Yesterday’s Undiagnosed Dyslexic Learners are Today’s Parents

Written by Susan E. Miller, Assistant Director of Robinowitz Education Center

I’ve been around long enough in the field of Dyslexia to have former students become amazing proud parents. Not surprisingly, from research and statistical standpoints, most of my former students have offspring that present with varying degrees of Dyslexia. We know from years of research that Dyslexia is strongly genetic. As a Dyslexia Therapist and Educational Diagnostician, my concern lies with all of the Dyslexic parents who were never identified and remain undiagnosed to this day. Drawing upon decades of clinical work, I know that a diagnosis of Dyslexia, or more broadly, an Specific Learning Disorder classification was hard to come by for many adults when they were in school in the 80’s and 90’s. The phrase, “she’ll grow out of it,” was de rigueur for decades, and sadly, still spoken today even now even though it’s a myth. 

My former students, and current adult clients, report that they see in their children their own early struggles to read, write and in some cases, solve math problems. They acutely feel their children’s pain and embarrassment. They express their determination to provide their children with the targeted specialized instruction that they did not have the benefit of receiving when they were in school. Most of the parents I’m referring to have eked out a healthy and happy life for themselves, but many admit to not working to their full potential. Lack of confidence in their academic skills caused them to limit their career choices, rather than reach for the stars. In some cases, they rely on their spouse to manage the reading, writing, and math demands related to managing a household. While all of the parents graduated from high school, some don’t feel that they should have received a diploma. Some attended college and spent far and above more hours than their peers to earn a C much less an A. Some parents lament that they never found the time to improve their own academic skills in order to advance in the workforce, but are determined to provide a better future for their own children. 

The anecdotal information collected from the undiagnosed parents and reported above plays out in the data. In a research article titled, “Long-term Effects of Parents’ Education on Children’s Educational and Occupational Success: Mediation by Family, Interactions, Child Aggression, and Teenage Aspirations,” the authors report on findings from a longitudinal study spanning 40 years. A major finding from the study was that the educational level of the parent is a strong predictor of children’s educational outcomes. This finding confirms previous research findings that should simultaneously alarm and empower education leaders. There are legions of parents in our country, and the world, that are products of an educational system that was not informed about Dyslexia. As a result, many have less than ideal academic skills and levels of education that could have been so much more! 

For those adults who may suspect that they have a learning disorder, It’s never too late to improve reading and math skills and discover new career opportunities. A thorough evaluation will indicate what skills are in place, and what aspects of English need to be taught. For more information, check out the Robinowitz Education Center’s free webinar, Undiagnosed and Underemployed – Dyslexia in Adults, presented in 2 hour-long sessions.

We look to our Board of Education members, state policymakers, school superintendents, and educational organizations for their support and assistance to better identify children at risk for learning disorders as early as kindergarten rather than follow a “wait and see” approach. We need their influence to ensure that early Dyslexia screenings and the use of evidence-based reading/math instruction are delivered to improve educational outcomes for generations to come. 


Dubow, Boxer and Huesmann 2010 April12, Long-term Effects of Parents’ Education on Children’s Educational and Occupational Success: Mediation by Family, Interactions, Child Aggression, and Teenage Aspirations

Davis-Kean, 2005; Dearing, McCartney, & Taylor, 2002; Smith, Brooks-Gunn, & Klebanov, 1997