Is dyslexia a useful term?

(43 Posts)
ReallyTired Fri 28-Feb-14 10:02:56

www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-26360655

This bbc link suggests that that the term dyslexia is not useful and that instead all non readers should be given intensive help. I think its fair to give all non readers equal help, but a child needs the RIGHT kind of help. There is no one size fits all to solving reading problems.

Is it better to spend the money on expensive diagnosis or one to one tutition. Could the cost of dyslexia diagnosis be brought down by the use of technology to help teachers? Prehaps a dyslexia test could be given to every four year old, just like a hearing test.

I think that finding out why a child has reading difficulties can help teachers develop effective strageries. For example a severely deaf child with reading difficulties needs different strageries to a hearing child with dyslexia or dysteachia.

rabbitstew Fri 28-Feb-14 12:25:43

The "experts" appear to have no idea whatsoever how state education works and are advocating that things be made worse for everyone.

tryingreallytrying Fri 28-Feb-14 12:49:52

Interested to see responses. Suspect my dh and a dc might well be labelled dyslexic but have so far avoided labelling them as don't feel labels add much value and may be self-fulfilling. Have tried to resolve the specific issues instead, pretty successfully.

I think it is useful given the alternatives in the past have often been "thick" or "lazy". It may be an umbrella term that covers a range of different problems but at least it flags that there is a genuine problem to be dealt with rather than the child being left to feel a failure.

Both of my DS are dyslexic and it has helped their confidence to have a label because they know that their brain just works a bit differently when it comes to reading and spelling but this doesn't mean that they are not able.

wol1968 Fri 28-Feb-14 13:43:26

I think the 'dyslexic' label has actually been really useful in the past. It's a bit of an umbrella term for a variety of reading/writing/language/memory disorders, which proper cognitive testing can uncover in more detail. It's not that dyslexia doesn't 'exist' as such (as anyone with proper knowledge of the field of specific learning difficulties can tell you) but that it's complex and more socially than biologically defined.

Put it this way: isn't it preferable to be labelled dyslexic than lazy, stupid or inattentive, which was what used to happen many years ago? At least the former recognises that a child has his or her own way of learning which might not suit the classroom. I fear that if we drop the 'dyslexic' label too soon, we'll end up labelling a whole lot of kids (not to mention their parents and teachers) as failures instead.

rabbitstew Fri 28-Feb-14 13:47:37

tryingreallytrying - that's great you are resolving specific issues successfully. Have you had to fight particularly hard to get your dc the help you think he/she needs at school? And do you think the absence of a "dyslexia" label will help those parents the "experts" think are currently being let down by the system, because they are not getting their children "labelled" and therefore not getting the help that should be available to everyone???... Or do you think that the "experts" are being somewhat unhelpful, given that whether you label a child or not, you need to understand what their specific issues are in order to help them effectively (one size does not fit all), something which schools do not always seem very clued up about, and which is not generally done by saying that since "dyslexia" is no longer a helpful label, we should stop spending time and money finding out what the causes of a child's problems are and just "give them 1-1 tuition" (which would, presumably be untargeted, if no-one has done any of those expensive assessments to find out why the child is having problems in the first place)? By all means take the "dyslexia" label away if you replace it, at vast expense, with proper assessments for ALL children who are behind with their reading and writing and give ALL of them 1-1 tuition, all on the back of no diagnosis of anything (hah, hah).

TeWiSavesTheDay Fri 28-Feb-14 13:49:25

Dyslexia is not just about learning to read and write.

rabbitstew Fri 28-Feb-14 13:50:27

That's why the experts have a problem with it, TeWi.

wol1968 Fri 28-Feb-14 13:54:17

By all means take the "dyslexia" label away if you replace it, at vast expense, with proper assessments for ALL children who are behind with their reading and writing and give ALL of them 1-1 tuition, all on the back of no diagnosis of anything (hah, hah).

rabbitstew -yes, quite. Shall we join them in cloud cuckoo land? [really need a wry/sceptical smile emoticon]

Finnbheara Fri 28-Feb-14 13:58:24

Since DS was diagnosed as dyslexic I have not heard him once call himself thick - this happened a lot before he was diagnosed despite me knowing and explaining to him that he was dyslexic (as am I). In our case having a label has meant that he understands the problems that he has and recognises that this is not equal to stupid/ lazy but instead different. He doesn't get a lot of help in school because he is not in the bottom 15% unfortunately the system is financially pinched to the extent that as he is not academically struggling he does not need help to reach his actual potential.

horsemadmom Fri 28-Feb-14 13:59:19

I think dyslexia has always been understood as an umbrella term to anyone who understands learning difficulties. But- big BUT- if it's just about teaching why are so many (my DD included) ambidextrous, unable to read a clock, unable to tell left from right. It's neurological and must be understood as such. There have been reams of studies looking at CT scans of dyslexics and they really are wired differently.

Rooners Fri 28-Feb-14 14:00:15

I have a dyslexic child whose reading is well above average. His spelling isn't too bad either.

His writing is awful, his phonological processing is slow and he can't tell the time. Or follow instructions.

I don't think he would benefit much from an intervention based on reading ability alone.

Rooners Fri 28-Feb-14 14:02:26

Same here Finn. School were crap from the start but even if they had tried to help him, there would have been little funding available unless he was really, really bad.

TeWiSavesTheDay Fri 28-Feb-14 14:03:27

Afaic tell there is no point to the 'experts' saying this at all. It's not a perfect diagnosis because so many of the brain related disabilities are co-morbid IMO, so there is a lot of overlapping and variation in symptoms. Just because approaching treatment can be difficult doesn't mean it isn't worth having a label for guidance.

