Unravelling the Myths Around Reading & Dyslexia
By Dina Halaseh, Educational Psychologist
The many myths about dyslexia are harming our children; many suffering from dyslexia are silently struggling with reading and continue to struggle for the rest of their lives, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Reading, in general, is the simple act of blending, segmenting, and manipulating sounds. The main skill used for reading is called “auditory processing”- it is essential to successful reading.
Dyslexia is simply difficulty in reading or learning to read. Usually, it is a symptom relating to weaknesses in cognitive skills, including auditory and visual processing and phonological processing (the ability to see or hear a word, break it down to discrete sounds and then associate each sound with letters that make up the word).
Let’s debunk the myths about dyslexia:
Myth: Dyslexia is about reversing letters.
The number one misconception about dyslexia is that it is about reversing letters. The reality is that dyslexia is a weakness in phonemic awareness skills. Most students struggle to remember even the smallest units of sound in words and hence struggle with reading. Even though some dyslexic students struggle to distinguish the similarities and differences in words (for example no and on). Dyslexia is much more than reversing letters.
Myth: Dyslexia is a result of weak visual processing
I can see why this is a misconception since we use our vision to read. Science has already proven that students don’t confuse “d” and “b” because they see them the same but because, they hear them the same. This is why brain training that focuses on auditory processing is seven times more effective than tutoring in increasing a child’s reading level.
Myth: Dyslexia is permanent
Children should not be labelled and expected to endure a lifetime of reading struggles. New research shows that the brain can rewire itself and struggling readers can become fluent readers. Since students with dyslexia struggle with weaknesses in cognitive skills and since these skills can be trained and increased, it only makes sense that intense mental exercises will result in better reading and comprehension.
Once the right underlying skills are strengthened, the mixing of letters and sounds gets straightened out and reading becomes easier.
Experience Dyslexia Firsthand!
Let’s play a game, can you read the passage below using the following translation key and replacing the original letter with the key?
q = /d/ or /t/ p = /b/
z = /m/ b = /p/
ys = /er/ /a/ as in apple = /e/ as in eddie
We pegin our qrib eq a faziliar blace, a poqy like yours enq zine. Iq conqains a hunqraq qrillion calls qheq work qogaqhys py qasign. Enq wiqhin each one of qhese zany calls, each one qheq hes QNA, Qhe QNA coqe is axecqly qhe saze, a zess-broquceq rasuze. So qhe coqe in each call is iqanqical, a razarkaple puq veliq claiz. Qhis zeans qheq qhe calls are nearly alike, puq noq axecqly qhe saze. Qake, for insqence, qhe calls of qhe inqasqines; qheq qhey’re viqal is cysqainly blain. Now qhink apouq qhe way you woulq qhink if qhose calls wyse qhe calls in your prain.
How did that feel? Did you finish reading the whole passage or did you give up after a couple of words? Here is the actual text:
We begin our trip at a familiar place, a body like yours and mine. It contains a hundred trillion cells that work together by design. And within each one of these many cells, each one that has DNA, the DNA code is exactly the same, a mass-produced resume. So the code in each cell is identical, a remarkable but valid claim. This means that the cells are nearly alike, but not exactly the same. Take, for instance, the cells of the intestines; that they’re vital is certainly plain. Now think about the way you would think if those cells were the cells in your brain.
This dyslexia simulator was created by Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the United States to demonstrate what it looks and feels like to struggle with reading. Imagine feeling like this every time you are asked to read.