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The Battle over Dyslexia (theguardian.com)
67 points by oska on Sept 17, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 79 comments

> The method for diagnosing dyslexia, known as the discrepancy model, was relatively straightforward: test a child’s IQ and their reading age, and if there was a discrepancy between the two – average-to-high IQ, low literacy – that child was dyslexic. Elliott felt unsure about these assessments. The children he tested for dyslexia all struggled to read and write – that much was clear – but their literacy difficulties manifested in different ways.

I'm a dyslexic, and I was given extra attention is school that significantly helped me. I have a pet theory, and this article seems to agree with it to some extent, that there are several or many different neurological conditions that are often put in the same label 'dyslexia'. I hope that one day more research is done to separate out the different underlying neurological states so we can better teach all children to read. The article's conclusion -- that because dyslexia is an inprecise term we should abandoned it to an even less precise term -- is flawed. We should instead work towards creating more precise language and understanding around the different ways low literacy manifests in children.

If I was an incredibly wealthy technocrat this would be a pet research field of mine. If we can improve childhood literacy education it will have massive returns on that person's lifetime contribution to society. Understanding how the brain processes language also has significant implications for other lines of research as well.

Another dyslexic here, I completely agree with your assessment of the situation and while the article mentions it I don't think it fully grasps it. The definition of dyslexia is basically any difficulty reading that isn't associated with intelligence, eyesight, or education. It is an umbrella definition for a wide variety of both named and unnamed conditions. Of course there isn't going to be a universal way to treat dyslexia because there is not one single cause. Spending extra effort focusing on teaching a dyslexic student is going to help because extra direct teaching to any student is going to help them learn.

Everyone learns slightly differently and that is even more true for students with learning disabilities. A one size fits all approach doesn't work whether we are talking about dyslexic students or the entire student population.

> Spending extra effort focusing on teaching a dyslexic student is going to help because extra direct teaching to any student is going to help them learn.

Nobody is disputing that. The issue is that predicating that extra direct teaching on a dyslexia diagnoses serves to further disadvantage the already disadvantaged. The argument is that extra direct teaching should be provided to anyone who has difficulty reading, regardless of diagnosis.

I basically answered that here.


The extra direct teaching is only one benefit of the diagnosis. The better approach is to get those kids diagnosed so they can get those benefits too.

> I'm a dyslexic, and I was given extra attention is school that significantly helped me.

And I suspect that is probably true for most "dyslexics".

I have a pet suspicion that there is an actual dyslexia but that most diagnoses are simply a manifestation of 2 standard deviations of "everybody's brain is wired slightly differently and some things require more effort."

One of my relatives is really good at mathematical theoretical physics (probably better than I am, and I am no slouch), but doesn't read or write very well. I find it very difficult that someone who manipulates symbols that well has "dyslexia". More probably, he needed to devote more energy to reading but never did because he found it difficult.

Unfortunately, our current education system is not set up to handle any student who is outside one standard deviation of "normal" on any dimension.

Sorry I’m going to disagree with you here.

I was diagnosed with Dyslexia as child but was also always very good with maths.

I remember actually really wanting to be able to read but just not being able to get it.

After being moved to a class which catered for this and with extra help I managed to eventually be able to start reading.

I generally read quiet a bit averaging at least a book a week. From your statement that should mean that the symptoms of dyslexia should be fixed but they aren’t.

I still struggle with writing and spelling. Yes, I have put effort in, but I still struggle.

The best way I can describe it that I'm blind to the errors. With the sentence structures once it's pointed out I can see them sometimes but not before.

My intelligence is on the higher end and I got through an engineer degree, which you don't do if you don't put the effort in.

Thankfully tools like Grammarly are helping. If not for my sake then at least for people who have to read what I write

And only 3 standard deviations is actually a disability?

2SD vs 3SD is a big deal in biological organisms.

If we look at height, that's a 6'7"/5'1" male or a 6'1"/4'8" female.

At those numbers, the probability that there is a medical issue--malnourishment/endocrine problems/Marfan's syndrome, etc.--starts being non-trivial.

