the correct word in red.
It will not improve it the student
writes the correct word 100 times.
It will greatly improve once they
have been taught spelling using a very different approach -- an
Until then, their essays, in-class
assignments, and answers to questions on tests should be graded on
content only. Ignore the spelling.
|Now that you're familiar with the
persistent myths about dyslexia,
discover the facts
that independent, scientific, replicated research by the National
Institutes of Health and researchers from around the world have
Back to top