And the daily mail's version of this story was dyslexia is the middle classes not accepting their children are a bit thick...

For what it's worth I have been DX as dyslexic since I was 11, but my mum his it from me until I finished my degree at 21. She thinks she 'proved' I didn't need the label. I am still SO incredibly angry that she denied me the help and understanding of my issues I really needed.

jaffacakesallround Fri 28-Feb-14 14:05:23

There are some schools which do assess/screen for phonic awareness in Yr 1 and the newish phonic assessment is a start in this.

I think the problem with dyslexia is that it covers much more than just literacy or numeracy, and most people who are dyslexic have other problems such as dyspraxia or ADHD, or Aspergers. There is a huge overlap.

Diagnosis does not have to be expensive- there are computer screening programs which work reasonably well at least as a first step.

1:1 is not essential either.
Synthetic phonics is in fact the method of teaching used by dyslexia specialists for years- so the more effectively that schools use this the more ALL children will benefit.

rabbitstew Fri 28-Feb-14 14:07:34

Problem is, we are all neurologically different from each other, so understanding a "dyslexic" is wired differently is no more helpful than understanding they are "dyslexic."

jaffacakesallround Fri 28-Feb-14 14:09:17

I know of Prof Julian Elliott in a professional capacity- he's the researcher from Durham. I don't think he is way off the mark- it's the manner in which his finds are misinterpreted. However, I don't think he 'get's the idea that reading and writing are just one aspect of dyslexia, and afect so much more.
It's also untrue that the term is used too widely- around 1:10 people are dyslexic but many are undiagnosed, so that's 3 in every class. There are degrees of the condition. If you get rid of the term dyslexia then what is going to replace it?

Quite frankly, he likes being controversial and this is what is behind his book.

jaffacakesallround Fri 28-Feb-14 14:13:37

rabbit- that's not quite accurate.
The brain scans look at the acquisition of language skills and memory- they are specific to one part of the brain.

A lot of the work on dyslexia has focused on the cerebellum and how the neurons respond differently.

rabbitstew Fri 28-Feb-14 14:17:07

? what comment of mine are you responding to, jaffacakesallround? In what way is it not accurate to point out that we are all wired differently?

eatyourveg Fri 28-Feb-14 14:22:53

This is the article that the bbc article is talking about

rabbitstew Fri 28-Feb-14 14:22:55

I think if the whole population were brain scanned, a colossal variety of "oddities" would be revealed. It also seems to me that "experts" have implicated the cerebellum in an awful lot in recent years, including schizophrenia and manic depression. Is there a major obsession going on with just one part of the brain in research circles?!!

ReallyTired Fri 28-Feb-14 14:26:41

I wonder if dyslexia is an unbrellla of conditions rather than a non reader with a reasonable IQ. Prehaps a more accurate defining of the problems a child is facing would be more constructive than the rubber stamp of dyslexia or moderate learning difficulties.

"It's also untrue that the term is used too widely- around 1:10 people are dyslexic but many are undiagnosed, so that's 3 in every class. There are degrees of the condition. If you get rid of the term dyslexia then what is going to replace it?"

I think you would need to look at what the child is struggling with. A child with visual perception difficulties would have different problems to a child with auditory processing issues or verbal dypraxia or glue ear. Prehaps we need to design off the shelf approaches that TA can use to improve weak areas. Could webinars be used to help TAs support children with specific learning difficulties better.

Turning matters on its head. Is it helpful to know whether a child has a high or a low IQ? Especially as some pychologist believe that IQ is not fixed.

neolara Fri 28-Feb-14 14:28:32

The problem is the dyslexia is used as an umbrella term to describe a whole range of difficulties. Some people use it only to talk about literacy problems, others use it to talk about kids who have problems remembering stuff, or who can't sequence ideas, or who don't learn their times tables or can't tell the time etc. And all of these things are actually due to different issues.

Also saying someone is "dyslexic" doesn't pinpoint what the actual problem is. Surely it would be much clearer both in terms of diagnosis and then providing suitable strategies to say:
X has a specific difficulty with phonological processing which means that he has trouble blending sounds together when reading and identifiying sounds in words when spelling.
Or
Y has difficulty remembering information that is presented orally, so he will have difficult following discussions in the classroom and complex instructions.
Or
Z has difficulties with understanding the concept of what makes one number different to another (e.g. understanding the oneness of one), and as a result has difficulties with basic maths.
Or
A has difficulties with focusing attention because he was born at 24 weeks and has atypical brain development, and as a result of difficulties with concentration he has made limited progress with literacy.

rabbitstew Fri 28-Feb-14 14:33:51

IQ tests can highlight if a child has issues with memory or processing speeds, and a well trained psychologist will pick up from doing them whether a child might have attention issues, or other reasons for poor or uneven performance. They can also highlight if a child has very uneven scores between verbal and non-verbal IQ, making an overall "IQ score" pretty meaningless. Basically, an IQ score is meaningless, but the details behind it can be quite revealing of the current cognitive functioning of a child who is having unexplained difficulties. Where IQ tests become objectionable is, in my opinion, precisely when people start viewing them as nothing more than ways of pigeon-holing a child for the rest of his or her life.

rabbitstew Fri 28-Feb-14 14:35:36

What I don't understand is people talking about a dyslexia label as though it is just a label that said person then walks about with. A formal diagnosis is always accompanied by a detailed description of the results of tests done and advice on strategies to help. All the label does is force someone to pay attention to the details. Without the label, people ignore the details, because they can't be arsed to read about them...

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