HomedyslexiaThe Dyslexia Label Debate

Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen some discussion about how some experts want to do away with they label of dyslexia. Before voicing my opinion on the matter, I decided to look further into the question at hand.

This opinion came from Julian Elliot, a professor at Durham University in the UK. The reason why this has recently hit the news outlets is because he had a part in publishing a new book called The Dyslexia Debate.

Anyway, I found a number of people with completely nonsensical opinions that used this book as backup for their point. These are two that amused and disgusted me in equal measure:

  •  Only boys have dyslexia, because it’s their way of dealing with absentee fathers. This was put forth by a former special ed teacher and practicing hypnotherapist whose only patients with dyslexia were boys.
  • Dyslexia is a made up term to help children who are going through the normal challenges of learning how to read feel better about themselves.

There are no doubt quite a few more out there, but those two are what get me the most riled.

The first one is simply nonsense stemming from the time when only boys were included in medical and educational studies. I’m quite female, both in body and identity, as are many of my dyslexic cohorts. My grandmother was also dyslexic, and she was female enough to birth two children. Of course, this argument also neglects to include individuals who are intersex, trans or don’t identify with the binary.

The second demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of what dyslexia really is. It also ignores the fact that it never goes away. It just irritates me that this misunderstanding is getting more “support” in the world of academia.

Since I haven’t read the book, I unfortunately have to depend on the news outlets available for now.

My books on deck and Fig Newtons. Yes, that red book is
a book about writing books, since I am working on a
fictional series. At least one character will have
some form of LD, too.

It will probably be a while before I request it from the library, too, because I have four books waiting to be read at the moment.

According to this article from the Daily Mail, part of the professor’s problem with the term “dyslexia” is that it seems to be given mostly to children in middle class areas to stop others from seeing struggling students as stupid or slow.

I’m not entirely sure of where that idea came from, because dyslexia is diagnosed in children from families of all income levels. The term is also used in a derisive way in many circles, so how does it make others’ perceptions less harsh?

If some people are going to be cruel based on ability level, the fact their target has been diagnosed with something won’t stop their torment.

Another aspect, this time from the BBC is that not all reading difficulties stem from dyslexia. This video states that kids who are struggling with reading, but aren’t identified as dyslexic, don’t receive proper treatment. This aspect states that if a child isn’t diagnosed with dyslexia, they won’t get the help they need.

For that reason, the term dyslexia should be dropped.

I’m struggling to see the connection there.

Yes, non-dyslexia disabilities must be addressed as soon as possible, but how does eradicating the term “dyslexia” help with that? That seems like an issue with the administrative process in the world of education than a problem with the term itself.

However, I do feel that kids shouldn’t need to get a diagnosis before getting interim help. If a child is struggling, where’s the damage in at least giving them a little more time to try learning at their own rate? There are some easy, basic steps that can be taken to take stress off of the struggling student until long term action can be determined.

Another issue he has is that the term itself has such a wide range of definitions, and that is a problem. For any label to have teeth, it must be better defined.

However, based on most of what I’ve read, these are the basics:

  • A problem with interpreting auditory or visual information. Nothing’s wrong with the eyes and ears, but the brain has trouble processing what it receives.
  • Left/right confusion
  • Procedural problems
  • It’s a life-long experience. It doesn’t stop when someone learns how to read.

Personally, I feel as if getting rid of the term ‘dyslexia’ would do more harm than good at this point. While its literal meaning, “word blindness” may not be accurate, the word itself has evolved to encompass a particular type of neurology.

The unity it brings an otherwise isolated group helps those who struggle with it the most a little more support, and the adults who carry that label can offer children still struggling in school someone just like them to look up to.

However, the field of neurophsycology in particular, and neurology in general, is always growing. If the term dyslexia goes by the wayside, hopefully it will be replaced with something that can still offer those of us who fall into that category some sort of support and self understanding.

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