We do have a term: slow to learn to read. We don't need dyslexia or some more specific term unless those terms can be used for better treatment. In this case dyslexia is too specific: kids who don't fit the definition are being actively harmed because the treatment would help them just as much as it fit those who it helps.

It may well be dyslexia (or a more specific term) may mean some other treatment can be helpful only for those who have it, and not for the general population of poor readers. This hasn't been suggested (to my knowledge), but it is possible.

Though I will note that the definition of Autism has gotten broader over time as treatments have been discovered to help kids who didn't fit the previous definition.

> We do have a term: slow to learn to read.

There are dozens of reasons a child can be slow to learn how to read. They could have not have access to education. They could has poor eye sight. They could be malnourished. They could have difficulties learning in general. Dyslexia means "Slow to learn how to read, despite no obvious influencing factors." It's a bit of a catch-all. There might be treatments for dyslexic children that also help other children learn how to read, but it's likely that non-dyslexic children will need treatments that will not apply to dyslexic children.

Dyslexia has more than 3 million cases in the US every year. It's common. When given the right treatments their quality of life can be improved greatly. I do not want to remove the classification of dyslexic, because it might jeopardize the way those children receive treatment.

EDIT: "Dyslexia has more than 3 million cases in the US every year." You can see the dyslexia in my writing style right there....

The point is not that dyslexia treatments don't help dyslexic kids; it's that those treatments help all kids that struggle with literacy, regardless of cause.

Some kids struggling to read because they "don't have access to education" or are malnourished is as much (or more) of a problem than wealthy kids struggling to read because of a neurological condition.

The article says it all: Dyslexia is a label that is being used to divert special needs funding from disadvanted struggling kids to wealthy struggling kids. No-one denies that all these kids are struggling, and that the special attention does help them with that struggle.

“Dyslexia has more than 3 million cases in the US every year.”

If interpreted as “3 million _new_ cases every year, and dyslexia being incurable, with a life expectancy of 70 years, that would mean way over half the population of the USA would be dyslexic.

I seriously doubt that. So, what do you mean by “every year”?

I typed "dyslexia" into Google, and on the side bar overview it says "More than 3 million US cases per year"

Edit: I dug a little deeper. It's 5-15% of the population. http://www.ldonline.org/article/10784/

Dyslexia also has an IQ component which means those with low IQ are not dyslexic even if they otherwise have the same symptoms.

Perhaps the definition needs to change?

Note the above is from the article which is focused on the UK. It could be different in other countries.

> Dyslexia also has an IQ component which means those with low IQ are not dyslexic even if they otherwise have the same symptoms.

A person with IQ 100 (or whatever the mean IQ is) learning to read slower than average is different than a person with IQ 60 learning to read slower than average. You cannot completely remove the IQ component.

Their point might be that the ability to read, has a non-zero influence on how intelligence as well knowledge; both of which are what IQ tests try to measure. The two signal values are related to an unknown degree.

And it shouldn't really. Assuming dyslexia is the result of structural differences in how the brain operates and not simply that a person is behind the curve on reading ability.

If say dyslexia behind the scenes looked something like the difference between being left handed or right handed, a persons natural athletic skill (IQ) might improve their odds of throwing a good right handed pass yet regardless of athletic skill their outcomes would be better throwing left handed.

It no longer has an IQ component. (This is described in the article).

But doesn't the article make the case that both of your example children need the same treatment?

Exactly but some don't get it because they miss the dyslexic diagnosis even though the same treatment would help if they could get it.

Personally getting diagnosed with dyslexia was a huge help to me. Like the article mentions it allows a mindset change when you can put a name to why you can't do something despite a tremendous amount of effort that other people can seemingly do easily. It also becomes a valuable tool to help protect yourself when needed. There were multiple times in my elementary and middle school years in which the ADA needed to be evocated on my behalf in defense against two specific bad teachers I had over those years. I wouldn't have gotten the accommodations and help I needed if the initial diagnose was just "slow to learn to read".

