Is it Dyslexia or Something Else?

Jeremy is in 8th grade and hates reading. He is the slowest reader in his class and is embarrassed to read out loud. He always has to read and re-read chapters in his textbooks to make sense of the information and to retain it – hopefully long enough to pass the test.

Jeremy has been diagnosed with dyslexia. He’s never learned to read well, a few beats behind the rest of his classmates. He muddled through elementary school with patchwork literacy skills. He tried hard, in his own way, quietly attempting to do what his teachers asked of him. Jeremy never caused problems in school and his teachers passed him along even though his achievement level slipped a few months behind his peers each year. Now, however, in middle school, the coping skills that got him by just don’t work. He’s become more frustrated with himself. His once even temperament cracks from time to time, especially after school with his younger brother.

His parents blame it on adolescence, but could it be related to dyslexia?


What is Dyslexia?

The term “dyslexia” has morphed into a blanket term to identify the cause of multiple learning difficulties including the inability to read, write, and calculate, especially when accompanied by letter and number reversals. The word itself actually means the inability to read. Frequently dyslexia is ascribed to otherwise bright and capable children (and adults!) who surprisingly cannot decipher letters and word much less get meaning from text.

While a dyslexia diagnosis may bring some resolution or even comfort to the puzzlement a frustrated child and her parents face, this reading deficit may be the result of other underlying, treatable causes. Parents, groping for solutions, may be unaware of poor visual and/or auditory processing skills or generalized reading-skills instruction that are sometimes the root cause(s) of dyslexia. Once identified, they represent a viable path out of the dyslexia diagnosis.


If it’s not dyslexia, it might be an undiagnosed problem with….

Visual Processing

Vision is more than meets the eye, (Pun intended!) and it’s so much more than 20/20 vision. A 20/20 result on a routine eye exam or school vision screening can mask a deeper vision issue that may be a root cause of a dyslexia diagnosis. 20/20 only refers to “acuity,” the eye’s natural ability to see. It doesn’t consider other potential visual processing issues such as contrast sensitivity, tracking, eye movements, color vision, depth perception, speed, accuracy, and ability to focus. These and many more problems can affect daily life as well as academics.

Children with poor visual processing do not have a vision problem, but a problem deciphering what they see. It’s how the brain interprets, or more accurately misinterprets, what the eyes see. Because reading requires intensive, precise visual skills, letters can get mixed up and the brain “sees” something different than what is actually there. The processing is the culprit, not the vision.

The result is slow, painstaking, and often incorrect reading. This frustration is compounded by the inability to understand why reading is such a laborious task!

Auditory Processing

Deficient auditory processing skills mirror those encountered in the visual field. Like visual processing, the brain experiences a disconnect from the actual sounds produced and what it “hears.” For some children with an auditory processing disorder, a room full of other children sounds like one jumbled roar of indistinguishable noise instead of separate, distinct sounds.

Others cannot focus on what one person is telling them with other conversations, music, or even a bird singing in the background. Yet, others cannot tell the difference between sounds of certain letters and consequently misunderstand or misinterpret what is said.

Speech is also affected by auditory processing disorder, potentially reversing words while speaking. When a child labors with an auditory processing disorder, defining and organizing words whether in reading, writing or speaking are all challenges.

Disconnect with Reading Instruction Method

The inability to read can be a side effect of the issues discussed above, a combination of them as well as an issue on its own. All reading programs work with some children, but no reading method works for all of them.

If a child struggles with auditory processing issues, a strong phonics-based program may not be appropriate and effective. It’s not a reflection of the program; just a mismatch of approach and child. A  balanced approach to reading often releases children identified with dyslexia to drop that descriptor, overcome their formerly poor reading and writing abilities, and achieve on a level commensurate with their true ability level.


Get the Facts

Early detection of the true causes of dyslexia is vital for your child’s success. Finding the root issue is not a guessing game. Accurate, nationally-normed assessments, administered by a licensed school psychologist and interpreted by an objective educational professional, provide the solid information parents need to minimize the effects of dyslexia on your child’s academic and life achievements. A Full Assessment Battery of such tests assures parents have all the information necessary to make informed decisions about the next steps for their child. The SailAway Full Assessment Battery includes the following psycho-educational evaluation tests:

  • Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-IV (WISC-IV)
  • Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement II (KTEA-II)
  • Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-4 (PPVT-IV)
  • Woodcock Reading Mastery Test (WRMT)
  • Test of Variables of Attention (TOVA)
  • Test of Memory and Learning 2 (TOMAL-2)

The results from these tests paint the whole picture and let you know the cause(s) of your child’s dyslexia diagnosis whether it’s a visual or auditory processing disorder, memory, attention or just a mismatch of instructional methods. Your newfound knowledge will guide you toward the best solutions and actions for your child. Scheduling a SailAway Assessment is easy. Don’t wait another day!



Visual Processing Disorder and Dyslexia (2017). Retrieved from

Hellam, A. and Heiting, G. (2016). Is 20/20 Perfect Vision? Retrieved from

Lucker, J. R. (2017). What is APD? Retrieved from