1. Dyslexia is a disease. False. Dyslexia is a learning disability caused by the brain’s inability to read or interpret words, letters and other symbols. The condition causes impaired reading fluency, which results in part, in a much slower reading pace.
2. Dyslexia can be cured. False. Dyslexia is a lifelong condition, but individuals can learn to overcome the limitations of the disability with detection, diagnosis and the right treatment. Early-age screenings, either through school or through a medical professional, followed by an individualized diagnosis and a systematic, evidence-based intervention is the best formula for dyslexic learners to achieve success in school.
3. Dyslexic individuals can acquire reading and literacy skills at any age. True. As a dyslexic myself, I know that people can learn to overcome the condition at a later age, again, with the right solution. I didn’t learn to decode words until I was 48 and I know of several other cases where adult learners in their 70s were able to acquire literacy skills with the right individualized instruction.
4. Dyslexic individuals have a limited capacity for learning. False. As in the general population, dyslexic individuals may have average, above average or an advanced potential for learning. Dyslexic students learn best when their learning deficit is specifically addressed, and proper accommodations are made until needed skills are acquired.
5. Writing words and numbers backwards is an early sign of dyslexia. False. Many young children transpose letters and other symbols as they are first learning to read. Common early signs of dyslexia include the inability to sound out or spell even simple words, difficulty learning the names and sounds of letters, and a general dislike or avoidance of reading, among others.
6. Dyslexia is often associated with difficulty in solving problems. False. In fact the opposite is often true. Dyslexic individuals very often bring a unique and different perspective to a problem, as a more straightforward approach is not something that has worked for them in the past. There is no dearth of examples of brilliant solutions by famous dyslexic people, including Albert Einstein, Richard Branson, Ludwig Van Beethoven and Leonardo da Vinci, to name a few.
7. Dyslexia is hereditary. True. It is often the case that a dyslexic individual’s parents, siblings and other family members will also have the learning disability. In fact, if either parent is dyslexic, there is a 50% chance of passing along that gene. A possible advantage to this is that family members can empathize and share their experiences of what has worked well for them. A disadvantage is that a dyslexic parent does not have the reading skills necessary to help the child.
8. There are upsides to dyslexia. True. Dyslexic learners are often more mature than peers, and possess a talent for seeing patterns, and solving puzzles. Many dyslexic individuals are especially creative and display a particular enthusiasm for new ideas and concepts. Many also have very high levels of comprehension when stories are read aloud or told to them. In addition, they have very high levels of comprehension when reading a story themselves, however, they are usually unable to read at the speed of their peers without explicit, systematic instruction.
9. At its core, dyslexia is a disability associated with vision problems. False. While it is common for parents and teachers to believe that a child struggling with reading may have a functional vision problem—and they may— functional vision problems are only one of the symptoms that can accompany dyslexia. Glasses, eye exercises and other vision therapies may help this one symptom, but other deficits also need to be addressed including separating and blending individual sounds in a word, working memory issues, limited word retrieval access and the inability to rapidly and automatically name or recall words (RAN).
10. Dyslexic learners are protected by federal law. True. Special provisions for dyslexic and other learning-disabled students are found in three separate federal laws designed to level the playing field in education. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 prohibits discrimination against disabled students, including dyslexic learners. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) enacted in 1974 and updated most recently in 2004 was crafted to ensure a “free appropriate education” through Individual Education Plans (IEPs) tailored to individual learning needs. And Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in elementary and secondary schools. This is often applied when students require accommodations but may not have an IEP.
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