Dyslexia Basics: what we want you to know

Updated: Aug 20, 2019

When I think of embarrassing moments in school there are a few stories that come to mind. The following is one of them.


When I was in the 9th grade, my English teacher had my class reading Romeo and Juliet out loud. Being a total theater geek at the time, I was dying to read the part of Juliet. One day my teacher called on me to read for her, despite the fact that the pretty and much more popular girl had already announced that she was going to read for Juliet that day.


I was excited, but admittedly nervous seeing as how the other girl and her friends were now glaring at me. We began reading and everything was great… until we got to the word “white.”

Such a boring and easy word. I’ve known how to spell and read that word since kindergarten. But not that day. That day in front of the whole class who was already annoyed with me for taking the part of Juliet, I stared at that word completely confused and proceeded to pronounce it “wih-tee.” Naturally everyone laughed and the other girl corrected me.


I was humiliated.


While that story is pretty trivial now, I still remember how completely and utterly stupid I felt in that moment. Everyone has at least one story of school-aged public embarrassment like that. Unless you are dyslexic.


Then you have hundreds.


Just like me that day, every child in school has the same basic desires. They want to be accepted, liked, noticed, and thought of as smart. So, what’s a dyslexic kid to do when their school experience is just one constant stream (or avalanche) of public humiliation, failure, and ridicule from the peers they are trying so hard to impress and, unfortunately, sometimes from their own well-meaning teachers who don’t understand what’s going on?


If you are the parent of a dyslexic child, or are dyslexic yourself, you’ve seen first-hand the kind of damage this can cause.


For those who are new to the world of dyslexia, let’s first talk about what dyslexia isn’t and then what dyslexia is.


What Dyslexia Isn’t


“Dyslexia… oh I’ve heard of that. That’s that thing where you see words backwards!”


False.


Dyslexia has nothing to do with the visual system. If you know someone who is dyslexic, their eyes work just fine. If by chance they wear glasses, that has nothing to do with their dyslexia. People with dyslexia may see the word “saw” and read it as “was” but its not because they see the word backwards – there is something else going on there. Often they are looking at the general shape of the word or a few letters they recognize and completely guessing.


“Dyslexia is super rare though.”


Sure. If you consider 20% of the population being dyslexic a rare occurrence.


The reality is dyslexia is quite common. 1 in 5 children in the classroom will be dyslexic, although they may not all be dyslexic to the same degree. Dyslexia runs on a spectrum so one could be mildly dyslexic or one could be profoundly dyslexic and barely be able to read at all.


“People with dyslexia aren’t very smart.”


I must admit I cringed while writing that. It is not uncommon for someone with dyslexia to have an above average IQ, even in the gifted range. One of the reasons dyslexia is so perplexing is because usually the kids who have it are incredibly smart and parents are excited for them to go to school and be the brightest in the classroom. Then everyone finds out they are struggling with reading and it doesn’t make sense given their obvious intelligence.


“Dyslexia can be cured!”


Nope.


The word “cured” implies that dyslexia is some kind of disease. If your child is dyslexic, they are not broken. They do not need to be fixed. They need to be understood. Their reading challenges can certainly be improved over time with intensive training, but even if they manage to become a wonderful reader, they will still be dyslexic. This myth stems from a general misunderstanding of dyslexia.


Dyslexia is a learning disability”


This one requires some clarification. Dyslexia is indeed classified as a learning disability or a specific learning disability which can allow one to have accommodations at school or work. To fully explain why this is will require a separate blog post (be on the lookout for this soon!). I think it's great that we have laws that help protect people with dyslexia and help make life easier.


HOWEVER…


Having dyslexia does not mean you are not able to learn. The disability part of dyslexia isn’t connected to your intelligence. The disability is only related to the difficulty with decoding and making sense of written text. Children with dyslexia are often very curious about the world around them and love to learn, so long as they don’t have to do the one thing they are not good at to get the information they want.


What Dyslexia Is


There are many definitions of dyslexia. Click here to go to the Texas Education Agency website and download a PDF of the Texas Dyslexia Handbook. You can see the formal definitions of dyslexia there. If you are a parent of a child with dyslexia, you should definitely have this handbook in your toolbox. This is what I want you to know about dyslexia:


A child with dyslexia is a child with a unique brain that is wired differently from the non-dyslexic brain. They are individuals with distinct gifts and, just like any person, want to have the opportunity to engage in the stuff they are good at frequently and the stuff they are bad at less frequently.


Having dyslexia means they will likely always struggle to read and spell and may never pick up a physical book for some fun light reading. Having dyslexia does not mean they are doomed for failure and will never be successful. In fact, many of the world’s most brilliant minds are dyslexic.

Dyslexia is hereditary. If your child is dyslexic, chances are you or someone else in the family is dyslexic too, even if they aren’t aware of it.


YOUR PARENTING DID NOT CAUSE YOUR CHILD TO BE DYSLEXIC.


This is so important. You could have spent 5 hours a day reading exciting books to your child, lived in a library, taken top-shelf prenatal vitamins and fed him/her a diet of only organic, fresh fruits and vegetables and never gave him/her sugar, and your child would still be dyslexic.


When talking about dyslexia, most people start off with the bad stuff and then sprinkle in the good stuff to soften the blow. At Fearless Readers, we like to take a different approach. Your child is smart, talented, valuable, and misunderstood. We like to first and foremost see the strengths of each child while keeping their weaknesses in mind instead of the other way around.


Taking this perspective while working with any child, dyslexic or not, is a great way to restore their confidence and renew their desire to learn which is often squashed out of them.


Dyslexia is incredibly complex. Finding out your child is dyslexic can be overwhelming and confusing, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Be on the lookout for future blog posts that will further dive into this thing called dyslexia and help you understand your child on a deeper level. For more specific help, please don’t hesitate to contact us at www.Fearless-Readers.com or

(210) 577-8883.




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