One of the problems with the word “dyslexia” is the rampant confusion that goes along with the it. If you ask anyone you know what they understand about dyslexia, I would predict that almost without exception, you will get something like, “Isn’t that when you read upside down and backward…or you reverse all those letters.”
Another misconception is the what I call the “broken bone” concept. That is, dyslexia is viewed like a broken bone that can be pulled up on some objective x-ray with an objective determination that can be made as to whether the child does or does not have it.
Recently, dyslexia as a concept exploded in the state of New Jersey. Whereas the term before was sort of like Voldemort from Harry Potter (“He who shall remain nameless.”), now everyone is dyslexia focused. I get a lot of, “So, Doc, tell it to me straight – does he have it?”
I try to do the best I can to educate people and help shake out certain misguided notions long held as truth.
I will say things like:
“Reading difficulty is a continuum, from mild, moderate to more severe. It’s hard to say if these children who have just a little bit of reading difficulty are really dyslexic.”
“It’s not like a broken bone…there is no X-Ray that tells us, “yes the person has it” or “no, he does not. It’s the weighing of a lot of different variables to come up with a reasonable conclusion.”
“Dyslexia is mostly tied into parental predisposition. So if one or the other parent struggled with reading, spelling and writing, chances are pretty good one of the children will also show signs of struggling.”
“Really, it (dyslexia) represents difficulty identifying words accurately and fluently. Very little has to do with the reversals.”
No matter what, though, it’s very hard to shake the perception at the heart of people’s thinking regarding reversal and the upside down view of things.
It’s tough to shake these concepts from peoples’ mental tree.
The misconception about dyslexia and reversals of letters is beside the point. Dyslexia is real. And to say that if the parents struggled likely at least one child will is only half of a point. The parents are coming to you because they want to know what to do about it. Could you offer some ideas? Phonics, modeling letters in clay, tutoring, assistive technology? Yes I’m sure lots of parents are asking if dyslexia is causing problems for their children. It’s not a fashion trend it’s real. And those of us who live with it everyday can tell you it is more than a reading difference. It is an entirely different way of thinking and a different approach to solving problems.
Thanks so much for the comment. Having tested thousands of kids in my career, a significant number of whom are dyslexic, I certainly understand how real and how devastating dyslexia can be. Also, in my book, The Shut-Down Learner the theme is that these kids have incredible creativity in the non verbal and spatial domains.
My point is that I find that parents (and many professionals) are hindered by the mythologies in terms of understanding the what to do and how to address it.
Of course, when I am consulting with families we talk about different ideas such as assistant technologies and ways of remediating the deficits.