Dyslexia is over-diagnosed and under-understood.
Dyslexia is not one well-defined condition.
It’s not like strep throat or diabetes.
‘Dyslexia’ has been used to describe a broad category of learning problems, rather than an explicit physical condition.
These problems can have a variety of causes; and different people define ‘dyslexia’ in different ways.
Something many of these definitions have in common:
"Smart person, adequate teaching;
still can't read as expected--
must be something wrong with 'em.’’
Worst of all, many who use the term 'dyslexia' consider it to be a permanent problem for which there can be no fundamental improvement.
But--why postulate a fundamental, irreversible brain disorder?
Rather than misleading people into believing that their problem means
that they 'have something' which is specific and permanent . . .
We can use the alternate description: reading problem.
The 'dyslexia' that most people have heard about is rare and highly mythologized.
Some common beliefs include:
. . . visual or spatial problems
. . . with odd effects such as seeing backward or upside-down
. . . or uncontrolled visual disorientation
. . . and a permanent inability to learn to read in a normal way
Some practitioners do not even check a person’s reading before making a diagnosis of dyslexia.
Some diagnose dyslexia before a child is of an age
to learn to read!
Young children with problems in Phonemic Awareness skills may be called ‘dyslexic.’
Why? Why not state the precise truth: The child needs specific help in Phonemic Awareness!
And Phonemic Awareness is a very teachable skill.
The precise truth is: Phonemic Awareness is teachable and not dependent upon the child's 'intelligence.’
Be sure to read THE FLOOR of The Reading Treehouse.
Some diagnose dyslexia on the basis of a screening test--yet, by definition, screening tests do not diagnose.
In fact, aptitude tests do not diagnose at all; people do.
Type dozens of phone numbers and addresses, make one mistake, and some well-meaning expert will suppose you 'have dyslexia.'
This happened to, um, a friend of mine.
Some practitioners diagnose 'specific language disorder'
yet are not qualified to determine whether the language disorder is specific to reading or not.
Often there is an unrecognized problem with auditory language, the language that is spoken and heard, as well as with written language.
In other words, there is a problem with listening comprehension or language expression, as well as with reading or writing. This, too, is a different specific problem.
Dyslexia is over-diagnosed and under-understood.
Mistaken diagnoses can have destructive effects, since expectations are powerful in teaching and in learning.
And treatable brain weaknesses might go untreated, if the condition is believed to be ‘permanent.’
Poor readers--'dyslexics'--tend to SEE fine but NAME poorly.
Groups of poor readers have visual abilities that are similar to groups of normal readers.
Some individuals are strong and some are weak in various visual skills--in either group.
It appears that poor visual skills do not stop good readers.
Read the Reversals section at this web site.
Generally, poor readers have weak Phonological Awareness, and/or poor Rapid-Accurate Naming.
As a result, they may be weaker in:
- ‘getting’ the separate sounds within words
- remembering a string of sounds and blending them
- seeing -plus- hearing patterns in the words they look at
These poor readers may have more trouble thinking of speech sounds associated with letters--more trouble with Rapid-Accurate Naming for Phonics.
Naming problems mean more trouble naming familiar whole words, too.
Have you ever had trouble naming? Try the Naming Twins experience in the Reversals section at this web site."
Most supposed dyslexia is the direct result of auditory language weakness.
Examples are problems with Phonics due to weak basic auditory skills, weak Phonemic Awareness, or naming deficits.
The language demands of reading are greater than those of listening and speaking.
Written language is a somewhat different language:
- The written vocabulary is larger than what is usually spoken.
- The sentences are longer and more complicated.
- The concepts are more involved than what is usually spoken.
Language that is okay for conversation,
may not be strong enough for reading.
Language that is strong can compensate for some visual weakness.
But nothing can compensate for language that is too weak
to support the demands of reading.
The language system itself must be strengthened.
‘Seeing Backwards' does not explain reading disorder.
A well-intentioned public service ad once displayed something like the following:
I have found that normal readers can
decipher this message pretty easily.
Many people are concerned about reversals.
While it may be that anything can happen in neurology, 'seeing backwards,' if it happens at all, is not common in my years of experience.
If you wonder whether someone you care about is 'seeing backward,' try the Directional Training pages in the Reversals section at the Treehouse."
In the brain, as elsewhere, form follows function.
The way we use the brain, helps to shape it.
And mental exercise is effective at any age.
What about reported differences in the brains of 'dyslexics?'
Are they cause--or effect?
Does poor reading affect the brain? Yes.
Do fundamental exercises, and good reading, develop the brain? Yes!
Everyone is born with stronger and weaker brain functions.
Some weaknesses can certainly affect learning to read.
But brains can and do develop with exercise.
This potential for change has been the traditional basis for therapy.
We are beginning to learn how to make these changes more quickly, more powerfully.
Meanwhile, we can progress with confidence if we
‘Set new goals just out of reach, but not out of sight.'
Thank you, Denis Waitley.
Forget about 'crossed wires.'
This is not the truth, and it is not even a useful analogy.
(And if reading deficits were that simple to explain, this would be a very short web site.)