Try this experiment this weekend at your backyard family gathering. Ask your Uncle Joe or Aunt Sue, what he or she knows about dyslexia. I would predict that almost without exception, you will get something like, “Isn’t that when you read upside down and backward…or you reverse all those letters.”

“No Uncle Joe, let me try and explain it better,” you may be tempted.

Recently, dyslexia as a concept exploded in the state of New Jersey and whereas the term before was sort of like Voldemort (“He who shall remain nameless.”), now everyone is dyslexia focused. I get a lot of, “So, Doc, tell it to me straight – does he have it?”

I try to do the best I can to educate people and help shake out certain notions long held.

I will say things like:

“Reading difficulty is a continuum, from mild, moderate to more severe. It’s hard to say if these children who have just a little bit of difficulty are really dyslexic.”

“It’s not like a broken bone…there is no X-Ray that tells us, “yes the person has it” or “no, he does not. It’s weighing a lot of different variables to come up with a reasonable conclusion.”

“Dyslexia is mostly tied into parental predisposition. So if one or the other parent struggled with reading, spelling and writing, chances are pretty good one of the children will also show signs of struggling.”

“Really, it (dyslexia) represents difficulty identifying words accurately and fluently. Very little has to do with the reversals.”

No matter what, though, it’s very hard to shake the perception at the heart of people’s thinking regarding reversal and the upside down view of things.

I know it goes against the tide, but I prefer to say a child has a “reading disability,” while also commenting on the “dyslexia.” To me reading disability translates better to most parents. I can see it in their eyes when you say, “I think your child has a reading disability.”

The term is understood pretty intuitively. There is less baggage to cut through.

Enjoy your barbecues and soon to be summer fun this weekend. Keep working on Uncle Joe and Aunt Sue!

Read more of Dr Richard Selznick’s writings at

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