In spite of state training initiatives around the country, there are so many persisting mythologies hampering  the understanding of “dyslexia.” Besides the top one of, “Isn’t that when a child reads upside down and backwards,” the second is the myth that “Only medical doctors can assess dyslexia.”


While I have not been able to confirm whether it is true or not, a neurologist and a school superintendent independently asked me independently whether it was true that New Jersey state mandates were legislating that only neurologists could diagnose dyslexia?

In order to diagnose dyslexia, I would say that most of the following elements need to be a part of an assessment:

  • Detailed history
  • Language tasks (Expressive/Receptive vocabulary)
  • Phonological processing/Rapid naming tasks
  • Active working memory
  • Visual processing tasks
  • Words in Isolation
  • Word reading efficiency
  • Nonsense words
  • Oral reading fluency
  • Spelling
  • Written expression

Within the hospital system, I work closely with pediatric neurologists and I don’t know any of them doing such an assessment.  Countless reports from neurologists have been brought in to me for review by parents and I don’t think I have ever seen these areas covered in a neurological.

Let’s try this for one moment, let’s substitute “reading disability” for “dyslexia,” (please, no gasping in horror).  Would state departments’ of education and legislators say the same thing that, “Only neurologists can assess reading disability?”

Of course not.

Dyslexia is specific learning (reading) disability that is presumed to be of inherited origin, affecting one’s ability to read words accurately and fluently.   That’s the simple definition, but it works.

I appreciate the effort of advocacy groups bringing awareness of the issues of dyslexia to state legislators and state education departments. I just wish the end result would be the right one and not what I am afraid of what it is becoming.

Takeaway Point

It ain’t easy shaking mythologies.They get perpetuated and hard-wired into our thinking.


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