The Role of Genetics in Dyslexia


‘Dyslexia is genetic’

I can’t tell you how many times a week I hear that or read it.

This prevalent declaration makes me a little bit crazy.

… and it’s not because it’s incorrect.

Dyslexia can definitely have a genetic component.

But a ‘dyslexia gene’ is a deeply flawed understanding of genetics.

… As well as the prevention and treatment of dyslexia.

News Flash – There is No ‘Dyslexia Gene’

You see there is no gene that decides: this human will not be able to learn to read. There are however countless genes that can influence the biochemical processes and functions that are necessary for reading.

Before I dive in really deep – let me give you one quick example.

There is a strong genetic tendency among dyslexics to carry a certain gene that compromises their ability to metabolize and convert omega 3’s into DHA which is critical for the brain, eyes and reading among so many other processes.

But that doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do about it!

Dyslexia is Only ‘Kinda’ Genetic

The ‘dyslexia is genetic’ statement ruffles my feathers because it sounds so inevitable – so hopeless – when nothing could be further from the truth.

But back to the genetics of dyslexia…

In twin studies, when one twin is dyslexic there is a 50% likelihood the other twin will not be dyslexic.

That’s right I said ‘will NOT be dyslexic’. Twins can share the same DNA but one twin is not dyslexic while the other one is.

… But how can that be?!

This circles back to the saying, “Genetics load the gun, environment pulls the trigger.”

What Does that Even Mean?

There is no specific gene that is responsible for dyslexia.

Leading world researcher at the Dyslexia Center at Yale University, Dr. Sally Shaywitz, explains that, “You can’t predict who will or won’t be dyslexic by examining their genes. Research shows that there are many, many genes that influence dyslexia, as well as environmental factors.” 1.

The belief that dyslexia is inevitable or even worse – that it can’t be overcome because of a strong family history is a travesty to say the least.

It sets kids, families and people up to believe that the fate of their brain, their IQ, their learning and so much more is etched in stone.

Your Brain is Not a Rock – It is a Tree

A tree can be pruned and nourished and it can grow.

I meet adults everyday who tell me all about their dyslexia family history and they have so little hope for their children because of their own struggles.

… and I totally get it. Those reading struggles were brutal. They were traumatic, they were seriously detrimental to their self-esteem and they shut the door to so many opportunities – but it didn’t have to be that way.

The right therapies and interventions can make all the difference. If that seems hard to believe – those aren’t my beliefs.

If Anything Runs in the Family, It’s Belief Systems

Learning gurus like Dr. Sally Shaywitz and so many other doctors and geneticists, assert over and over that your genes are not your fate.

I advise parents to be careful of talking about how dyslexia runs in the family – even if it does. Kids hear everything and even at fairly young ages kids also start to buy into the belief (not the fact) that when ‘something runs in the family’ it is permanent and unavoidable.

Think of a ‘dyslexia’ gene like a diabetes gene. It’s all about what you feed it, how you treat and what you do to dial it down.

In her book, Overcoming Dyslexia, Dr. Shaywitz explains that dyslexia is largely influenced by environmental factors which include everything from parents literacy levels, toxicity, nutrition, trauma, socio-economic background, effective reading instruction, early literacy as well as early detection and intervention.

So let’s say that there is a really strong history of dyslexia in your family…

Let’s examine why or how these genes are at play and how they can be ‘turned or toned down’.

The field of epigenetics is exploding. It is the science of how our genes can be turned on and off by environmental factors such as food, exercise, toxicity, sleep, stress levels and even our thoughts.

The three areas of science that is incredibly exciting because it offers so much hope and empowerment are:

  • Neuroplasticity
  • The Gut Microbiome & the Brain-Gut Connection
  • Epigenetics

It might seem like the science of changing your genes is way too complicated. At first glance it might appear that you would need a geneticist to turn off those strong family ‘dyslexia genes’ – but think again.

Turning Off Genes is Easier than You Think

Something as seemingly simple as 20 minutes of daily meditation was actually found in double-blind studies to turn off countless gene expressions.

Now am I suggesting that your child meditate their way out of dyslexia?

No! (Though meditation does increase grey matter in the brain as well as cortical thickness which is linked to increased IQ)

… But if something as ‘abstract’ as meditation can alter gene expression – imagine what optimal nourishment for your child’s brain can do?

It doesn’t end with the gut but it starts there and that’s because your gut is not only holds much of your genetic coding but the health of the gut can greatly affect gene expression.

Your Child’s Gut Influences Their Gene Expression

A study out of Case Western Reserve University discovered that specific gut bacteria releases nitric oxide. Nitric oxide affects gene expression and when the bacteria produced high amounts of nitric oxide disruptions in healthy gene expression occurred.

To name a few these disruptions are associated with:






-Diabetes and Heart Disease

Your child’s gut does a lot more than break down food or absorb nutrients that are needed for the processes in the brain that are responsible for reading.

… Their genes are literally like little light switches.

It Starts with Healing The Gut & Nutrient Therapy

Nourishing and healing the gut microbiome and lining is essential to optimal gene expression. But that’s not where it ends.

Even when certain genes are ‘turned on’ they can influenced with specific processes like nutrient therapy that curbs their presence.

In my next article, I will explain how the common nutrient deficits among dyslexics can be triggered by certain genes – and how certain nutrients can dial down the effects.

To learn more about how I turn struggling readers into star students by combining nutrient therapy with reading therapy, check out my program, Reading Rockstar Bootcamp. My programs offer one-on-one learning therapies that targets the underlying reason why learning, writing and reading is so hard for your child. Think of me as a personal trainer for your child’s brain.

If you’re not sure if these programs are right for you, set up a free 20-minute discovery session to learn more about how you can help your child improve their visual processing so they can become a fluent reader and a more confident kid.



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