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Is dyslexia a useful term?

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

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.

nataliabuckler Fri 28-Mar-14 06:40:24

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

Shootingatpigeons Sun 02-Mar-14 17:19:17

Worth setting out here how OFQUAL moved the goalposts on extra time, and how prejudice and politics have been allowed to affect the chances of Dyslexic pupils. In the past extra time was granted on the basis of the Ed Psych assessment and the evidence of need built up by the school. My DD was therefore given extra time for GCSE. She moved schools for A level and we were told with weeks to go that on the basis of her existing Ed Psych assessment she would lose the extra time at A level. That was because though she has evidence of need records going back to Year 5 and a writing speed at the 10th percentile her working memory and processing scores were in the average range, though that represents a considerable gap with the scores you would predict given her reasoning scores, that gap being the basis for a diagnosis. OFQUAL have now made extra time dependent on having below average WM and P scores. As it happens we needed a new assessment for university applications so we bought it forward and in that assessment her scores fell into the below average range so she didn't lose extra time but many pupils did, and will. The Dyslexia charities and organisations representing selective indies, whose pupils are more likely to be affected have challenged OFQUAL but they argue "all pupils would benefit from extra time" hmm

However as the Ed Psych advised what OFQUAL have done, in making extra time dependent on below average WM and P scores, is to depart from the principal of levelling the playing field, since for very bright pupils average WM and P scores will represent a disability but for those of lower ability it is what you would expect. It is back to conflating Dyslexia and other Specific Learning Difficulties with being thick, and it is also pandering to the prejudice that rising numbers of pupils with a diagnosis are down to pushy parents and bent Ed Psychs hmm not to the fact that pupils with a problem are more likely to get a diagnosis and the appropriate support.

Which is why this research which will add grist to those prejudices is dangerous


tryingreallytrying Sun 02-Mar-14 16:58:10

not in itself a solution

tryingreallytrying Sun 02-Mar-14 16:57:47

But I have certainly taught students who hid behind the label and used it to justify not trying. Definitely better for their self-esteem than hiding behind a label of naughty or stupid but not in itself a situation - only useful if students are not allowed to use it as a justification for not trying and instead take advantage of support offered.

tryingreallytrying Sun 02-Mar-14 16:53:59

rabbitstew - dc did have extra time at KS2 SATs thanks to excellent teacher who agree with me on the issues and optometrist's report. Don't know whether this will apply at GCSE level - new school is aware and gives a little extra support but know the govt has changed the goal posts making it harder to get extra time anyway. As dc is bright enough to do well despite the issue don't think would now qualify for extra time under new rules?

And no, I don't expect any help from the state - and with our support dc has moved beyond the point where it is obvious except to those aware of potential.

manicinsomniac Sun 02-Mar-14 16:33:37

I agree rabbit, the 'label' of dyslexia really helps the students I teach who struggle with 'it' (whatever 'it' may prove to be in the future).

All children, ime, know what dyslexia is and accept it as a reason why another child might help with something in class, just as they would accept that a short child might need help from a taller child in reaching something off a tall shelf.

rabbitstew Sun 02-Mar-14 16:19:20

In terms of a label being a self-fulfilling prophecy, it seems to me that people labelled dyslexics are doing much better these days than they did in the past, when many of them were labelled stupid, instead.

I presume, tryingreallytrying, that your dc's difficulties are not severe enough that you would ever need to ask for extra time in exams? And that you do not anticipate needing to ask the state to help fund any of the help you can currently afford to pay for?

Shootingatpigeons Sun 02-Mar-14 16:05:49

Trying Well in the case of my DD it has had the opposite effect. She has realised that with hard work she can achieve. She might have given up if she had thought she was just as her ignorant Junior School Headmistress put it "an overenthusiastic puppy falling over herself" in terms of her social interactions and work, rather than knowing it is because she is dyspraxic with all that entails. She was given extra time in the selection exams which enabled her to get into a very selective school as well, and the "label" may have helped the universities she has applied to to appreciate that she has worked extremely hard, harder than her peers, to get the AS results she achieved.

tryingreallytrying Sun 02-Mar-14 14:12:33

rabbitstew - not totally sure I understand your question to me. Dh was keen not to give our dc a label as he was worried about it turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy eg not picking up a book because 'reading is hard for me' type thing. As it is, in the case of my dc, it was clear that the issue was visual so that was where my focus and limited amounts of cash went rather than on getting an official diagnosis. Maybe if we'd had the cash to pay for an assessment AND treatment, or if the specific issue had been less obvious, I'd have fought more for a diagnosis, ie a label, though tbh can see dh's point about it giving kids an 'excuse' to underperform - I've certainly taught kids that applied to.

gardenfeature Sat 01-Mar-14 18:15:52

Lovely post Nocomet. I totally agree and the description of your DD is very close to that of my DS. Junior school had him on the bottom table which was where his literacy level was at, but way way off where his intellectual level was at. Thankfully secondary school have seen beyond the spelling mistakes and he's now in top set English where he belongs. There are lots of famous dyslexic writers out there!

Nocomet Sat 01-Mar-14 14:05:56

I total agree that all children with reading reading difficulties tend to benefit from the same type of interventions from 4.5 - 6.5 ish, but then there start to be very marked differences.

Most lower ability DCs will learn to read, write and spell more slowly and less well than their peers, but they do learn and at much the same speed as they learn maths, history and science. This is quite different to the group DCs who have literacy difficulties, but are obviously bright pick up everything else quite easily.