Side note, this was only possible because my parents knew the system, my mom was a teacher, and they had the resources and wherewithal to fight on my behalf. I can certainly see how not having that helps contribute to the inequality talked about in the article. I can also see how parents looking for any advantage for their child might abuse that system. However I don't think the potential for abuse warrants throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Instead of throwing out the benefits that you got from a dyslexia diagnosis, couldn't those benefits be also given to all students with with reading troubles? That's what the article is saying. I bet those bad teachers were also harmful to many other students with reading troubles.

Yes and no. As both I and others have said elsewhere in this tread, with the broad definition of dyslexia "students with reading troubles" who will most benefit from extra instruction have dyslexia whether they are diagnosed or not. Getting those kids properly diagnosed is therefore a better strategy because that comes with added benefits that aren't directly related to teaching like the legal protections and the internal psychological benefits I mentioned and that were mentioned in the article. Without that diagnosis, it is easy for the child and the child's peers to view it as a problem with intelligence which can be damaging mentally.

I've always had great difficulty with remembering things that are not associated with any sort of understanding I could acquire.

Remembering things like names of countries, capitals, seas, rivers for geography class required tremendous effort from me to achieve barely passable result (and to pass I also had to exploit an error that teacher made). All despite me having IQ in top 1% of population.

I'm sure if I was diagnosed with dysrememberia or something this would have been tremendous help to me. But nobody invented such condition. So I just had to accept that I'm just at low end of ability to remember data unconnected to any sense-making.

The system is rigged though and to pass maturity exam I had to ensure dysortography diagnosis for myself so my spelling (which I suck at as well) was ignored while grading.

I was diagnosed, with dyslexia, dyscalculia and disgraphia, although for better or worse I also tested as profoundly gifted.

I think it boils down to, is there a structural difference in the brain that if studied can give insights into learning differences and optimal approaches to addressing learning differences and potential areas where a person with dyslexia or some underlying structural difference might have natural advantages. Such as the theory that dyslexics tend to think visual-spatially rather than lexically which could be advantageous for various engineering and business disciplines where being able to easily think about complex structures from different angles is beneficial.

Although the remedial approaches to addressing difficulties in reading may work equally well for individuals who experience difficulties for disparate causes, if there is in fact an opportunity to glean information on these types of fundamental difference in how the mind works that would likely pay dividends as the students progress into higher education and their careers.

I am dyslexic When I am writing sql queries other than trivial SELECTS, I visualise them and some times draw out the sets involved.

I find i'm normally a little better at grasping how all of the components work together on large systems than others.

> Though I will note that the definition of Autism has gotten broader over time...

If dyslexia became broader in the manner Autism has, it would simply be going back to its Greek origin, which is already roughly "bad at reading."

Bi-lingual kids can be in similar cases, especially when character sets are different. Some are fluent reader in one of the language, but have a hard time in the other, skipping or misreading characters as the parsing is completely different.

I talked to a school teacher trying to have a kid labeled as dyslexic because it would make everything easier to ask for extra time to follow the kid, get out of class hours with a specialist etc.

Its not just dyslexia as a single thing any more dyslexia is one of a group of neurodiverse conditions.

As someone who was diagnosed with dyslexia, and went to a special school because of it, a lot of things in this article brought back memories.

I'm unsure how others are taught to read or spell, but the school I went to used an almost extended alphabet. Where combinations of english letters like CH were taught as if they were the roots of spelling.

It did seem to work I went from three grades under my reading level to three grades over in one year.

Effects linger on, the feeling of wanting to use a word I can't spell, unintentionally mispronouncing words, and the inability to understand a word from spoken letters("L-I-K-E-T-H-I-S") are all things I deal with.

I was lucky to be born when I was, as computers entered the picture while in middle school. Spell check, text to speech, and text based communication via IM all contributed to getting my writing skills to their current level. The removal of stress from having to spell freed mental capacity for me to just worry about the actual content instead.

I'm dyslexic and my learning to read happened in a burst from ages 11 to 13. I got a lot of extra attention at school which was mostly around drilling phonics, like shhh sounds with ti, si, ci. And learning strategies on decomposing words.

