Friday, November 11, 2011

Let's Talk About The Myths Regarding Dyslexia!

I was recently asked to include a few items on my blog regarding Dyslexia. The first article submitted to me talked about "15 Common Myths About Dyslexia". I want to address each point of this article from the standpoint of a spouse of someone with Dyslexia and a parent of two children with Dyslexia. My responses are in italics.

Most people have heard of dyslexia and might even know someone who has it, but how many really know just what kind of learning difficulties it causes? Like most learning disabilities, there are a lot of myths and bits of misinformation surrounding dyslexia, and it can sometimes be difficult to separate fact from fiction, especially for those who don’t have or don’t know much about the condition.

Whether you’re pursuing a college degree in special education, have dyslexia yourself, or know someone who does, we’ve collected some of the most common misconceptions here so you can gain a better understanding of just what it all actually means — without all the potentially damaging myths getting in the way.

I want to first address the label of Dyslexia. I have the same problem with the label of Dyslexia as I have with a lot of labels. The label Dyslexia deals with a broad spectrum of learning differences. If you are told your child is Dyslexic it doesn't necessarily tell you what your child's specific issues are and what to do about them. The label itself is an umbrella that covers many different learning issues that are commonly associated together. But just like Down syndrome, no two Dyslexic children are alike. In my own family, my two children that would be given the label Dyslexia are very different. It is much more valuable to figure out what areas of a child's neurodevelopmental profile are not functioning properly. Are they cross dominant, do they have a visual or auditory processing issue, do they have a visual convergence issue, is there a fine motor issue involved? My son Ben is cross dominant and has an integration deficit in regard to his auditory processing while Sam is cross dominant but has an auditory decoding deficit in regard to his auditory processing, fine motor issues and he has visual and convergence issues.

  1. People with dyslexia are less intelligent

    Despite the long-standing belief that if you can’t read well, you aren’t intelligent, there is no link between dyslexia and IQ. People of all intelligence levels can have the learning disability. Contrary to popular belief, there are quite a few highly intelligent, accomplished people out there who have difficulty reading due to dyslexia. Among them? William Butler Yeats, Albert Einstein, John Irving, and Charles Schwab.

    I find my husband and my sons to be highly intelligent. They may struggle with reading and writing but this in no way hinders their intelligence. In fact from our personal experience I would have to say that they are gifted in the area of mechanical aptitude and problem solving, just don't ask them to write things out for you...let them show you. The second item I was asked to include in my blog is a list of famous Dyslexic people. You can find this list at Patricia Duggan's site Psychology Degree or click on the word list to go directly to her site.

  2. Reversing letters is a definitive sign of dyslexia

    Can reversing letters hint that a child may have dyslexia? Yes. But it is also a common phenomenon among children just learning how to write. They are still honing their fine motor skills, and it often takes some time for both dyslexic and non-dyslexic kids to properly form their letters. It actually may be more telling if a student has trouble naming the letters (a much stronger indicator of dyslexia), as only 10% of the diagnosed exhibit reversal symptoms.

    All three of my children had letter and number reversals. Yep, that's right I said all three. However Danielle does not have Dyslexia but letter reversal was something we saw as she was learning to write. Neither Ben nor Sam had any difficulty naming letters. Sam continues to have an issue with letter sound identification but that has more to do with his hearing and processing issues.

  3. Only a specialist can help an individual with dyslexia

    Getting professional help can be great for children with dyslexia, but it isn’t the only option. Parents have a wide variety of ways to help out at home as well, particularly involving assistance with reading, writing, homework, and feeling comfortable and valued. These efforts can be just as important as the leg up sought through schools and specialists, and parents don’t need a degree in special education — just patience and love.

    I absolutely agree with this statement. I have had to learn how to work with Ben and Sam and have assisted them through their educational journey. For our family I have found the most helpful information and knowledge was given to us by The National Association For Child Development (NACD), They helped to understand the underlying issues for both of our boys and gave me strategies and exercises to overcome the challenges. I encourage every parent to learn as much as they can, attend conferences, do research, have your child evaluated, join listserves, read articles and books and never ever give up.

