Dyslexia: The Myth Behind the Legend
By DeJunne’ Clark Jackson, MA, MAT, MEd, CALT
Did you know that October is Dyslexia Awareness Month? Well, you can’t say that you don’t anymore because you know now.
Dyslexia has long been a learning challenge that has been widely studied but, for some reason, it is the one most debated. It is still unclear to me and many other advocates as to why that is. Although we are certain that it revolves around a number of things — none of which have anything to do with actual student success — we make it our tireless mission to spread the word on this subject.
What is dyslexia, you ask? Oftentimes, those knowledgeable about dyslexia’s effects on the lives of many people begin by explaining what dyslexia is not before circling back to what it actually is. This is done intentionally because of the many, longstanding myths that have been perpetuated time and time again. So, we’re going to explain this phenomena while exploring a few of the myths behind the legendary reading diagnosis known as dyslexia.
Myth — Dyslexia is writing backwards.
Fact: While letter reversals are common developmental practices, students should be expected to move past writing letters backwards. While there is no hard fast rule, generally, we should see those become a non-issue by the end of first grade.
Myth — Dyslexia can’t be detected until 3rd grade.
Fact: Students can (and should) absolutely be screened for dyslexia and reading challenges prior to third grade. When identification and interventions are delayed, the achievement gap widens and creates a more treacherous road to remediate.
Myth — Dyslexia is caused by not being read to enough.
Fact: Reading to a child has many advantages but it is not a method that teaches them to decode the words on the pages of those books. Therefore, the lack of reading is not the cause of dyslexia. Parents should absolutely be encouraged to read to children to help foster bonding, connections, vocabulary, background knowledge, and much more.
Myth — Students with dyslexia just need to try harder.
Fact: The reality is that students with dyslexia have to exert themselves far more to complete tasks than that of their non-dyslexic peers. They watch those around them complete directives with ease. Also, when students do perform to expectation, it has probably required a great amount of effort.
What we do know is that dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that affects reading, writing, listening, spelling, and speaking. While dyslexia does not go away, having early identification and remediation has lifetime positive impacts on learning. Students with dyslexia have strengths and abilities that can far outweigh their weaknesses. Dyslexic students can be bright, creative, analytical, and incredibly talented. We just need to tap into that side of them and highlight the successes of the legendary dyslexia.
Here at the Center for Development and Learning, we promote, encourage, and insist that all students receive literacy instruction that is based on the science of reading. We know that systematic, cumulative, and direct instruction is the key to student success with learning to read. This is the same insistence that is needed to advocate for children with dyslexia. We know what dyslexic students need and we know that being intentional about it is critical.
When you know better, you are obligated to do better. We can all be better.
DeJunne’ Clark Jackson, MA, MAT, MEd, CALT
Vice President of Program Development