The National Institutes of Health estimates that between 6 percent and 17 percent of school-age children have some form of dyslexia, although not all of those students may have been identified by their schools.
Anyone who has taught a dyslexic student has observed that dyslexia, typically considered a reading disability, affects other areas of learning. It makes spelling difficult. It makes writing difficult. It can even make memorizing math facts difficult. It simply makes school difficult—every day and in every way.
Early identification of the issue is important so that children can access and qualify for critical interventions, tools, and accommodations to aid in their learning. Concrete supports such as specialized reading instruction, extra time on standardized tests, or the use of programs that allow students to combine both text and audio when they read (such as Learning Ally and Bookshare) can go a long way in helping dyslexics access content and information. Additionally, dictation and predictive spelling software can help them effectively show what they know.
However, the value and urgency of early identification is driven by an additional, more profound threat: Unidentified dyslexic children often privately think they are “stupid” or have diminished potential. They spend much of their school day focused on learning how to use basic mechanical skills with which they typically struggle. Worse yet, they look around the classroom and see their peers having a much easier time with these same skills, triggering confusion, frustration, anxiety, and humiliation.
After expending tremendous effort to achieve results, many dyslexics eventually avoid school work. It seems more appealing to skip the work than to struggle with it and possibly risk drawing attention to their challenges.