  4. Girls can’t have dyslexia

    While dyslexia is more common in boys than girls (a phenomenon still baffling researchers), it is not exclusively male. In a 2004 study, 6% of girls ages three to 17 had a reading-related learning disability. It is notable, however, that some believe there is no discrepancy at all. Rather, they think the gap between diagnoses stems from differing societal gender expectations rather than actual lack of reading ability. Either way, it’s important to watch both male and female children for signs that he or she is struggling with reading.

    In our family, the girls don't have dyslexia...but we might have some other issues.

  5. Dyslexia can be outgrown

    As children grow up, they may struggle less and less with dyslexia, as they learn new methods to improve their reading and spelling skills. The reality is, however, the learning disability will follow any child into adulthood and cannot simply be outgrown. It is a lifelong battle for many, and even those who’ve mastered these skills will still read slowly and not automatically.

    Hmmmm...I agree and disagree. If you are able to work on the specific areas of the neurodevelopmental profile that are affected I think you can resolve all or most of the problems. However if you do not figure out what those areas are or a child decides they do not want to do the work involved in eliciting a change I agree that the child will learn methods and compensatory skills that will help elevate their issues but they will continue to have some challenges and struggles into adulthood.

    Dyslexia cannot be diagnosed in young children

  6. While some children aren’t found to have dyslexia until later, professionals and specialists in the field can accurately diagnose it as early as age five. Many schools will not test children for dyslexia before 3rd grade, wasting precious time and causing undue difficulties. Parents who believe their child may have a learning disability should pursue testing as early as possible, as an early diagnosis can help kids get the help they need before their difficulties become more pronounced.

    Again I will reiterate that it is more important to find the underlying issues that present themselves as a learning disability or label of Dyslexia. To get your child the best help possible you have to go beyond the label. Ben and Sam have different issues and we work with each of them differently although their diagnosis would be the same. I didn't want a one size fits all approach to addressing the needs of either of my children. Pinpointing your child's specific needs is crucial to helping them succeed.

  7. There is a cure for dyslexia

    Dyslexia is not a disease, it is an educational issue. As such, there is no cure. Individuals who have the condition cannot outgrow or get rid of their reading difficulties. They can, however, learn to overcome them, and there are number of successful treatments and programs to boost competence in reading, writing, and spelling abilities — though they may continue to struggle throughout their lives.

    I would answer this the same way I answered the myth about a child outgrowing Dyslexia.

  8. Children with dyslexia simply lack in phonics instruction

    There is no indication that additional phonics training will help a student with dyslexia. In fact, many children with the condition already have a pretty good grasp on phonics — they just can’t apply it. Knowing how the word should be sounded out and being able to do it are two different things, and the inability to reconcile them is a key issue that many dyslexics face. While phonics tutoring can be a big help to children (and adults) with dyslexia, do not believe claims that it will cure or eliminate any difficulties.

    For both of our boys site word reading was the way to go. I will never forget sounding out the word "cat" for Ben and then asking him what word did I just sound out. He had no idea because he couldn't put the sounds together. Phonics rules were taught to Ben but he wasn't able to use them until he became more skilled in his reading.

  9. The solution for dyslexic children is to read out loud more

    Some parents and educators would like to believe that practice makes perfect, but for children with dyslexia, this method simply won’t work. Reading out loud will not teach them how to pronounce words and may push them towards other methods, like context clues, to simply guess at what the page says. Only structured tutoring and practicing phonemic awareness skills can help dyslexics improve their reading.

    Again understanding and addressing the underlying issues makes reading easier. Ben did not like to read aloud, Sam likes to read aloud, Ben loved books on tape, Sam doesn't listen to books on tape. Ben does well with Kurzweil (an adaptive technology program that reads to him), Sam can not understand the voice on Kurzweil.

  10. Dyslexia is rare

    Unfortunately, dyslexia is all too common. The NIH estimates that it impacts over 20% of the U.S. population. This means one in five people will have varying degrees of difficulty writing, reading, and spelling. Often, individuals have very mild dyslexia that goes overlooked or undiagnosed and receive little assistance with their reading difficulties.

    I think processing issues are often overlooked and rarely diagnosed correctly. We need to stop looking at the symptoms, ie reading/writing difficulty and instead find the underlying cause and address those issues.

  11. It is too late to help adults with dyslexia

    While it is best for those with dyslexia to get help early on, there is never a time too late for individuals to address it. There is a wide range of training and tutoring programs that can help adults with dyslexia improve their reading skills and phonological abilities. In fact, many of the same methods used to teach children can help adults with the condition as well.

    I do believe that the same methods and strategies used to help children can help adults. Jeff will be using Ben's program Dragon Naturally Speaking to help him dictate emails, letters and quotes at the office.

  12. Dyslexia only affects a person’s ability to read

    One of the more noticeable effects of having dyslexia is difficulty reading, but this isn’t the only ability that may be affected. Children with the condition may also struggle with sequential memory and following directions, which can make tasks like tying shoes, doing mathematics, or typing just as challenging as reading. All of which could easily cause a wide range of other challenges in an educational setting.

    I feel like I'm repeating myself a lot, but again it is more important to figure out the underlying causes. In our family we see issues with auditory and visual processing, fine motor skills, reading, writing, spelling, math and organizational skills.

  13. If a child can read, he or she can’t have dyslexia

    Being able to read isn’t a sign that a child doesn’t have dyslexia. Many kids get quite good at using reading strategies like context clues, word shapes, and guessing to give the appearance of literacy. The reality is that many have auditory processing problems preventing them from hearing a word’s individual sounds, so they cannot read by sounding out the letters. When reading progresses to higher grade levels, these alternative strategies no longer work. Many kids are diagnosed with dyslexia later on, despite appearing to read fine early in life.

    My guys showed issues early on. I was sure Ben had issues when he was four and Sam came to us with many different issues and he added more along the way.

  14. All children with dyslexia will get help from LD programs

    Not all children with dyslexia meet the requirements for learning disability programs offered through school. In fact, many only accept those with the most severe reading difficulties. While over 80% of children with a learning disability have dyslexia, only 1 in 10 will qualify for special education. This means that parents, tutors, and help outside the school are a must for many students who struggle with reading, spelling, and writing.

    In our situation, Ben never wanted to be in LD or special ed classes. He knew he could understand what they were teaching he just needed help to show his work on paper and he needed assistive technology help with his reading and writing. I felt Ben needed the challenge of the regular curriculum to keep him focused on school and to keep him from getting bored which would have had a negative impact on his behavior.

  15. Children with dyslexia will never learn to read well

    Will dyslexia always affect an individual’s ability to read? Yes, but it doesn’t mean they can’t learn to become good readers and writers with a little help from tutoring and school interventions. Many people with dyslexia have gone on to become successful authors, scientists, and businesspeople, so there is no reason to believe it curses one to a life without reading — it just might prove more of a challenge for them than others.

    The last point is the same one I have made over and over in regards to this article. If the underlying issues are figured out and worked on great improvement can be seen.

    As someone who has been on this journey for awhile I have learned that a label of Dyslexia gets me services in the school district but it didn't tell me enough about the challenges my children were facing. To help them I had to understand them. I suggest families look at neurodevelopmental programs and see if that is a possibility for their family situation. If not research, read and attend conferences and workshops but first and foremost really get to know your children. Knowing what their strengths and challenges are is very important. Facing these types of challenges can affect a child's self esteem and it is important to focus and help them pursue their strengths and those things that truly interest them. Ben's work ethic, interest in vehicles, love of making money and his natural curiosity on understanding how things work and how to make them better is his driving force. Sam's love of food, travel, swimming and being with his family is his driving force. A label of Dyslexia is not the end of the world. In my experience the label came with it's challenges but it also presented some amazing strengths. Ben's amazing memory, problem solving, mechanical aptitude, persistence and determination is going to take him far in this world. Sam's positive attitude, persistence and curiosity will continue to help him figure out what he really wants to do as he gets older.

    Both of my boys are learning how to overcome challenges, how to compensate, how to problem solve and how to become the best that they can be. With their level of persistence I don't think anything can hold them back!!

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