father helping daughter with dyslexia read
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Is It Dyslexia or Something Else?
Do I need a Diagnosis?


What is Dyslexia? Is my child dyslexic? Do I need a diagnosis?

In David Kilpatrick’s book Equipped for Reading Success , he explains that contrary to popular belief, dyslexia is not a mysterious, special type of reading disability in which the reader reverses and transposes letters or “sees things backwards.” Webster’s II New College Dictionary simply defines dyslexia as an “impairment of the ability to read.” Researchers often add the stipulation that individuals with dyslexia have normal verbal language skills. 

So why do people with dyslexia often confuse b and d? In the late 1970s, researchers discovered that about 25% of reading and spelling errors made by average first graders involved reversing or transposing letters. Then the researchers discovered that dyslexic third and fourth graders (who were reading at a first-grade level) performed exactly the same way. 

Therefore, the researchers “they are not poor readers because they are reversing or transposing letters. Rather, they are reversing and transposing letters because they are poor readers!” (David Kilpatrick, Equipped for Reading Success, p. 118). Once they learn to read fluently, they no longer reverse or transpose letters.


Many mental and academic skills play into a student’s reading ability. 

According to Kilpatrick and other researchers, the 7 main skills required for reading are:

  • Oral vocabulary
  • Letter-sound knowledge
  • Phoneme awareness
  • Oral blending
  • Rapid automatized naming
  • Working memory
  • Phonic decoding


Directly targeting weaknesses will allow dyslexic readers to become strong readers. 

When it comes to dyslexia, a student may excel at one skill and perform very poorly on another. It is useful to evaluate each skill and determine where a student is struggling. Incidentally, poor phoneme awareness is usually the main problem. When you improve a child’s phonemic awareness skills, often the child’s letter-sound knowledge, oral blending, rapid automatized naming, memory, decoding skills and even spelling improve as well. This is why each of our lessons contains a section devoted to improving phonemic awareness.

A dyslexia label can sometimes stunt a child’s resolve to overcome reading difficulties. But it can also open access to more effective remediation methods through the public-school system. A dyslexia diagnosis can also give a child reassurance that he is not “dumb” or alone; there are many other intelligent people who have a hard time learning to read.

Regardless of the diagnosis, it is crucial to adopt a growth mindset when working through reading struggles. “In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment.” ( Dweck, 2015)

Dyslexia in Short:

Dyslexia is an “impairment in the ability to read.” If your child is older than 6, has normal verbal language skills, and is struggling to learn to read, chances are good that he or she would receive a diagnosis of dyslexia or “specific learning disability in reading”  if you pursued official testing. The diagnosis is not as important as the steps you take to improve the skills that are causing the reading difficulties. Even kids who have a very difficult time learning to read are fully capable of becoming adequate readers. 



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