One one of the really impactful things I did that contributed to large improvements in my reading and spelling was working on a computer based system. It had you type words that you watched change color on screen whilst TTS spoke the word back to you. This was combining fine motor control, visual perception and hearing into all into how I was learning. It was a game changer for me. At the time, mid nineties this would have been pretty cutting edge software in the education world. I'm not sure what things are like now but I was thinking about it the other day just how lucky i was with that.

I think a lot of reading difficulties could have been alleviated if teachers just abandoned prejudice against phonics.

> I was lucky to be born when I was, as computers entered the picture while in middle school.

It makes sense that you felt relieved when computers could compensate for your reading difficulties by reading and spelling for you.

On a different track, do you know of any computer based learning applications for teaching dyslexic diagnosed people to improve their reading and/or spelling abilities?

The article seemed to say that there isn't a magic method, which probably explains why the contentious debates reported in the article exist. But it also says that those who get into the program do improve their abilities, through more intense teacher led instruction.

I'm wondering if this form of instruction been automated at all?

Could it be?

What is the state of the art of literacy education software?

I was always a strong reader as a kid and have never had issues with spelling, or anything that would hint at dyslexia, but the spoken letter things is one of (in my opinion) my greatest weaknesses. I'm super visual and consider myself to have a really strong "minds eye", but for some reason the moment people start spelling something out loud, it's just mush. I've thought about it so much in recent years that I've considered just practicing with videos or a writing a program to do it to see if it's something I can eradicate.

Yeah I have a similar inability to put together a word from letters being spoken to me.

I'm also really bad at anagrams (and by extension, scrabble). I always wondered if those were related.

I don’t believe I have dyslexia but I have the hardest time mentally (air spelling) multisyllabic words. Something like “Dinosaur”. But jotting it down is no problem.

"He also believes that the current system entrenches inequality, because children from poorer backgrounds tend to be less likely to be diagnosed with dyslexia."

So if I'm taking away what I should from this article, the biggest problem they have with "dyslexia" is that there's inequality and there's not a good way to diagnose it? In the end they say anyone struggling with reading should get extra help, dyslexia or not. I'm sure they experts know better than I do, but dyslexia seems like SOMETHING more than just having big problems with reading. Even if it's hard to diagnose and that diagnosis is inconsistent and expensive (and therefore not fair) it still seems like a useful diagnosis, especially in school aged kids. My son is taking a second round of tests next week, so I'm in the middle of this right now. It's been interesting, people said "expect to fight with the school" and our school has been GREAT. I guess we got lucky.

It closes with this:

"Back in 1976, Bill Yule wrapped up his Isle of Wight research with the following observation: “The era of applying the label ‘dyslexic’ is rapidly drawing to a close"

(thank you for posting this, oska, it's perfect timing for me)

I’m paid to manage a penguin farm.

Weak penguins need additional feeding. Thin penguins are just thin.

But there’s no objective criteria to tell weak from thin. And I have a budget.

Now, my penguins happen to have owners. But they don’t pay for their penguin, they pay into the penguin system.

That is extremely cool. Poetry.

What does it mean?

The inequality is not the root for why they are arguing that we should stop using "dyslexia" but because it they say dyslexia outright doesn't exist.

The inequality issue is that a spurious classification of children that gives access to better resources but is only available to parents that have the time/money/influence to get a diagnosis for their kids. The point is that having a incorrect label is not just a harmless historical idea but something that we should be motivated to eliminate in favor of a more truthful (and equitable) system.

No its a way to not support neurodiverse kids in schools and save £££ is why local authorities love this guy.

> I'm sure they experts know better than I do, but dyslexia seems like SOMETHING more than just having big problems with reading.

What difference would that be? The article seems to be saying that no-one can consistently diagnose any such distinction, and the same treatments work equally well for people who are diagnosed dyslexic versus "just having big problems with reading".

Some cases of dyslexia are caused by the ear crystals being loose which will cause balance issues and it can be fixed with some balancing exercises. One of the pioneering researches is a Finnish docent called Tapani Rahko who studied the issues back in 2003.

