Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Is the label ‘Dyslexia’ unscientific and lacking educational meaning?

Use of the label ‘dyslexia’ should be ditched because it is unscientific and lacks meaning, a new book argues.

Experts said putting young people who are struggling to read through diagnostic tests is ‘wasteful’ because the term lacks educational value.

But their views have been challenged by the Dyslexia Action charity, which insists the term still has meaning and should not be dropped.

In the book The Dyslexia Debate, Prof Julian (Joe) Elliott said parents are being ‘woefully misled’ about the value of a dyslexia diagnosis.

Julian (Joe) Elliott
The author, a professor of education at Durham University, explained: ‘In every country, and in every language, a significant proportion of children struggle to master the skill of reading and some will continue to find it difficult into adulthood.'

‘It is very easy for teachers to identify such children. The hardship and difficulties that typically result are often incapacitating and distressing.'

‘Typically, we search for a diagnostic label when we encounter problems because we believe that this will point to the best form of treatment.'

‘It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the parents and teachers of children with reading difficulties believe that, if the child is diagnosed as dyslexic, clear ways to help them will result. Research clearly demonstrates that this is a grave misunderstanding.’

Elena Grigorenko
His co-author is Prof Elena Grigorenko of Yale School of Medicine. A renowned professor of developmental psychology and genetics.

The book, published next month, is the result of five years’ study by educational experts from Durham and Yale universities.

However, Dyslexia Action insisted the term retained a scientific and educational value.

Dr John Rack, the charity’s head of research, said: ‘We don’t buy the argument that it is wasteful to try to understand the different reasons why different people struggle.

‘For very many, those reasons fall into a consistent and recognisable pattern that it is helpful to call dyslexia.’

Quoting from the flyer that preceded the book;
Elliott and Grigorenko (co-author) consider the latest research in cognitive science, genetics, and neuroscience, and the limitations of these fields in terms of professional action. 
They then provide a more helpful, scientifically rigorous way to describe the various types of reading difficulties and discuss empirically supported forms of intervention.

I believe, writing this blog, that both parties are talking about different things and that Dyslexia Action have reacted defensively to Prof Elliott's press statement, without reading through his work.

We should not lose sight of the needs of the struggling child (reader) in this and although the attachment of a label may give some solace to parents that a 'disorder' has been identified and can now be appropriately addressed, this is not always the case.

We are still a long way from finding a definitive 'treatment' for all forms of Dyslexia, one that can be wholly applied to all readers in all circumstances and will render them 'cured.'

Let's keep our minds open and work collectively to reach this goal.

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