Myths about Dyslexia

You are unable to determine if a child has dyslexia just by looking at them,  Children with dyslexia might start out fine at school, but gradually, schoolwork can become a struggle for them. If left unsupported, dyslexia may lead to low self-esteem, behavioural problems, withdrawal from friends, family and school. 

Here we explore some myths and facts about dyslexia.


Myth 1: Dyslexia is a sort of mental retardation.

FACT: Dyslexia is a difficulty in learning to read, write and spell, despite traditional teaching, average intelligence, and an adequate opportunity to learn. It is an impairment in the brain's ability to translate information received from the eyes or ears into understandable language. It does not result from vision or hearing problems. It is not due to mental retardation, brain damage, or a lack of intelligence.

Myth 2: There is no 'cure' for dyslexia.

FACT: Dyslexia is not a disease. Given the appropriate specialist teaching, dyslexics can successfully learn to read (and even to spell).

Myth 3: Dyslexia is rare in Singapore.

FACT: The incidence of dyslexia in Singapore is 10%, of that 4% will have dyslexia severe enough to warrant intervention. There are about 20,000 primary and secondary school students who are dyslexic. An average of 1 to 2 students could be dyslexic in a class of 40. Dyslexia can range from mild to moderate to severe.

Myth 4: My child can’t be dyslexic. No one else in the family has it.

FACT: Beware. In some families, one, or both parents, are obviously dyslexic and all, or most, of their children, have the difficulties. In other families, dyslexia is not apparent in either parent and the other children are unaffected.

Myth 5: Dyslexics are gifted/”stupid”.

FACT: Repeated studies have shown that there is very little relationship between dyslexia and intelligence in young children. Dyslexia occurs across a whole spectrum of intelligence and is as likely to be found in the gifted and talented population as it is to be present in the low-ability, and most of them fall in the middle. However, if dyslexics don't learn to read, their IQs tend to fall behind as they get older.

Myth 6: Reversing letters is a good indication of dyslexia.

FACT: In fact, backwards writing and reversals of letters and words are common among young children learning to write whether or not they have dyslexia. Only about 10% of dyslexics reverse letters. In general, letter-reversals become an area of concern if it persists beyond Primary 2 or 8 years old.

Myth 7: Dyslexics can't read.

FACT: People with mild to moderate dyslexia have usually learnt to read well enough to 'get by' and to avoid being noticed. Despite this, their reading usually remains slower than normal and a spelling skills check will often reveal their true difficulties.

Myth 8: He can’t have dyslexia because he can read.

FACT: All children with dyslexia can read—up to a point. But the problem they have with processing speech sounds prevents them from hearing all the individual sounds in a word. So they generally don’t read by sounding out.

With poor ability to detect and manipulate speech sounds, dyslexics tend to have inadequate knowledge and application of how sounds are linked with their written form. This weak letter-sounds link affects their ability to read to some extent. Instead, they often use alternative strategies such as memorising familiar stories, recognising words by their shapes or guessing based on the first letter or two. But our memories can hold only a limited number of words. So these strategies will fail them by P3 or P4. Without the right type of help, making progress will be a struggle—no matter how smart they are and how hard they try.

Myth 9: He can read okay. He just can’t spell. That’s not dyslexia, is it?

FACT: A child with severe dyslexia will struggle with reading from the very first day. But intelligent children with mild-to-moderate dyslexia can get away during the first few years in school. They can read. You just don’t know HOW they are reading. But their unusual reading strategies will force them into a brick wall by primary three or four.

Their difficulties with spelling, however, are obvious very early. If they spend hours each night working on a spelling list, they may be able to pass the test. But they tend to have difficulties spelling the same words when they’re writing sentences or compositions. Poor spelling is highly related to poor reading, and poor spelling shows up first. But it may take until primary three or four for the reading struggles to become equally obvious. Reading and spelling are closely related skills.

Myth 10: Reading difficulties disappear with age.

FACT: Not if it's dyslexia. Dyslexia is a lifelong condition. Dyslexic children become dyslexic adults. If they are identified and given the right kind of help early, dyslexics can learn to compensate for their learning difficulty and read accurately. Even so, they may continue to read slowly and not automatically.

Myth 11: Repeating a school grade can remove dyslexia.

FACT: Dyslexics learn in a different way. Specialist teaching is necessary to learn to overcome dyslexia and cope in mainstream school.

Myth 12: The way to help a dyslexic child to read is to force him or her to read at least 20 minutes a day.

FACT: It is necessary to make reading easy and fun so the dyslexic child learns. The DAS uses multi-sensory techniques like the Orton-Gillingham approach, spelling method to help the child read and write better.

Myth 13: Dyslexia only affects children who speak English.

FACT: In fact, dyslexia has been shown to affect native Dutch, Israeli and Portuguese speakers as well as speakers of other languages. Dyslexia primarily affects the processing of speech sounds, otherwise known as phonological awareness. Dyslexia is also known to affect languages that are orthographically-based like Chinese.

Myth 14: Dyslexia cannot be identified until a child is 8 to 11 years old.

FACT: Research suggests children at risk of developing reading, spelling and writing difficulties can be identified at 5 to 6 years of age. In fact, there are validated instruments which allow us to do so. It is also important to identify them early so that appropriate help can be given before they start failing in school.

Myth 15: There is no way to truly diagnose dyslexia.

FACT: There are highly sophisticated and well-recognized techniques to diagnose dyslexia. A qualified educational psychologist will be able to diagnose dyslexia through a series of assessments with the child.

Myth 16: Dyslexics will not succeed in life.

FACT: A great majority of dyslexics have succeeded in life in their own respect. Some famous and accomplished dyslexics include Albert Einstein, MM Lee Kuan Yew, Richard Branson and Tom Cruise to name a few.