Dyslexia affects 20 percent of the population and represents 80 to 90 percent of all learning disabilities. Overwhelming evidence shows dyslexia is a “problem with the language system” and that interventions directed to the problems with the language system work best to help dyslexic children reach their full potential.

A recent article was published about the possibility that dyslexia is caused by a treatable eye deformity and thus “suggested” dyslexia may be a vision problem. The story caused skeptical hope for those with dyslexic children as the article also “suggested” a possible “fix” for dyslexia.

The story says, “Our observations lead us to believe that we indeed found a potential (italics mine) cause of dyslexia.” It also says they "may" (again, italics mine) have found a physiological cause. The study has 30 people with dyslexia and 30 without dyslexia. The authors are espousing this as a theory and not fact. It is a small sample size in a single institution.

Large-scale randomized studies have never shown that treating vision helps children with dyslexia. There is always a convincing story of a child using a larger font, special glasses, or Irlen lenses for dyslexia, but there is no evidence to support these products.

Drs. Sally and Bennett Shaywitz, endowed professors at Yale Medical School and founders of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, give us a better understanding of dyslexia.

“Dyslexia is an unexpected difficulty in reading for an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader. Commonly due to a difficulty in phonological processing (the appreciation of the individual sounds of spoken language), it affects the ability of an individual to speak, read, spell, and many times learn a second language.”

And from the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus: “Children with dyslexia do not have any more visual problems than children without dyslexia. Vision therapy does not work for this population because the eyes are not the problem.”

Children should be identified as having dyslexia in kindergarten and first grade because the achievement gap is present at that age. Once identified, they should be given evidence-based classroom instruction. Dyslexia is not an IQ problem — they may be slow readers and have a difficult time in school, but they are often fast and creative thinkers.

My hope is that dyslexia is understood for what it really is, without shame, so that the dyslexic children in every classroom will be identified and given what they need. It is a tragedy that children are feeling defeated, instead of knowing that they are smart, but dyslexic. Information is power. Let’s get the right information out to our dyslexic children and their parents.

Dr. Laura Cassidy

founder and board president, Louisiana Key Academy

Baton Rouge