Presumably Gwyneth Paltrow sells the crystals on her website

Laugh it up, but it's real. Your utricle contains calcium crystals called canaliths which are basically used by your body as a gyroscope, informing the brain of the angle your head is in. This is why an ear infection or damage to the ear can cause balance issues like vertigo and nausea as the body cannot properly detect the angle you're in. Same reason why we also have motion sickness.

It's closely related to the types of dyslexia that are not caused by cognitive issues, rather issues with the vision.

I'm surprised Astigmastism is not mentioned: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astigmatism

Astigmatism is fairly common in the population, results in blurry vision which impacts reading and thus impacts education. It often also results in behavioral issues from the frustration caused in kids with blurry vision who don't know how to express that's the problem.

Anecdotal experience of a couple family members who struggled, once their Astigmatism was corrected they went on to excel.

Testing for vision issues such as astigmatism is usually performed before some one is proclaimed to be dyslexic.

Dyslexic here. I don't know how universal it is, but I definitely was receiving eye tests in school before reading tests which lead to a misdiagnosis. I was only 6 or 7 so I don't remember if it was specifically astigmatism or some other eye condition, but I was misdiagnosed as having eye problems a year before I was finally diagnosed with dyslexia.

My daughter has dyslexia and an IEP in place to get her the assistance she needs. Before the school system would designate her as having a specific learning disability, a requirement to have an IEP, they required vision, hearing, reading comprehension and a battery of other reading related testing to help identify her specific reading deficiency

After she was identified as dyslexic she began a specialized reading program targeted at those with dyslexia. Unlike as mentioned in the article it is not the same reading program they assign to others who are "slow readers". This has helped her move from 2 years behind in reading to now being ahead of grade in reading. Unfortunately her spelling although improved is still a mess and likely will be for life as it is for many with dyslexia.

I'm glad for your daughter and you. The testings to get a diagnosis can certainly be complicated and stressful for both the child and parents. However you are all through the worst of it once you get that diagnosis and your daughter is caught up or exceeded her peers. And while it is true that she will be dealing with some of the challenges associated with dyslexia her whole life, the good news is that modern society has shifted to de-emphasize some of those issues. Spellcheck, text to speech, and speech to text are near universal now and are a huge boon to the ongoing life with dyslexia.

The debate seems to be around whether the word dyslexia should be used, but the condition --- however named --- exists anyway. The proposed phrase "struggling with reading comprehension" is no less broad, or actually more broad, than _dyslexia_, and in my opinion brings no additional value to the situation.

I've known a person diagnosed with Dyslexia, and he was simultaneously one of the most well-read, eloquent person I'd known, and the most struggling with spelling. Even words he had to write daily (being a teacher and all), he couldn't spell with high accuracy.

If you tell me, he was just "struggling" with spelling, that's no different than telling me a myopic person is just "struggling" to see, or a person with a club foot is just "struggling" to walk.

Of course, I don't object that there are difficulties in the diagnosis or even a precise definition of dyslexia. But, to me, that sounds like we need more research to understand what's happening. If you want me to believe that the condition alltogether doesn't exist, I'd like to see some more evidence.

"the condition --- however named --- exists anyway"

"Even words he had to write daily (being a teacher and all), he couldn't spell with high accuracy."

It is not clear to me what that "condition" would mean in China, where "spelling" is not an issue (or at least has a completely different meaning than it does in English) and where it is relatively common for people to be able to read characters but fail to remember how to write them. It is also unclear to me how anyone could have a "condition" in which they struggle to spell if we did not have arbitrary spelling conventions i.e. if we used a purely phonetic writing system.

None of this is to say that there is no truly "universal" concept of dyslexia i.e. a neurological difficulty involving difficulty connecting symbols to meaning. In fact this article suggests that such a thing does exist and can be observed across various writing systems:


A telling sentence from the conclusion: "It is important to note, however, that prevalence rate is highly sensitive to the criteria used to define dyslexia..." I would argue that a "true" medical/psychological condition should not be so dependent on specific cultural practices like spelling rules.

