Learning to read is one of the most critical skills we can provide young children. Yet, a large number of students in our country struggle to achieve reading standards and dyslexia is the cause of many reading difficulties.
Although the term is commonly-recognized, there are also some misconceptions about what dyslexia is—and what it isn’t. Test your knowledge about dyslexia (and maybe learn something new!) with our Dyslexia: Fact or Fiction? quiz below. (Correct answers are at the end of the blog.)
Dyslexia: Fact or Fiction?
1. Dyslexia doesn’t affect children until elementary school when we’re teaching them to read.
2. Learners with dyslexia can participate in advanced classes.
3. Most students with Dyslexia can’t learn to read
4. Dyslexia can’t be remediated through visual training methods.
5. Dyslexia is not a disability category in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
6. Dyslexia is caused by not reading enough to a child at home.
7. Students who are English learners can have dyslexia.
1. FICTION: Dyslexia is a language-based disability. As such, signs of dyslexia are often seen much earlier than Kindergarten (Shaywitz, 2005). Studies have shown that learners with reading difficulties in elementary school had delayed speech and language skills as toddlers, and were slower to learn pre-literacy skills, such as rhyming, as younger children (Lyytinen, Eklund & Lyytinen, 2005).
Early intervention can be extremely successful for learners who are developmentally delayed in early childhood, and we recommend providing it to all struggling learners. Early intervention is more effective than waiting until much larger learning gaps have formed. In schools, specific learning disabilities, including dyslexia, aren’t diagnosed until elementary school but early intervention can be provided with or without a dyslexia diagnosis.
2. FACT: Students with dyslexia do not have lower ability to learn than other students in schools. Therefore, they should not be prevented from participating in advanced courses due to difficulty with reading. When students have the ability to excel in math, science, and other areas, they should be provided with the opportunity to take more challenging courses in those content areas. The students’ literacy difficulties can be accommodated to allow them to fully access and participate in the course. A students’ special education case manager or interventionist in a school can support problem-solving accommodations that may be needed to help a student fully participate in those courses that will challenge them intellectually.
3. FICTION: Students with dyslexia can learn to read with structured literacy instruction. This includes daily intensive instruction in the big ideas of reading, as well as language, provided in an explicit and systematic format (Kilpatrick, 2015).
4. FACT: Learners with dyslexia always need intensive, systematic and explicit literacy instruction. There is a belief that visual training can be used to treat dyslexia. However, there is no evidence that dyslexia is a vision disorder and visual training has not been found to be an evidence-based intervention for reading difficulties. Additionally, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not support the use of visual training to treat dyslexia (Handler et al., 2011).
5. FACT: While dyslexia is not a separate disability category in the IDEA (2004), it is encompassed in the Specific Learning Disability (SLD) category. In schools, learners with dyslexia are often provided special education services via this category of need. This does not mean that schools don’t recognize or support students with dyslexia. It simply means that the resources often used to provide the intensive instruction needed to teach students with dyslexia to read and write are accessed through federal law that has dyslexia categorized with other learning disabilities.
On a separate but related note, many states require screening for early reading difficulties, including dyslexia for all students in elementary schools. This practice can be extremely valuable at supporting early identification and intensive intervention for students with dyslexia.
6. FICTION: Dyslexia is a neurological condition. Many learners with dyslexia have families that have surrounded them with literacy and language experiences from birth The neurological nature of dyslexia is persistent, regardless of the home environment provided to young children. These students will need more structured, intensive instruction to learn to read, regardless of their early home experiences.
7. FACT: Although it is sometimes believed that students who are learning English as a second language cannot have dyslexia, this is untrue. This misunderstanding often emerges from many well-meaning practices that have been put in place in schools to attempt to prevent labeling students as having disabilities in error. In reality, some students who are learning English as a second language may have dyslexia and should be provided with appropriate interventions to meet their language development needs.
- Foorman, B. R., & Torgesen, J. (2001). Critical elements of classroom and small-group instruction promote reading success in all children. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 16(4), 203-212.
- Gersten, R., Compton, D., Connor, C.M., Dimino, J., Santoro, L., Linan-Thompson, S., and Tilly, W.D. (2008). Assisting students struggling with reading: Response to Intervention and multi-tier intervention for reading in the primary grades. A practice guide. (NCEE 2009-4045). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/ publications/practiceguides/
- Handler, S. M., Fierson, W.M., the Section on Ophthalmology and Council on Children with Disabilities, American Academy of Ophthalmology, American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, and American Association of Certified Orthoptists (March 01, 2011). Learning disabilities, dyslexia, and vision. Pediatrics,127(3). doi: 10.1542/peds.2010-3670
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 (2004).
- Kilpatrick, D. (2015). Essentials of assessing, preventing, and overcoming reading difficulties. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
- Lyytinen, P., Eklund, K., & Lyytinen, H. (2005). Language development and literacy skills in late talking toddlers with and without familial risk for dyslexia. Annals of Dyslexia, 55, 166–192.
- Shaywitz, S. E. (2005). Overcoming dyslexia: A new and complete science-based program for reading problems at any level. New York: Vintage Books.