Isn’t Dyslexia Seeing Words Backwards?

Parents commonly ask me, “Isn’t dyslexia seeing words backwards?” The simple answer is no, it is not seeing words backwards.

Dyslexia affects sequencing, or putting information in order. Spelling is a sequential activity – the letters of a word must be in the right order to be spelled correctly. Someone who is dyslexic may have a good idea of which letters are in a word, but he/she is not sure of the correct order.

For example, I gave the Word Identification and Spelling Test (WIST) to an 8-year-old boy before beginning tutoring. The spelling word was “shop.” The little boy sounded out the word in a whisper voice and wrote S-O-P. He knew it didn’t look right, so he tacked on an H at the beginning.

The same little boy spelled “they” H-T-E-Y. He knew all the right letters, just wasn’t sure of their sequence. The right kind of tutoring can help students like him put sounds and letters in their proper order.


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