> It is not clear to me what that "condition" would mean in China

If you said so because I'm Chinese and you wonder what I meant, in this specific example, I'm talking about a British person writing English. You know, a good number of people in China also write English all the time. ;)

With regards to Chinese characters, not only do people forget how to write characters sometimes, but also some people do have problems recognizing mis-written characters, e.g. a missing stroke, an extra stroke, etc.

> It is also unclear to me how anyone could have a "condition" in which they struggle to spell if we did not have arbitrary spelling conventions.

I agree, if hypothetically there is only one way to pronounce words, and only one way to spell a syllable, this would be less of a problem, as the person can deduce the correct spelling if memory fails. There are still other factors, like speed and error rate, that the hypothetical language might not solve.

Although, I imagine it would be hard to replace the natural languages in human society at this point.

> I would argue that a "true" medical/psychological condition should not be so dependent on specific cultural practices like spelling rules.

If the actual cause of the condition is triggered by a specific cultural practice, I don't see why the condition cannot be referring to such practice.

It would be similar to how when a condition is caused by occupational practices, its medical description will refer to the occupational practices.

At this point, we don't have a universal definition dyslexia, and I don't think that's because the is cultural specific, but simply that we don't know what's happening. Our recognition of the condition is quite superficial, and even within a single language, a universal and precise definition has not yet been contrived.

The article is talking about two things simultaneously that really need should be talked about separately, or at least in order- the technical criteria for diagnosing an learning disability and the policy response to it.

It might be that any reading difficulty, whether it is someone who test to a high IQ reading below expectation or just generalized below grade level, has the same cause/treatment. It doesn't make it any less important to identify, treat, and accommodate it.

This article talks about some specific, strong policy responses that sound unique to the UK and are very expensive. In the US, a family member was diagnosed with dyslexia in early high school and all that was provided was 30% more time on tests. And you know what? It was enough to let him significantly increase his grades. In his advanced classes he'd consistently been the only person in his class to not finish timed tests, not because he didn't know the material but because he was a slower reader (and writer) than the rest of the class.

The article seems to want to do away with the diagnosis of "dyslexia" entirely, because it has lead to inequities in the past, rather than revamp it to be more inclusive of general reading comprehension issues. That seems wrong to me. Dyslexia and other educational disability diagnoses provide a "cheat sheet" for more individualized education and have value. That it is more a symptom than a disease in and of itself doesn't make it any less real for people afflicted.

The exact policy response (special schools, extra tutoring, or just extra time on tests) are far more debatable, especially given the limited resources of any educational system. I wish the article had given more thought to it not being an all or nothing change.

I really like powersnail's comparisons to physical ailments. We understand that many causes may lead to a single symptom- for example, being wheelchair bound. Yet that symptom is real and worthy of accommodation.

Dyslexia is in part difficulty in decoding (reading) words.

Dysgraphia is difficulty in encoding (spelling) words.

They aren't mutually exclusive.

I was diagnosed with “light dyslexia” as a kid (way back in the late eighties) and it benefitted me modestly (I was already in a highly selective private school). I went from the lowest rung of reading ability to the highest in a matter of months, based on little more than parental campaigning and settling into the general gait of those whose company I was placed in.

I totally agree with this article’s two claims: that the disease is a mirage (not even a cluster of issues that provide similar symptoms) and that public policy needs to be broadly revised to not depend upon hitting some abstract set of criteria in order to qualify for tailored help that largely assists any student.

I’ll end my contentious statement by pointing out that a significant bias exists amongst all those who are providing personal anecdata because they consider themselves legitimately systemic once the criteria are deemed to have been fulfilled once by at least one partitioner, but do not retire their diagnosis if other practitioners disagree.

I object a tiny bit to the article's assertion that inequality is the category's fault.

If we got rid of dyslexia as a category, there is still going to have to be prioritization between different kids based on their relative abilities, there are still going to need to be tests to determine whether someone is struggling enough to need free assistance and access to special resources. If you just get rid of the category but don't address the systemic problems of people being able to pay for diagnosis, then you haven't solved anything. Because that category doesn't go away just because it's called something else. The category is, "who is getting special access to resources, and who is considered functional enough to leave where they are?"

