Most teachers don’t get trained to recognise or support dyslexic students. Naturally this leads to many misconceptions and a lack of help to get these bright, creative learners to become competent readers.
I’ve just listed ten of the most common myths and misconceptions about dyslexia that are not exclusive to teachers, but show the belief of the majority of our population:
- It’s a lack of motivation. Teachers blame students for not trying hard enough, believing that if the child can read a passage one day and is struggling the next day, it can’t be dyslexia. The same goes with spelling. At the end of the week, the student may get most of the spelling words right, but a week or two later, most of them will be forgotten.
This is quite common and typical for dyslexic children. It is a matter of orientation vs. disorientation. When the child’s perception is clear, in the moment and focused, the chances are much higher to get information right. Getting laser-sharp focus is instrumental, but in itself not enough. As long as there are reasons to confuse and take the attention off topic, it will be challenging to regain focus and concentration.
2. It’s a vision issue: Many people believe that coloured lenses or overlays will correct dyslexia. For some students they will help, for others they will take the glare of the white page away – and in neither case will they correct dyslexia. If it corrects all reading and comprehension issues, chances are, that it wasn’t dyslexia in the first place.
3. It’s a hearing problem: It is common for a dyslexic student to get diagnosed with auditory processing delays, disorders or similar phonological dysfunctions. The effects of dyslexia are being mistaken for their cause. Most dyslexic students are visual or tactile learners and most classrooms are ideally suited to auditory learners. There is no lack of hearing, but the challenge comes in when the words that are heard need to be translated to written symbols or the other way around.
Most likely words are spelled the way they are heard and within that translation, you as a teacher can detect traits of dyslexia easily.
4. Dyslexic children are less intelligent. A teacher once told me that students who arrive as “D” students will always remain “D” students. Unfortunately “D” doesn’t stand for Dyslexia here, but for poorly-performing. That teacher was misinformed, especially in the case of dyslexic learners, and missed a great opportunity to transform a young person’s life. Dyslexic individuals are of at least average intelligence, creative and big-picture thinkers. Had that teacher been told how to help her students become “A” or “B” performers, she may have been surprised to find very smart people who solve big problems creatively and compassionately.
5. They just need more time and will eventually grow out of it – or he/she repeats a year. Many teachers believe that struggling readers just need more times taken out of class and given one-on-one instructions. Unfortunately these interventions are often counterproductive: Children feel singled out and shamed, especially if they still struggle with literacy despite the efforts. Usually the same practices of phonics-based reading that didn’t work in class, get applied more intensely. With enough drill, students learn to decipher the words, but still struggle with comprehension and will not enjoy reading. Repeating a year doesn’t work for the same reasons.
Sometimes parents get told their child is getting extra help and they will eventually get it and grow out of it. Only when parents get the report card, do they realise that the progress was too little or not happening. Year after year these students fall behind further and lose confidence in themselves.
6. You can only correct dyslexia when the child is young: That is a common myth and I have often seen the opposite. Very young children (preschool or kindy) have not really seen the problems yet and have little motivation and a short attention span to work at correcting a challenge. I would see these children as needing a dyslexia prevention program, with lots of games and short spurts of work.
The oldest man I have worked with was 74 and he has embraced the challenge, loved seeing the progress and used the program to finally get to read for fun – and prevent dementia with the intriguing focusing tools. Once dyslexia is corrected, every individual’s life changes completely: at school or work, socially, emotionally, professionally.
7. Poor behaviour is simply that and has to be corrected: Yes, of course respect and discipline are important. But let’s find out first why a student is behaving badly. Is he disrupting class to avoid being seen as stupid, when he is too embarrassed to ask questions all the time? Is he making jokes to get everyone laughing because it gives him a better label than feeling inadequate, anxious or frustrated? Or are there other problems stemming from home, from being bullied, from having a less than optimal upbringing or diet?
8. Dyslexic students will always need special accommodations: Many teachers and parents believe that special accommodations like extra time, readers, audio-books, speech-to-text devices etc will be necessary to create a level playing field for a dyslexic student, especially at High School level. If dyslexia has not been corrected, I fully agree with this. The only problem is that it will not prepare a student for life. Once dyslexia has been corrected there will be no need for any special tools that often take the confidence away and create a shortage of options for work, study or life choices.
9. Dyslexia means that people confuse ‘b’ with ‘d’: Although that is often the case, it is by no means necessary to make someone dyslexic. The challenge with bs and ds stems from a perception issue, when visual learners disorient and perceive wrong information. The more a student is feeling stressed, anxious or under time pressure, the more likely he or she will disengage and confuse symbols, which are not restricted to these two letters. There is often a link to number confusions and other symbols. Every child is different and that is the case with every dyslexic child as well. These confusions and disorientations can take on a variety of related issues: dysgraphia (handwriting issues), dyspraxia (coordination issues), dyscalculia (maths), ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder with or without hyperactivity) etc.
10. Dyslexic students will always struggle with fluency, comprehension and reading for fun: without help that may well be the case. Most adults I have seen are reading very well, but it’s definitely not for fun and they need to read everything several times for full comprehension.
I would love to help teachers recognise these creative geniuses and bring out that sleeping talent in them, get them to read, write and spell with confidence and leave the anxiety behind. This challenge will help address some of these common myths and misconceptions about dyslexia.
If you are a teacher and would like to find out more, I invite you to take part in a 5-Day Challenge, daily at 5.30 pm from Monday 17 May, 2021 to Friday, 21 May, 2021: