October is National Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia and ADHD Awareness Month, so what perfect timing for us to debunk some extremely common myths that exist regarding learning disabilities. At Learnfully, we believe that all learners are brilliant in their own right and deserve to be celebrated throughout the year. Let’s demystify the top 10 myths so that we can honor those who learn differently now more than ever!
1. Learning Disabilities are directly correlated to intelligence.
It is a common misconception that learning disabilities are related to one’s intelligence, but, in fact, it is quite the opposite. Learners who learn differently typically have average or above-average IQ. Unfortunately, because they are constantly challenging themselves, we do see 20% on average drop out each year from school which can easily send the wrong message to society as a whole.
2. Learning Disabilities impact boys more than girls.
The sex and gender identity of a learner does not impact their ability to learn. That said, statistics suggest that males are diagnosed earlier than females for a multitude of reasons including the fact that some male learners’ symptoms are most overt and some female learners’ symptoms, thus, go unnoticed. Female learning disabilities can go undetected throughout their childhood because they appear compliant and, sadly, male learners are viewed as behavior problems at an early age.
3. Accommodations are a band aid approach.
By definition, accommodations are used to level the playing field for those who learn differently than their peers. They describe an alteration of environment, curriculum format, or equipment that allows an individual with a disability to gain access to content and/or complete assigned tasks. They allow students with disabilities to pursue a regular course of study. Since accommodations do not alter what is being taught, instructors should be able to implement the same grading scale for students with disabilities as they do for students without disabilities.
4. Dyslexia is defined by reading backwards.
Dyslexia involves neurological deficits that impact many layers of the reading process and not just one’s directionality. Common symptoms for Dyslexia include, but are not limited to: challenges with rhyming, blending words, recalling sight words, reading fluidly with expression, spelling orthographically and phonetically. Dyslexic learners tend to be very creative and imaginative, so they try to compensate for their differences by tapping into their strengths.
5. You can grow out of a LD because they are school-based.
Learning disabilities are life-long diagnoses that follow a learner as they age. Once diagnosed, learners can feel empowered to discover strategies as to how to reach their full potential and to navigate the communicative world around them. Regardless of their successful methods, however, learning disabilities do not fade away as a learner ages, but they can become easier to manage.
6. Healthy habits such as nutrition, physical fitness and sleep have no impact on learning.
The right fit nutrition, exercise and sleep patterns actually improve attention, energy levels, motivation, and productivity. Sometimes symptoms of learning differences can stem as a result of poor habits. Trained experts can separate the symptoms from the daily happenings to determine whether or not a diagnosis is warranted. All this to say, these healthy habits can certainly bolster one’s ability to learn, but cannot cause a diagnosable learning disability.
7. LD symptoms are overt and can be seen.
Not all learning difference symptoms are noticeable especially at a young age when expectations are lower. In fact, some can even mask or hide their differences until a later age (as noted in the myth about girls vs. boys). Learning disabilities tend to involve symptoms that are underlying and not as measurable at first. As a learner ages, variables such as their environment, puberty and academic/social performance tend to heighten both the learner’s and their caregiver/educator’s awareness as to how they are struggling so that they can seek the right support.
8. LD is just another way of saying ‘lazy’ or ‘unmotivated.’
Quite the opposite! Those with learning disabilities tend to work harder than neurotypical peers because they have to overcome struggles that their peers do not. Over the course of my 20 years in this field, I have heard this myth from caregivers and educators the most (believe it or not!). Since we know our children are capable, labeling them as lazy or not driven seems to justify why they are not becoming who we know they are meant to be. Thankfully, learners are able to find strategies and help for their disabilities to move past the potential lack of motivation/energy.
9. Lack of parent involvement causes LDs.
Since learning disabilities are biological, caregiver and educator involvement only helps us to catch their LD faster and earlier. Granted, the more support, the better, especially when you have learning differences. But the lack of support, time, energy invested into a learner’s academic success does not cause learning disabilities.
10. Medication can help LDs.
This is typically not the case, especially since diagnoses such as ADHD and Anxiety/Depression are not necessarily considered learning differences. Neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience or following injury, is alive and well though. There are multisensory, evidence-based programs that can actually rewire the brain to make learning easier for those with LDs. The LDs do not go away, per se, but learners are better able to navigate their symptoms with these methodologies.
Now, let’s be honest – there are plenty more myths out there that we did not discuss here, so feel free to use other resources such as LD Online or National Center for Learning Disabilities if you did not find the myth you were looking for or are curious to learn more!