It’s estimated that as many as one in 10 or even one in five people is dyslexic, but there are still so many untruths about dyslexia floating around. Even if someone in your family isn’t dyslexic, it’s almost certain that someone you care about is. Here are five truths to help you be an ally and advocate for those people in your life.
Myth: Dyslexics see letters backwards.
Truth: Dyslexia is a not a vision problem (though vision problems can be comorbid with dyslexia). This misconception comes from the letter reversals that dyslexic children commonly make. Neurotypical adults easily see the differences between b, d, p, and q. To a dyslexic child, however, those letters can be quite confusing. A chair turned to the left, to the right, or upside down is still a chair. But each turn of what is essentially the same letter shape makes a different letter. That can be really difficult to pin down for someone who struggles with working memory or visual processing issues. It’s also important to note that many dyslexic children don’t reverse letters at all.
Myth: Kids with dyslexia just need to try harder.
Truth: Children with dyslexia are trying harder than you can imagine. They want to be able to read. They want to be able to keep up with everyone else, but no amount of trying harder will change their physiological differences that make it virtually impossible to learn from routine literacy instruction. Rather than our judgement, dyslexic kids need our compassion, patience, and efforts to specialize instruction to the ways they can learn.
Myth: If kids are having a hard time learning to read, just relax and wait until they’re older.
Truth: If there’s one widespread myth within the homeschooling community that needs to expire, it’s this one. Children do not outgrow dyslexia. It’s a lifelong condition. Waiting even a year to provide help for a child who may have dyslexia means a vital, precious year of intervention that is lost. It’s another year of letting a child’s self esteem suffer as he or she believes that everyone else must be smarter. It’s losing even more ground that that child will have to make up.
I love that in homeschooling we have more time to let our children’s gifts and abilities unfold in their own time, but experts agree that suspected dyslexia needs attention, and it needs attention early.
Myth: Kids have a hard time learning to read because their parents didn’t read to them enough.
Truth: Talk to parents of dyslexic children, and you may be surprised to find out that they’ve read early and often to their children. I started reading to my children on the day they were home from the hospital, and even now, I read aloud to them for at least an hour every day. Their comprehension and vocabulary are extraordinary, but my efforts didn’t change the fact that their brains are wired differently.
Myth: If we make accommodations (like the use of audiobooks) for a dyslexic child, it will be a crutch, and the child won’t be able to be successful in college.
Truth: On the contrary, if we want dyslexic children to succeed in college and careers, we need to help them learn about the accommodations that work best for them in adapting to a neurotypical world. Giving kids practice with tools like audiobooks, text-to-speech software, and C-Pen Readers will help them focus on the information that inundates them in this new setting rather than struggling to also find a way to make that learning feasible.
Accommodations for dyslexic people aren’t unfair, and they don’t encourage laziness. They’re simply a way to level the playing field. We couldn’t deny a wheelchair ramp to a physically disabled person, and we shouldn’t deny accommodations to people with learning disabilities either.