Seeing Words Backwards

As an instructor at Providence College, I once asked my graduate class, comprised entirely of elementary school teachers, for their definition of dyslexia. I was shocked to discover that the common confusion over this well-researched learning disability extended even to experienced classroom teachers. To a person, they all responded: “Dyslexia is seeing words and letters backwards.” This definition, although not accurate, is a common misunderstanding of dyslexia.

Dyslexia is a language-based disability that affects an individual’s ability to read and spell, despite average or above-average intelligence. Generally, children with dyslexia have problems at the phonological level. It is very difficult for them to distinguish and sequence phonemes, or the sounds that make up our language. A sample of a student’s written work can be very telling.

Photo: Pexels

Do you have a child who drops off endings, leaves out syllables, or has difficulty with blends? All of these are indicators that the child is having difficulty distinguishing and sequencing sounds.

Encoding (spelling) and decoding (reading) are two sides of the same coin. The same brain-based problem that causes some children to have to work much harder than others to “crack the code” of reading also makes it harder for them to put the correct sounds in the correct order to result in proper spelling.

If you have a child who is falling behind in reading, it’s important to act right away. A full diagnostic assessment is needed to determine the exact nature of the problem. Most children suffering from dyslexia will benefit from an Orton-Gillingham based approach to reading, which is multi-sensory, sequential, direct, and systematic.

If you are interested in learning how to advocate for a child with dyslexia, you will find our recent book to be a very detailed resource with chapters on What Works, The Law, Interpreting Test Results and more.

My website, www.TheTeacherTrack.com, is also available to teachers, with many resources and free downloads for teaching reading, writing and math to students on all ends of the continuum.

The important thing to remember is that no child wants to fail. As educators and professionals, it is our job to do whatever we can to unlock the world of learning to those who have become blocked.


Lorna Kaufman, Sandra Doran and Leigh Leveen. Smart Kid, Can’t Read: Five Steps Any Parent Can Take to Get Help. 2016. Available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle download.

Note: Article written and posted in English

Sandra Doran

Sandra Doran, Ed.D., is currently serving as the Associate Superintendent for the Florida Conference of SDA.

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