It's the prioritization and diagnosis that sounds broken, not the word.

What these people should be campaigning for is to expand dyslexia to cover more kids who don't fit into the tidy, innacurate IQ box, and to set up more impartial diagnosis methods that aren't as subject to monetary abuse. The dyslexia critics are quick to point out that they're not trying to get rid of resources, they're trying to expand access. But the only way that getting rid of designations would be an equalizer is if it's exactly the scenario that dyslexic kids/parents are worried about -- that nobody gets resources or special attention any more; that the category itself stops existing.

If these researchers genuinely do want to help people, then I don't get what their end goal is -- it sounds like they're just playing pedantic word games. Just expand access, why is worth worrying about what word people use?

I mean, what should we call the category that describes, "child with a reading disability that needs special attention and extra government resources from the limited budget we have?" How about the word that's already widely used that pretty much everybody already understands? How is it helpful to anyone to have this fight instead of just expanding the existing category to fit more people?

I hazard that this is one of those places where everyone is anecdata, and doing the maths (well.. statistics) underpinning this, is going to be the main problem for choosing rational paths out. At 5-15% of the population, its got significant economic consequences. The investment of dollars in education and child psychology, research, teaching, will pay back. So it should be a no-brainer, but people are going to get tied up in knots on the anecdata, instead of the underlying trends.

I also think that like "headache" its a symptom label, not an underlying causative statement. There are many fake cures of headaches, and some which work, some of the time, for some specific causes of headaches. If you label it migraine, it doesn't get any better because again, its a symptom label more than an actual specific thing much of the time.

Dyslexia not having a single root cause won't admit of a single fix.

I don't doubt reading difficulties exist. I'm a bibliophile, and live surrounded by books since childhood, but now read almost exclusively my kindle and my reading behaviours have changed, and not entirely for the better. I skim read since childhood, and re-read books frequently, discovering new meaning missed in the previous skims. This has upsides, (the pleasure of re-reading is enhanced: new things!) and downsides (it infuriates the authors of detailed, dense writing of substance who need me to read it properly and recall it to engage with them in work)


This way of thinking makes way more sense. A lot of human abilities are quite independent and lie on a spectrum. IQ correlates with some of them to a certain degree, but picking one and an arbitrary cutoff line of how much correlation with IQ is broken, and calling it a specific disorder is a bit much.

Some people are less able to learn to read and write, some are less able to recognize people, or remember names or faces, or detect emotions. We should develop mechanism for them to improve and cope with what they can't improve, but labelling it an illness doesn't feel right if there are no weird, specific additional symptoms that might indicate common, specific unnatural source of their difficulties that might have been a target for specific treatment.

Article seems to be by a cherry picked outsider to allow the powers that be dodge their requirement to support neurodiverse students.

Also the article is using decades old definitions of dyslexia as difficulty reading and an average or high IQ

And the journalist doesn't have a background in disability reporting "Sirin Kale is a London-based journalist specialising in women's rights, politics, music, lifestyle, and culture"

Having a non expert waltz in and comment on say the BLM / Institutional Racism would not be acceptable in 2020.

My impression from the article is that they want all students who struggle to read to be supported, not just those from wealthy backgrounds

This is rather unlikely result of message that will morph into "dyslexia is fake" when spread.

Which is the intention no doubt

As a neurodiverse person this is not the impression I got this is and out of date and a single fringe persons view. They don't even use the more modern holistic view of dyslexia as one of a spectrum of conditions.

Exactly the sort of person that the current UK and US administrations love "classic Dom" as they say.

This is a very problematic piece by the guardian - if this was about BLM and used a 1950's/60's view point / terminology the guardian would be getting crucified

The case study was interesting. Those diagnosed in England get support from local government by covering cost of private school at £20k a year. Looking at the incentives, governments don't want lots of people diagnosed as it costs them. £20k is a huge amount of money in the UK, top universities (Oxbridge) cost around £10k a year. I could see why many would not get the support they need and go undiagnosed.

