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Friday, March 7, 2014

The Real Meaning of Dyslexia

There is a brave man in the British county of Durham in the north of England. His name is Professor Elliot and he has suggested the term dyslexia is not as useful as some may think:
This kind of statement always produces a howl of protest when someone says this, from dyslexics and dyslexia specialists!
Perhaps he is being unnecessarily inflationary, but I think there is actually an important question lying in what he is saying: “what does the word dyslexia really mean?”
What is undeniable is that the answer varies. It all depends on who you are talking to, which is bad news for any word! The whole point of our vocabulary is that a word provides a shortcut for lengthy definitions.
Personally, I believe dyslexia is a very useful term if it refers to any situation where someone is reading and writing less well than expected for their intelligence and education. It then becomes a helpful umbrella term that should prompt exploration of the underlying literacy patterns that can cause this situation.
Some people now refer to it as a “thing”, like a medical condition, that can be diagnosed. I have been teaching children to read for 12 years and have never come across this “thing” dyslexia. We just see bright children with lots of potential who, for a variety of neurological reasons, are not reading and spelling well.
It is these root neurological reason, the 8 Causes of Reading Difficulty, that interest us. Once we know what the problem is, fixing it becomes much easier. You will not find any items called "dyslexia" listed there, but the patterns we describe for each cause will resonate with some of the “signs of dyslexia” that you will find on long lists elsewhere on the Internet.
The danger of thinking of dyslexia as a medical condition is that people become defeatist and lose hope of reading and writing normally. That is a tragedy every time. In our experience, almost everyone can learn to read and write with the right help.
HagerPhoto_20120804_001_Final web (1)David Morgan is CEO of Oxford Learning Solutions and founder of the Easyread System, an innovative online program for struggling readers and spellers. He has devoted his life to resolving literacy difficulties for English speakers around the world. 
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