The whole language reading curricula taught in most schools over the past twenty years has created many poor readers (and terrible spellers) because those curricula did not consider phonics instruction to be a priority. But, even though the word dyslexia means poor reading ability to many people, you don't create a dyslexic child by using an ineffective reading curriculum. Dyslexia is almost certainly an inherited condition, although it doesn't affect everyone who is genetically prone to the condition. Instead, it seems to develop in some children even as their siblings learn to read normally.

Patterns of Dyslexia

A small contingent of reading instructors, educators, and reading researchers claim that poor or non-existent phonics instruction coupled with a predominantly whole language approach to instruction will create the brain patterns seen in dyslexics. It's likely that the motivation for conducting this research was because so many kids were struggling with reading.

It's certainly possible, even probable, that whole language instruction creates a different student brain than phonics instruction. Given the significant difference between whole language instruction and phonics instruction, it's not surprising that synapses constructed for reading would be different in each situation. But whole language instruction could hardly be considered to have created a dyslexic child. More likely, the avoidance of good phonics instruction in whole language curricula created a poor reader. That said, the dyslexic children in a whole language class were probably poor readers too, given that they were predisposed to reading issues before being taught by an ineffective curriculum.

Some do claim most struggling readers were created by providing insufficient phonics instruction, but dyslexia does exist.

A lot of phonics advocates have claimed that most struggling readers do so because they didn't get sufficient phonics instruction and that's probably true in cases where 40 to 60% of a class fail to learn to read well. But even with great phonics instruction, somewhere between five and twenty percent of a class will struggle struggle with reading instruction. Dyslexia does exist, and it does usually interfere with learning to read.

Perhaps a style of reading instruction is capable of generating symptoms of dyslexic behavior, and even of creating its own unique pattern of brain waves, but whole language reading instruction by itself is not going to generate the pattern of delayed development across several developmental fronts that is common to the dyslexic child. Furthermore, if the dyslexic child can sometimes be identified even before reading instruction begins, how could any style of reading instruction have created the dyslexia?

Phonics instruction will not prevent dyslexia, nor will whole language instruction cause dyslexia

So, in short, phonics instruction will not prevent dyslexia, nor will whole language instruction cause dyslexia, unless dyslexia is defined narrowly as just poor reading, rather than broadly as a genetically-based pattern of delayed development across several fronts, as I understand it to be. While dyslexic children do need to learn phonics at some point, doing so can be very difficult for them unless measures are first taken to address their developmental delays.