Dyslexia Myths: The One-Size-Fits-All Pitfall

There is a great deal of misinformation floating around about dyslexia, and the following blog post and podcast series is meant to help separate the fact from the fiction. If you have a question you would like answered, please email la@wilderlanguageandlearning.com who specializes in dyslexia in Boulder, Colorado.

Listen to the full podcast here:

We all have some working definition of dyslexia. When prompted, most people would even be able to give a working definition of the disorder, and it would likely sound like this: "Dyslexia means you can't read because the letters get flipped in your head." As a society, we have latched on to the idea that dyslexia is based in letter reversals and reading issues, but in reality, dyslexia is so much more.

While reversals are perhaps a component of dyslexia, we now know that they are not the essence of the disorder. Research dictates that dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that can present differently in each individual and that cannot be treated with one-size-fits-all methodology. And yet, most people still believe that dyslexia is the same for all individuals.

Let's look at an example of how this myth can be mistakenly perpetuated by well meaning individuals:

Mary's son Tyler, who lives in Boulder, Colorado, has dyslexia. He has trouble with orthographic processing, or being able to build an automatic recognition of letter patterns. However, his phonological processing is quite strong. He tries a multi-sensory program that focuses on orthography and is very successful.

Now, Mary is talking with her friend Jake whose daughter has recently been diagnosed with dyslexia, and recommends the same program her son went through. This would be a great recommendation if Jake's daughter, Jane, were struggling with orthographic decoding, but she actually has issues with phonological awareness. This means that Jane struggles with sound representations and sound boundaries. Jane would be best treated with a speech pathologist that could intensively treat her sound processing weakness.

What we see here is that the same diagnosis of dyslexia means quite different things for both Tyler and Jane. We also understand that their treatment plans should be correspondingly different based on their individual literacy needs.

Some still believe that dyslexia can mean only one thing, which can be harmful for kids like Jane. It is not Mary's fault that she saw her own child succeeding and wanted to help Jane succeed as well. What is important is that we understand as a society that dyslexia is an umbrella clause: that many different issues are being treated as a single disorder. When we understand this, we can then move beyond the one-size-fits-all treatment method and actually begin to deliver the services that these children need: an explicit, systematic, and sequential program that is tailored to their individual learning disorder and needs.

People with dyslexia may be better served if we spoke about them with more specific language. Imagine if we said, "My son struggles with recognizing letter patterns", or "My daughter has difficulty deciphering phonemes." Would children find more effective treatment faster?

Have you heard this myth before? Has it influenced your treatment choices? Let us know in the comments below!

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