Dyslexia can be a scary word. Often misunderstood, this broad term covers all reading disorders, including phonics, comprehension, and test-taking challenges. Some people with dyslexia struggle to sound out words and often confuse letters; others can read words but struggle to understand what they read. The dyslexia umbrella covers four types:
- Dysphonetic dyslexia (letter/sound)
- Surface dyslexia (whole-word perception based on rules)
- Mixed dyslexia (multiple decoding functions), and
- Reading-comprehension deficits.
People who struggle with tests are those who struggle with reading— but may not know it.
The greatest minds can have dyslexia. By definition, dyslexia is “the inability to read by conventional means.” For instance, if an eleventh-grade student is reading at an eighth-grade level, and that student is receiving 11th grade-level instruction (conventional means), this person is considered dyslexic.
A reading comprehension disorder often goes undiagnosed until a student receives a disappointing score on a standardized test such as the SAT or ACT. These highly successful students, who maintain high GPAs become shocked—and so are their parents. These are traditionally the same students who find themselves “burning the midnight oil” and studying to exhaustion.
With reading comprehension deficits abound, many students develop low self-esteem, believing that they aren’t smart. Yet research indicates that there is no correlation between dyslexia and intelligence. Many people diagnosed with this disorder have above-average intelligence. It is common knowledge that Albert Einstein was dyslexic, along with other well-known celebrities, including Jennifer Aniston, Whoopi Goldberg, and Tom Cruise.
When high intelligence masks any comprehension issues, many individuals do not receive a dyslexia diagnosis until high school, or even adulthood. Teachers saw them as smart, hard workers who simply had “trouble” with tests.
Because of dyslexia’s current prominence in the news media, the term is better understood and no longer carries the negative stigma of yesteryears. Now that psychologists are evaluating more students for dyslexia, they are receiving accommodations so that the “playing field is leveled.”
Many of my students who were evaluated and diagnosed with dyslexia now have extended testing time in school, allowing them the opportunity to compete on an equal playing field, amounting to higher scores. One student who attends a highly prestigious college preparatory school noticed, “When I first had to go to the accommodation room, I was uncomfortable and was embarrassed. But When I walked in the room, I found that there were more students in the accommodation room than in the regular classroom. Maybe we should switch places.”
Despite our new level of awareness, dyslexia, especially in the area of comprehension, remains under-identified in schools, especially among our brightest and best students. The consequence of untreated dyslexia may be a lifetime of struggling, Even after a dyslexia diagnosis, parents and professionals often do not realize that reading comprehension can be remediated. Once the underlying causes are understood, school personnel and parents can help guide students toward intervention.
A few years ago, the day that one of my 11th grade students exited RTS, she referred to herself as “dyslexic.” I reminded her that the exit-test score revealed that she was reading at a grade 15, which is third year, graduate-school level. “No,” I said, “You were dyslexic. Now you can pick up any text, read it, and understand it. You are a brilliant woman who has the tools to read anything. Dyslexia is your past. Success is your future.”
If your child has been diagnosed with comprehension dyslexia and you want to provide your student lifetime academic success skills, please contact RTS. RTS Success® specializes in helping students who struggle with comprehension. Please feel free to reach out with any questions to Cindy@RTSsuccess.com