So many of us with dyslexia have not felt heard or understood until very recently, with the influx of new data about our condition.
One of my personal goals is to promote dyslexia awareness because despite new research about the condition, many misconceptions and inaccurate beliefs are still rampant. Why is it important to set the record straight?
Because dyslexia is not something that can be “cured” or reversed by any means: diet, exercises, medication, herbs, or talk therapy.
It’s very important to make sure that parents whose kids have dyslexia have realistic expectations for their loved ones and the resources to understand the full scope of their children’s needs.
How disheartening it would be for a dyslexic child who had faithfully followed some form of “treatment” if a parent or teacher showed disappointment or frustration because the child’s dyslexia did not “resolve.” The last thing dyslexic kids need is more shame.
In one of my older dyslexia-related blog posts, a kind reader sent in her child’s experience with doing some kinesthetic exercises to help integrate both sides of his brain. There are lots of tried-and-true left/right brain integration exercises like the one her son benefitted from, and they can be quite effective for a number of situations. In this child’s case, he had been reversing some of his letters when writing, and so was thought to be dyslexic. After the exercises, though, his issues happily resolved. While I’m certainly delighted that her child no longer struggles to write, can all parents of struggling readers/writers expect similar outcomes?
Misperception #1: “All kids who reverse their b’s and d’s have dyslexia.” Actually that is not the case; science has proven otherwise. Please refer to the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity if you’d like to know more. Personally, I have trained myself to overcome letter reversal in my printing (I can’t write cursive), but I am still quite dyslexic, and have all its other complications, I assure you! In addition, not all dyslexics reverse similarly-shaped letters.
Therefore, kinesthetic exercises or other techniques which can potentially help some struggling students to strengthen left/right brain activity will not remedy dyslexia.
It is also not a dietary problem. No amount of bone broth, medicinal herbs, green juices, or other wholesome foods will reverse dyslexia. While I eat an unprocessed diet with plenty of plant foods, and encourage others to do the same, it’s not because I believe that food impacts dyslexia.
Misperception #2: “Dyslexia can be outgrown.” Nope. Kids with dyslexia are not developmentally delayed, nor is the problem temporary. Dyslexia is a life-long difference in the way the brain processes information.
Misperception #3: “Dyslexia is really about social anxiety or lack of maturity.” Not a chance. Having a student repeat a grade and teaching him/her the very same way will not improve the student’s skills. Social maturity will not improve the student’s ability to read. Like many of you, I repeated first grade, which left me even more behind and plagued with lower self-esteem than ever.
Misperception #4: “People with dyslexia see things backwards, therefore dyslexia is a vision problem.” No, people with dyslexia do not “see” things backwards; our brains process language information differently. Vision therapy does not improve dyslexia.
Misperception #5: “Kids with dyslexia are lazy. They just need to try harder.” This is one of the most poisonous. To decide that dyslexic kids have character issues, or aren’t motivated enough to do good work is profoundly harmful. Lack of awareness about the disorder among educators and parents has often resulted in kids being branded as “lazy.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. Instead, the findings of fMRI studies provide evidence that people with dyslexia are not poorly taught, lazy, or stupid, but have an inborn brain difference that has nothing to do with intelligence. If students with dyslexia do not receive the right type of intervention and/or classroom accommodations, they often struggle in school—despite being bright, motivated, and spending hours on homework assignments. In almost all cases, kids with dyslexia are actually working much harder than their peers, and should be acknowledged for doing so.
Don M. Winn is a multiple award-winning children’s author and dyslexia advocate. He has been writing for over 20 years. As a dyslexic, who well knows the challenge of learning to love to read, Winn’s goal is to write books that are so engaging they will entice even the most reluctant or struggling reader.
His blog archives are available at www.donwinn.com.