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Myths and Facts About Dyslexia and Learning Problems

Myth: Children who write letters backward or reverse them may be dyslexic. Fact: Backward writing is common among children learning to write, whether or not they are dyslexic. Dyslexic children may be able to see and copy letters quite well. However writing backwards may be a symptom of a directionality problem. This means the child may not have the skill to extend into space their own body laterality (concepts of left, right, up and down). These are trainable skills.

Myth: Dyslexia is a visual problem. Fact: The bulk of research now suggests that reading disabilities stem from difficulties with language rather than vision. Researchers think dyslexic children have trouble identifying phonemes-the tiny sounds that make up words, such as the “c”sound in “cat” However, vision problems can definitely contribute to learning problems. The child with tracking problems will lose his place. The child with eye teaming problems will may periodically see double. These symptoms, and others, can contribute to not being able to stay on task.

Myth: Vision problems, such as tracking and eye teaming, are not that common. Fact: 20-25% of children enter school with significant vision problems that can affect their development and progress in school. (National Center for Health Statistics) 10 million children have undiagnosed vision problems. (National Society for the Prevention of Blindness) Vision disorders are the fourth most common disability in the United States and the most prevalent handicapping condition in childhood. Between 8-12 million children are affected. (American Foundation for Vision Awareness) Assessment of 1000 Los Angeles school children showed that 47% suffered from vision impairments. (Los Angeles Times, March 26, 1999)

Myth: Attention problems have nothing to do with vision. Fact: Optometrists are discovering that many children, who have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), also show shortfalls in vision tests. (San Bernardino Sun, CNN August, 2001) “We showed that children with the disorder, convergence insufficiency, are three times as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than children without the disorder.” (David B. Granet, M.D., UCSD School of Medicine & director of the UCSD Ratner Children’s Eye Center) Students who were rated as poor in motivation and performance by parents and teachers were statistically more likely to have eye teaming, focusing, eye movement, and visual form reproduction problems. (P.A.V.E./Marvin Elementary School research project, SD Unified School District, 1988/1989.)

Myth: Children can outgrow dyslexia Fact: Dyslexic children become dyslexic adults. If they are identified and given the right kind of help early, poor readers can learn to compensate for their disability and read accurately. Still, reading may always be difficult for them. Researchers say that reading-disabled children whose problems are not caught by age 9 will not catch up with their peers by the time they graduate from high school. This is not true if their problems can be identified and remediated. Students who scored highly on symptom checklist were more likely to have vision problems verified by a learning related school vision screening and professional evaluations. (P.A.V.E./Marvin Elementary School research project, SD Unified School District, 1988/1989.)

Myth: More boys than girls are dyslexic. Fact: As many girls as boys suffer from reading disabilities, according to studies conducted at Yale University. Girls’ reading problems, however, more often go undetected.

Myth: Learning problems are not that common, less than 10%. Fact: 37% of fourth-grade students fall below “basic” knowledge of reading, meaning they can read little beyond simple words and sentences and cannot draw conclusions from what they read. (National Assessment of Educational Progress Report, April 2001)

Myth: Since a lot of tax money is going to the schools, literacy is not a problem. Fact: Despite the 10-year school reform act, the literacy gap is widening. (National Assessment of Educational Progress Report, April 2001) An estimated 66% of illiterate adults have learning related vision problems. (National Center on Adult Literacy)

Facts on Dyslexia

  • 90 million adults have literacy skills below the sixth-grade level (Dept. of Labor, 1992)
  • 40 million have below third grade level reading ability
  • 75% of unemployed
  • 33% of mothers receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children
  • 85% of juveniles appearing in court
  • 60-75% of prison inmates
  • 40% of minority youth
  • 45% of people in the workforce
  • 11% of professional workforce
  • 30% of semi-skilled and unskilled workers
  • 80% having learning disabilities
  • 30 million adults usually never diagnosed
  • 15-20% of the population has a reading disability
  • 12-15% of overall population have some form of dyslexia
  • Not all are diagnosed
  • Of students with specific learning disabilities who receive special education services, 70-80% have deficits in reading. Dyslexia is the most common cause of reading, writing and spelling difficulties.
  • National Assessment Educational Progress, 1997 report—below grade level readers
    • 40% of fourth graders
    • 30% of eighth graders
    • 25% of twelfth graders
    • 69% of black fourth graders (4.5 million students)
    • 64% of Hispanic fourth graders (3.3 million students)
    • 33% of all public school student drop out before finishing high school (Jordan, 1989)

Levels of Dyslexia

Mainstream classroom
Need specialized services
  • Most adults show some blips and would be levels 1 or 2
  • Levels 4 or 5 have difficulty in spelling and punctuation. If they maintain high levels of discipline, they can be successful.
  • Levels 6 or 7 have difficulty with spelling and reading textbooks. They can sometimes finish college, but it takes tremendous effort.
  • Levels 8 or 9 find academic learning almost impossible. It takes 2-3 times longer to finish assignments. They need constant help. Their writing is better when done on the keyboard. They suffer from low self-esteem due to repeated failure.


Acquired Dyslexia

1. Less than 1% of the population

2. Due to brain injury

Deep Dyslexia or Primary Dyslexia

1. Genetic, linked to chromosomes #6 & #15

2. 3-5% of the general population

3. Differences in the left cerebral cortex

4. Higher incidence of immune disorders

5. High percentage of left-handedness in family

6. Above average intelligence

Developmental Dyslexia or Secondary Dyslexia

1. 12-15% of population

2. Struggle to learn decreases as the child goes through puberty

3. Often able to do well in college if self-esteem is not damaged


Visual Dyslexia (Dyseidesia)

1. Does not use visual imagery and memory well.

2. Most difficult form to correct 2. 15% of the population.

3. Slow visual processing speed.

4. Non-phonetic words are often spelled wrong.

5. Often have dyscalculia because of difficulty with directionality and symbol reading.

6. Often will have poor sight word vocabularies.

Auditory Dyslexia (Dysphonesia)

1. Tone deafness

– Inability to hear separate sounds in words

– Normal hearing but only comprehend 60-70% of what is heard

– Paula Tallal found incomplete development of specialized nerve cells between the medial


nucleus and the auditory cortex

– Does not hear soft vowels and softer consonants

– Hears only bits and pieces of oral language, not whole word units

2. Poor spelling and word sounding

– Cannot connect sounds to printed letters

– Traditional phonics instruction is useless because they hear only 1/3 of what is said

– Constantly asking teacher to repeat

3. Speech

– Often garbled with mispronunciation of words (alunumum for aluminum)

– Difficulty with rhyme