Sunday, November 21, 2010

Six myths about dyslexia II

The second myth on which Susan Godsland focuses is that 'dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that can be readily diagnosed by an educated professional'.
As she quite rightly points out, until recently it was standard practice among educational psychologists to use the 'IQ/achievement discrepancy diagnosis'. As the descriptor suggests, it was thought that if a child had a high IQ or was a high achiever but at the same time had failed to learn to read, the child was dyslexic: QED!
As little evidence was produced to support this measurement, the dyslexia lobby dropped it and instead claimed that in fact dyslexia could be 'found across the range of intellectual abilities'.
The problem with this is exactly the same: no-one has ever produced any scientifically valid evidence for the hypothesis and the more focused the analysis of the various claims, the fuzzier the definition seems to get, so that dyslexia is now described as being on a continuum.
What all of this boils down to is, as Susan shrewdly and diplomatically encapsulates it, that 'all dyslexia diagnoses are presently based purely on professional judgement (opinion) or intuition (guesswork)'.
I can't help thinking that like so many other ideas - right-brain/left-brain dominated people, kinaesthetic/visual learners, for instance – dyslexia is just cod science. This doesn't mean that being unable to read isn't a very serious handicap for lots of people; it is! However, to situate the problem within the individual is not the way to look at it. The answer lies in the methods by which children are taught, which can help prevent or accelerate the development of many potential reading problems.
So, we come back again to the importance of training teachers in a method that works.

1 comment:

elsiep said...

Dyslexia is not so much 'cod science' as a broad descriptive term for reading difficulties *not* resulting from poor teaching, poor motivation or lack of opportunity, that has, over the years become reified into a developmental 'condition'. Such reading difficulties might indeed be caused by a developmental condition, or more likely several conditions. We don't know yet.

Appropriate interventions for children who have great difficulty learning to read will be determined by the nature of the difficulty. Clearer definition of terms, clearer thinking, and a better knowledge of the literature would go a long way to sorting out this problem.