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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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....
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.
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”?
Edit: I dug a little deeper. It's 5-15% of the population.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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'm also really bad at anagrams (and by extension, scrabble). I always wondered if those were related.
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)
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.
What does it mean?
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.
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".
It's closely related to the types of dyslexia that are not caused by cognitive issues, rather issues with the vision.
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.
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'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.
"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.
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.
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.
Dysgraphia is difficulty in encoding (spelling) words.
They aren't mutually exclusive.
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.
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 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)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.