Dyslexia Misconceptions

14 Jan

Dyslexia Misconceptions
Many misconceptions concerning the definition of dyslexia exist. In order to delve into the social construction and the biological origins of dyslexia, it is imperative that these misconceptions be replaced with accurate facts. The most common misconception concerning dyslexia is that it can be diagnosed when a student writes letters or words backwards (Shaywitz, 2003). Teachers and parents become overly concerned when they see evidence of these reversals in the writing samples of children. Badian (2005) reports that reversal errors are likely to disappear in children with reading disabilities as their reading and writing skills improve. The observation of reversals is not unique to the reading and writing of struggling readers. During the developmental process of acquiring literacy, most children engage in some level of word and letter reversals before the age of eight. Shaywitz (2003) asserts that there is no evidence that dyslexics actually see letters and words backwards. The core of dyslexia is not visual perception. The basis of dyslexia is a problem with processing language at the phoneme level. Kutz (1997) explains that phonemes are the representation of sounds that are meaningful within a language. These sounds allow individuals to distinguish one word from another. Thus, the deficiency in the dyslexic is the inability to distinguish the phonemic difference between /big/ and /pig/ rather than the ability to distinguish the graphic differences of the letters. Shaywitz (2003) expresses concern that many children will not be correctly diagnosed because they do not make the stereotypical reversals.
The assumption that dyslexia is the result of a visual processing deficit leads to a second common misconception. The use of colored text overlays or lenses is purported to be the quick fix for reading disabilities. Stone and Harris (1991) review evidence for the existence of scotopic sensitivity syndrome (SSS). SSS allegedly is manifested as a visual disturbance related to light. Treatment for SSS includes the wearing of colored glasses or the use of colored plastic sheet overlays. Stone and Harris assert that the diagnosis of this condition is extremely subjective and raises questions of accuracy and reliability of previous studies.
Early studies indicate that dyslexia affects more boys than girls. Gaud and Carlson (1997) propose that the girls who are referred to clinics are those most severely affected. They trigger the referral process as a result of the “squeaking wheel” phenomenon by displaying co-occurring overt behavioral patterns of inattention. Szatmari’s (1992) population studies found a ratio of identification of one girl for every three male diagnoses. Shaywitz (2003) gives evidence that as many girls are affected by dyslexia as are boys. She suggests that the reason that the over-identification of boys occurs is the manifestation of gender specific behavior. The occurrence of hyperactive and impulsive behavior by dyslexic boys is reported at a higher rate than that exhibited by dyslexic girls. The result is a disproportional referral rate. This argument presupposes a gender difference in the activity level of boys and girls. When girls display behaviors that mirror that of aggressive male behavior, it triggers the referral process and the subsequent diagnosis of a reading disability.

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