Are we over-diagnosing dyslexia?

 In Support for Struggling Readers, What We're Talking about at HIP

I recently came across an article called “Your Child’s Dyslexia Diagnosis is B.S.”  by Julian Elliot, a professor of Education at Durham University in the UK.  According to Elliot, dyslexia is poorly understood and largely over-diagnosed.

Technically, dyslexia is a complex neurological issue that interferes the brain’s ability to process language. But, for many, dyslexia has become one of those “catch-all” terms to explain an otherwise inexplicable struggle with reading. Elliot argues that true dyslexia affects about 1-2% of the population, as opposed to the 10% currently identified.

So, why are we labeling so many people “dyslexic” these days? No doubt there is some comfort in having a medical reason why your otherwise bright and healthy child has trouble learning to read. It’s a relief to know that the struggle is not a matter of laziness or lack of intelligence. And some believe that a diagnosis will lead to more effective intervention. Unfortunately, there is no “cure” for dyslexia and no “silver bullet” interventions guaranteed to work for every reader. Dyslexia can manifest itself in many ways: difficulties with speech or phonological awareness (the ability to hear individual speech sounds), decoding, fluency, spelling, comprehension – or all of the above. The challenge for schools is to identify every student’s specific reading difficulties and target instruction to remediate them as early as possible.

Whether or not we agree with Elliot’s assertion that we should retire the dyslexia diagnosis, it’s hard to argue with his belief that schools’ focus should be less about labels and more about excellent teaching.


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