I'm surprised the article only mentions in passing the aspect of dyslexia that I always heard as the defining condition, that letters get easily mixed up or moved around (I'm no expert, nor dyslexic, although I had some friends in school who were). Is that the issue for most people with dyslexia or is that just a pop-culture simplification?

It's just a simplification, many people experience dyslexia differently, but for some people with dyslexia that may be a good way to describe to someone what they experience. It's not actually a medical diagnosis, though can achieve the qualifications to test for it, it's a learning disability that doesn't have a well understood physilogical mechanism behind it.

For me I was slow to learn to read, and was in remedial classes until halfway through elementary school, but I was eventually able to get it down and am now a very active reader with an average reading pace. Spelling was the issue that never went away for me. When I try to spell a word I can remember the general set of letters it's composed of, but knowing the precise order, or if a word ends in one or two ls, are things I really struggle with. I'm constantly having to look up the same words over and over, It just doesn't stick.

My first job was a short term remote developing contract. My coworkers thought I was foreign for the first few weeks because of my poor spelling in code comments. It's better when I have access to good spelling or grammar checkers, but often times I misspell a word so completely that even the software has no idea what I'm trying to say. I also still mess up you're/your and their/there/they're all the time. In my head words are auditory not visual, so I have to put extra effort into resolving homophones.

> My first job was a short term remote developing contract. My coworkers thought I was foreign for the first few weeks because of my poor spelling in code comments. It's better when I have access to good spelling or grammar checkers, but often times I misspell a word so completely that even the software has no idea what I'm trying to say. I also still mess up you're/your and their/there/they're all the time. In my head words are auditory not visual, so I have to put extra effort into resolving homophones.

I'd actually say these kinds of mistakes are often a good indication of someone being highly fluent in a language.

Isn't it more natural to write things as they're spoken rather than obey a bunch of arbitrary rules?

When you learn an initially foreign language you're much more likely to pay attention to these "rules" as you don't know any better. If you speak the language well already, you will care much less whether or not your serialization of speech into writing obeys rules exclusive to that domain.

Don't have any data on this but wouldn't be surprised if "dyslexia" shows up much less in people's second languages.

I actually learned Dutch as an adult, I'm around a B1/B2 level. I did actually notice my dyslexia at least felt like less of an issue in Dutch. Since I learned mostly through reading, I learned new words in their written form, and then had to learn rules for how to translate them into their spoken form. Pretty much the exact opposite of how you learn your native language. It also may feel like less of an issue because I don't use it nearly as often as English, and because it is a second language, so I'm not nearly as hard on myself for any mistakes I make.

I wonder if "dyslexia" is at all related to the way we teach children to read? This thread[1] from a few months back comes to mind.


In the 70s, when dyslexia had a jump in 'popularity' (according to google ngram too), an education psychologist I knew had a curious experience.

There was a television program about this thing called dyslexia. In the following weeks and months, many parents came to him to announce that their child had dyslexia and must be treated specially.

I guess this is not actually that curious. In the sense that conditions seem to be contracted via mass media ... and now social media.

While that exists, it also happens that people are under diagnosed for somewhat rare conditions. If you don't know you have a condition it cannot be treated. If you have an explained symptom that your doctor can't explain and suddenly you find an explanation it is correct to see the doctor who understands it enough to diagnose you.

Of course the above gives quack a start, once you can explain something with BS you can spread it for money. I don't have a solution.

The font Verdana has been the best thing for me. None of the 'dyslexia fonts' have been desirable. You might need to increase the size a little (depending on how the UI renders it) but it's very enjoyable to me.

I tend to even switch words when I read my kids because the font isn't normal to me, as opposed to when I'm on a computer.

I was never diagnosed, but I was a very slow reader in first grade and my daughter was exactly the same. The problem is that we read 3 words at a time when most people only read 1 word at a time. It takes longer to get good at but once you do you are a faster reader.

What is unclear to me is why these schools have to be private, and why they have to be expensive?

Dyslexia is fake

And you base your statement on what exactly?


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