Reading problems

April 3, 2014

I think that Julian Elliott has not gone far enough in his criticisms of the dyslexia myth and industry (Letters, 20 March; “Is it time to rethink dyslexia?”, Opinion, 6 March). As a practising teacher encountering a number of near-illiterate children, I have not found “diagnosis of dyslexia” in the least useful. It is not merely stating the obvious. The problem is to find some, however elementary, reading level from which progress can be made with a teacher providing careful attention. Problems are caused by a lack of systematic phonetic instruction, and it is therefore disturbing to see this elementary approach so often derided.

But the idea of dyslexia as some sort of congenital disorder seems false. Reading is (like other acts) a human artifice, not something implanted – or lacking – in the brain. It needs to be taught and learned. Giving support to those with dyslexia seems natural and humane, except that they are given the impression that they “suffer from” some congenital (but benign) disorder not linked to intelligence and therefore need do nothing about it, because it is the duty of the education system to compensate for it.

In Why Our Children Can’t Read and What We Can Do about It, Diane McGuinness examines dyslexia and rejects it as a scientific category: “These studies” (she has examined many) “sound the death knell of ‘dyslexia’ and ‘learning difficulties’ as a category of specific reading retardation. The truth is simply that if a child scores badly on a reading test, he or she has a reading problem…” Exactly.

Nigel Probert
Porthmadog

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