For all that dyslexia is an imprecise umbrella term it has come to encompass all those DCs like my DD1 and that lovely articulate boy in the film. DCs who have often have very specific areas of difficulty with reading, writing and/or spelling and also may have other things that they find hard.

DD1 can't do times tables, analogue clocks and making friends (she mixes names and faces and fails to pick up social cues), but talk science with her and she is as bright as they come.

For her her dyslexia label is necessary to get the sort of help she needs and for teachers to easily get a handle on why a child who's written work can be primary school level will still muddle through to a total mishmash of A-Cs at GCSE. As she say's they'd be As and A* if she could do all orals, but as it is extra time is the best offer there is.

Shootingatpigeons Fri 28-Feb-14 17:56:01

The diagnosis for both my DDs were of their specific learning difficulties, I gather that the definition of Dyslexia has for some time been given a more narrow definition of problems with literacy. Since one of my DDs has a photographic memory her problems are not with literacy skills and the other had the sort of intensive intervention at 6 that the Professor describes (too early for a diagnosis but the intervention is the same regardless of the reasons for delays in reading writing spelling etc. ) which bought those skills up to average level, they are not strictly speaking dyslexic, though they have moderate to severe working memory and processing difficulties. So though not having read the actual research I suspect I know where it is coming from.

However having a diagnosis has been hugely helpful for my DDs in the longer term since they understand their problems and can develop coping strategies and get the appropriate support, as well as knowing they are not stupid. I have the same problems and although I have achieved in my academic and business career, and indeed have always known from psychometric testing that I am not thick, I have never really got over the feelings of inadequacy I developed trying to cope at school, or in the wrong environment at work (eg meetings where you have to process a lot of information and whilst you may have a wonderful concept in your Head can't articulate it quickly enough, how many memos have I sent around post meeting? ). My DD was just showing me an app she has provided by the uni that records lectures and allows you to make notes that then links to the exact moment in the audio, so if her notes don't enable her to retrieve information via her working memory (if it ever got past it, her problems are particularly with auditory memory) she can go straight back to listening to that part of the lecture. I am so deeply jealous grin

Given the government's latest tightening up of the exam regulations reflect their intention to restrict access to support and extra time for those with Learning Difficulties I just think that this research, whatever the basis, is unfortunately providing evidence that will be used to support prejudices in the teaching profession and wider society, and undo a lot of progress that has been made. Thankfully my DD2 is hopefully about to reach uni where we have found the understanding and support (providing they seek it out) is excellent .

manicinsomniac Fri 28-Feb-14 16:54:14

Not at all surprised to see that this is from Durham.

I did my PGCE there 8 years ago and Professor Elliot (I think it was him) was telling us there was no such thing as dyslexia even back then.

He made a compelling argument in person. I've more or less forgotten about it since because dyslexic diagnoses seem to make such sense for so many children.

Finnbheara Fri 28-Feb-14 16:44:59

Horesmadmom DS was in a school where the Head refused to acknowledge that dyslexia existed hmm. eventually I took him out of that school and put him in a new one where they new all about dyslexia; the old school refused to politely hand over DS's records so new school had to apply formally and weight months for them. In the meantime they had him tested in new school and confirmed that he was dyslexic and imediatly had his needs met. Eventually his old records arrived and showed that despite the old school denying that he had dyslexia they had had him tested (without my knowledge) and the test had shown that he had dyslexia with special educational needs angry
Old school had him labelled as thick and me as difficult no wonder they didn't want to hand over his file..

My experience in school was that I was labelled lazy, I am also dyslexic, the school could not understand dyslexia (in the eighties in Ireland) but could clearly tell I was not stupid. I was bored and extremely disruptive in school and didn't get my degree until my late thirties.

horsemadmom Fri 28-Feb-14 16:23:51

Having had the experience of a Head who just thought dyslexic=thick, it makes such a difference to have DD in a school where they understand that a child can be outstandingly clever but still can't tell the time, know right from left, distinguish print on a patterned background, see squares on graph paper, read a map, .....

rabbitstew Fri 28-Feb-14 15:39:53

Unfortunately, ReallyTired, the more precise diagnosis is the bit the teachers can't be arsed to read. Taking the label away at the top of the precise description of the child's difficulties just makes them even less inclined to read about the thick middle class child whose parents have put an essay in front of them. However precise the "diagnosis," you will never be able to describe it in the one or two words required to label the condition.

horsemadmom Fri 28-Feb-14 14:58:55

When explaining my DD's needs to school, I speak in terms of her specific learning difficulty. The SENCo in her new school knew instantly what would be challenging and made adjustments for her without having to be asked. I only use 'dyslexic' when speaking generally because peoples' eyes glaze over if you explain how her form of difficulty is different to the usual swimming words type. Incidentally, she is a voracious reader but her spelling can be ropey if she is writing quickly.

ReallyTired Fri 28-Feb-14 14:48:33

Teachers rarely look at detailed diagnosis whether the child has dyslexia or not. In many secondary schools there is still be belief that dyslexia = thick with middle class parents among some teachers. I believe that a more precise diagnosis would allow children's needs to be met better. This is not helped at the moment that a child often needs pushy well educated parents to get the diagnosis they deserve.

There needs to be more education during teacher training about special needs to combat predujice. Writing off a child with reading difficulties as being stupid should become as unacceptable as having low expectations of the black, traveller or local authority care child.

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...

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.

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.
Y has difficulty remembering information that is presented orally, so he will have difficult following discussions in the classroom and complex instructions.
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.
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.

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.

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?!!

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

This is the article that the bbc article is talking about

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

? 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?

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