5 Reasons We Should Call it Dyslexia

By Lindsey Lipsky, M.Ed.

Teachers: Have you ever heard these statements at your school?

  • Dyslexia is just another name for Learning Disability or LD.
  • Dyslexia is a name used by the private sector, we do not use that here.
  • We’ve never called it Dyslexia, so we’re not going to start now.


As a Special Education Teacher for over five years, I often experienced reluctance by my school to use the term “Dyslexia.” The dreaded “D” word (as we teachers would lovingly call it), was for all intents and purposes, taboo.  After talking to countless teachers around the country, I’ve found that my experience is, sadly, less than rare. But why?

Research shows us that nearly 1 in 5 students in America have Dyslexia. It is one of the most studied and examined disabilities in the nation, yet the most under-diagnosed in schools. If nearly 20 percent of America’s youth have some form of Dyslexia, isn’t it time we start calling Dyslexia by its name?

Let’s take a look at the 5 top reasons why we should call it Dyslexia:

  1. Using the term “Dyslexia” is more specific: 

When we say that a child has a Learning Disability, LD, or Specific Learning Disorder, this may mean several things and can signify a multitude of different learning challenges. A Specific Learning Disorder can be in reading, writing, or math. Within a Specific LD in Reading, the diagnosis can further be varied into a disability of reading decoding, fluency, or comprehension.  In a nutshell, saying “Learning Disability” or “Specific Learning Disorder” is just not specific enough! When we use the term Dyslexia it makes it easier for teachers, parents, and even students themselves, to learn about, identify, and accommodate their needs in the classroom.

  1. The word Dyslexia has been around for a long time:

The term “Dyslexia” was first coined in 1887, by a German opthalmologist, Rudolf Berlin.  He used it to replace the commonly used term of the day, “Word-Blindness.” However, the term Dyslexia did not come into full use until the 1900s.  Today, it has become much less popular to say Dyslexia in public education, despite a large field of research to support its existence, and a plethora of evidence-based studies that identify successful interventions.  The multitude of studies and research over the last century will mean nothing if we do not begin calling Dyslexia by its proper name.

  1. Students often feel empowered when told they have Dyslexia:

Dyslexia can be a challenge for the 20 percent of school-aged children who suffer in silence.  However, time and time again, I’ve found that when a child is finally diagnosedwith Dyslexia they feel a sudden sense of relief, and sometimes even pride. “I’m not slow, or impaired, or lazy; I’m Dyslexic!” is a comment oft heard from students first diagnosed. Using the term “Dyslexia” allows a student not only to learn more about how his or her brain works best and how to self-advocate, but also provides entrance into a huge community of learners with Dyslexia; something extremely powerful for boosting self- confidence and development.

  1. Many, many famous people have Dyslexia:

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability or disorder that includes poor word reading, word decoding, oral reading fluency and spelling.  However, along with these impediments comes amazing gifts!  Many Dyslexics excel in areas of spatial recognition, creativity, athleticism, entrepreneurialism, and much more.  It is no surprise then that so many famous and successful people have Dyslexia.  Don’t believe me? Check out this list of some famous people with Dyslexia: http://www.dyslexia.com/famous.htm

  1. In some states, Dyslexia is the law:

While not the case everywhere, many states have new or ongoing legislation about Dyslexia. Some states like Texas, Illinois, Ohio, and New Jersey, have enacted various laws supporting, assessing, identifying and naming Dyslexia in the classroom. To see where your state stands, contact your local Decoding Dyslexia state group.

There are several identified, targeted interventions, accommodations, and supports for students with Dyslexia. However, the biggest and most successful intervention for learners with Dyslexia includes adaptation of multi-sensory structured language programs into the classroom, which, when implemented with fidelity, can significantly reduce reading problems and help bring children up to grade-level reading. Questions on that? Visit the International Dyslexia Association or the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity to learn more.

What do you think about this list?  Do you agree that we need to start calling Dyslexia by its name?

