When you begin to investigate the reading disorder dyslexia, you’ll run into a number of myths that will distract you and your child or set you back.
It’s easy to become frightened if you hear that your child may be less than perfectly healthy, even “disabled.”
What does “dyslexia” mean?
Dyslexia is in fact one of the conditions that are covered by the terms of the American for Disabilities Act. People with dyslexia have trouble matching the letters they see on the page with the sounds those letters and combinations of letters make.
What are the early signs of dyslexia in children?
Ask for testing if your pre-schooler has trouble learning nursery rhymes like “Jack and Jill,” the names of letters in the alphabet, or letters in her own name. By second grade, a child with dyslexia tends to read slowly and awkwardly. She might often confuse words that sound alike but have very different meanings, like “lotion” and “ocean.” She might have trouble remembering dates, names, or telephone numbers, write messily and have trouble finishing tests on time.
When you begin to investigate this condition, you’ll run into a number of myths that will distract you and your child or set you back.
Myth: Dyslexia can be cured by a change in diet. You’ll hear that children will benefit from omega 3 or omega 6 supplements, for example.
Truth: When the prestigious Cochrane group examined research on this idea, researchers concluded that there wasn’t any solid evidence one way or another. Be wary of claims that bone broth or green juices make it easier to read.
Myth: Dyslexia is a vision problem. This idea goes along with the myth that seeing mirror images is a sure sign of dyslexia and always present.
Truth: It’s common for children without dyslexia to reverse letters when first learning them, mistaking “b” for “d.” After a while, they stop making that mistake. If they don’t, that could be a sign of dyslexia. But people with dyslexia don’t see mirror images in general. In one study, when American students reproduced a series of Hebrew letters that they had never seen, students with dyslexia did just as well as those without. Also some children who have dyslexia, don’t reverse letters and go undiagnosed.
Myth: Dyslexia is really about social anxiety.
Truth: Children may become anxious when they see that they can’t read as well as other children, especially if they’re bullied or scolded. But social anxiety is not the cause, and treating the anxiety won’t “cure” the dyslexia.
Myth: Kids with dyslexia are lazy. They just need to try harder.
Truth: Some kids get discouraged when they don’t get the right kind of help. Many others work much harder than their peers to keep up. Either way, motivation isn’t the root cause of their reading difficulties.
Myth: You can treat dyslexia with balancing exercises, glasses with tinted lenses, vision exercises, NLP “magical spelling,” modeling clay letters, inner-ear-improving medications, training primitive reflexes, or patching an eye.
Truth: None of these remedies have been found to be effective.
What to do if your child has dyslexia
Children with dyslexia need extra coaching on how to read and may need more time to do their work. There are lots of specific helpful strategies, including listening to audiobooks as you read along in a written book.
If your child feels humiliated, let her know that she can do great things. There are many successful, even famous, people with dyslexia, as you can see on this list posted by the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, including Scott Adams, who draws and writes the Dilbert comic strip. One study tested the ability of professional astrophysicists to spot a black hole; those with dyslexia did better. In another study, college students with dyslexia were better able to memorize blurry images resembling x-rays. It’s also possible that people with dyslexia are better able to pick up sounds from different directions. Many argue that they are good out-of-the-box thinkers. You and your child should look for areas in which she does especially well, while she gets the help and strategies she needs to master reading.
February 27, 2020
Janet O’Dell, RN