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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Does the ‘Dyslexia’ Label Help or Hamper Teachers?

Many parents feel like they get more support for their child if they have an ‘official’ label.  Perhaps they believe they will acquire explicit support, testing accommodations, or that a diagnosis will provide directed attention in classes. They most-likely expect teachers and special education teams can better plan lessons, if they know the diagnosis behind their child's difficulties.
"Knowing what the difficulties are" is exactly the issue: 
Dyslexia - though at times useful for the above reasons - is an umbrella term for reading difficulties unrelated to a child's intelligence. That doesn’t give teachers any explicit reasons for the basis of those difficulties. They could be visual, or phonological, related to memory deficits, or more.  Additionally, a recent study by the British Psychological Association found that the dyslexia label actually hampers teachers in a very profound way:
"[teachers felt] the label ‘dyslexia’...was seen as a fixed disability, and that the teachers believed their ability to help children with ‘dyslexia was unlikely to develop over time. By contrast, [with the label] ‘reading difficulties’, [they] were less likely to see the children’s problems as permanent; were also more likely to believe that they would be able to help them, and that their skills developed with experience."
All teachers want their students to achieve their full potential and more. However, this psychological research seems to show that by removing supposedly fixed labels, teachers feel they can try to change a child’s literacy trajectory.

Should We Shed Labels Altogether?
This is not to say we should scrap the term altogether! But it is valuable food for thought on the question of how helpful it is for teachers from a psychological perspective.  It also raises the question: Are our teachers adequately trained to meet the diverse needs of their students?

Sarah Forrest is a Literacy Specialist for the Easyread System. Easyread is an online intervention for children with reading difficulties, dyslexia, auditory processing problems and more. www.easyreadsystem.com
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