Let’s talk on twitter via @LindseyLipsky or leave a comment below. To help support awareness and the need to use the term “Dyslexia” in schools, please share this post and use the hashtag #CallitDyslexia.

Original post on Weebly: http://lindseylipsky.weebly.com/blog/november-09th-2014 

6 thoughts on “5 Reasons We Should Call it Dyslexia

  1. Thank you Lindsey. I wish I had written this article. I completely agree that dyslexia is a positive label that empowers students to success. There is a growing wave of change and acceptance for dyslexia and it is time we all got behind it.

    • Yes, I have found time and time again that when students are told they have Dyslexia and feel empowered to use the word it is transformative for that student and can even open up a whole new world of support! I am so thankful for the wonderful work of organizations like Decoding Dyslexia which are working to help with Dyslexia identification and support around the country. Thank you for helping us advocate!

  2. My 3rd grade daughter is dyslexic and though she has an IEP her school will not recognise the dyslexia diagnosis. when I even mention the word in our IEP meetings or any other discussion there is a silence and blank looks all round. It’s the elephant in the room and drives me crazy. We talk about it at home openly, my daughter knows she is dyslexic but it would help her so much if 1. Her teachers also recognised it and 2. She was therefore given the correct language instruction at school. Instead, for all the help she gets at school she also has to have an OG tutor out of school. Thank you for your piece, it makes me sad that you have to even write this.

    • I have experienced the same things as a teacher. It is just downright frustrating when schools just won’t use the right word! I have found that when teachers (especially general education teachers) are told that a student has Dyslexia, it’s like a light bulb goes off and they suddenly understand just what needs to be done to help support. (Though them actually being able to do what’s right given all the testing/ standards/etc is another story entirely.) I am so sorry you are experiencing this at your school. Please feel free to email me at lindsey.lipsky@Gmail.com if you need more support or some local resources! Just keep being the wonderful advocate you are and don’t give up!

  3. It is past time something be done! I swear I mentioned the “D” word to every single teacher my son had and finally in high school a teacher noticed. We then had him tested for a variety of learning disabilities but none specific to dyslexia. Tests came back with no learning disabilities. Now 25 and a CPA, he figured out on his own how he needed to learn things and knew to have his girlfriend or us check his critical writing assignments.

    My daughter also struggled with school, but I never felt she had the reading difficulties that my son had. If everyone was telling me her older brother didn’t have dyslexia, than there was no way she had it. So, I thought what a lot of parents often think about their undiagnosed child…she’s lazy. Finally in college, she took it upon herself to go get tested. Thankfully, she was out of state and she found a place that tested for dyslexia. The result, yep, she has it and she feels impowered. She always felt stupid and now she feels so much better about herself. My sons, reaction to her diagnoses…”If you have dyslexia, I DEFINETLY have it. “

  4. Hi Lindsey, I just read this post and have to share my story. I have been advocating for students with dyslexia for years, but have been hampered by so many myths and preconceptions. I had one school psych tell me that she never wanted to hear “that word” in a meeting again. Another psych said to a parent in a meeting “we don’t treat dyslexia”. Recently, we had a student get an actual diagnosis of dyslexia, parents are highly involved, bringing a parent advocate to meetings etc. They have demanded (and received) many accommodations and services. Great, right? Well, I have other kiddos on caseload who are just as severe (or worse) that do NOT get all this attention. When I bring this up, I get “well, is he diagnosed?” or “I am not comfortable using the word dyslexia to describe him, I would rather say reading disorder. Dyslexia is a medical diagnosis.” This past week I was ready to spit cotton! I am trying to put together some education and awareness about dyslexia that teachers and administration will accept as valid. This post is a good start along with the “Components of Dyslexia Testing…” posts, although that is way more (really good) information than I can realistically expect them to actually read. My biggest problem is that as a speech language pathologist, people still don’t even understand why I would even care. I mean, the kid’s speech is fine, right?! Any tips or pointers would beyond what you have already posted would be so appreciated. The frustration level is high, my sister.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *