Reading is a learned skill; no one is born reading. But learning to read relies on inborn human capacities for language and speech. And dyslexia is a genetic condition that compromises these brain networks.
Yet laypeople are convinced that dyslexia results from “troubles with vision.” And these errors matter. A parent who holds these views might fail to recognize her child’s difficulties with rhymes and pig Latin (both require phonemic awareness) as warning signs. So why are we so wrong about dyslexia? Why do we mistake dyslexia for “word blindness”?
At first blush, these misconceptions seem rather innocent; laypeople, by definition, aren’t reading experts, so perhaps they just don’t know better. But aspiring teachers, with ample educational training, make similar mistakes. Moreover, the pattern of mistakes suggests a deeper problem.
While these biases are unconscious, they demonstrably veer off reasoning in numerous areas, from our irrational fascination with the brain to our fear of artificial intelligence; our troubles with dyslexia, then, are but one of its many victims. To counter these errors, information alone won’t suffice—a real change requires that we take a hard look within.
Reading, then, rests on decoding in more ways than one. For children to successfully decode printed words, we must all improve our decoding of the human mind.