19 votes

The battle over dyslexia: It was once a widely accepted way of explaining why some children struggled to read and write. But some experts have begun to question the existence of dyslexia itself

7 comments

  1. kfwyre
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    I really wish I had the time to comment in depth on this article, but I can't at the moment and I, like some of the educational psychologists in the article, have things that I would like to...
    • Exemplary

    I really wish I had the time to comment in depth on this article, but I can't at the moment and I, like some of the educational psychologists in the article, have things that I would like to express but that could potentially result in legal trouble for me, so I'll refrain from a lot of what I would like to say.

    In short though, I think this is great article but not for the stated title. It's not so much that dyslexia isn't a real thing as it is that it's often misdiagnosed or sought after because of its role in educational services and interventions. I don't think the ill-defined nature of it is enough to discard it entirely, as that's consistent with a lot of other identifiers. Autism, for example, is quite varied and was very ill-defined for a long time, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't exist -- only that our ability to identify and understand it is still growing. I have a family member with dyslexia and have worked with a number of students who have had formal diagnoses of it. I have also worked with students I suspect have had it but didn't have a formal diagnosis, as well as some who had the diagnosis but I suspect it might have been misidentified.

    The real story of this article is, IMO, the idea that wealth inequality results in hugely different outcomes for families, as well as the idea that there are some really difficult systemic issues in how students with special needs are handled. Though this was focused on the UK, almost all of what they articulated happens in the US as well. Parents will push for extremely costly private schools paid for by public districts as a way of helping their student with disabilities. These often do great work, but the cost for tuition is often five or six figures. In an ideal world students would get the exact help they need, but the disparity in cost and opportunity creates some really awful incentives for parents to force a disability on their child by soliciting a diagnosis or exacerbating a pre-existing disability in order to receive services, even when doing so is not in the best interest of the child.

    15 votes
  2. [2]
    Akir
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    I must say that I love it when, in the process of reading an article, I come up with an oppinion that the article then addresses. I was thinking that the dyslexia advocates might have a point with...

    I must say that I love it when, in the process of reading an article, I come up with an oppinion that the article then addresses. I was thinking that the dyslexia advocates might have a point with how dyslexia can be a valuable idea. Children who get diagnosed have their frustrations start to sublimate and they can finally concentrate on learning. They get a whole lot of support that they likely did not have before.

    10 votes
    1. cos
      Link Parent
      Speaking from my own personal experience, it seems that many psychological diagnoses have this effect on children and adults alike. Speaking from that same experience, however, it seems that they...

      Children who get diagnosed have their frustrations start to sublimate and they can finally concentrate on learning. They get a whole lot of support that they likely did not have before.

      Speaking from my own personal experience, it seems that many psychological diagnoses have this effect on children and adults alike. Speaking from that same experience, however, it seems that they can sometimes achieve the opposite, discouraging further growth rather than facilitating it (e.g. "Now that I know I have dyslexia, I know that I'll never be able to read," or "I'll start working on passing my classes only after I've cured my depression."). In the absence of actual data, I'm fairly torn on whether I support the practice of diagnosing mental health issues, but I believe that for myself, at least, it's done slightly more good than harm.

      4 votes
  3. knocklessmonster
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    It reminds me of the notion of math anxiety: The inability to do mathematics because you get anxious. I have a theory (with my stunning lack of qualifications) that it may be because people can't...

    It reminds me of the notion of math anxiety: The inability to do mathematics because you get anxious. I have a theory (with my stunning lack of qualifications) that it may be because people can't do advanced math, proceed to not do it properly under pressure, get anxious the next time, and enter a feedback loop. You can fix this by teaching somebody mathematics in an environment that doesn't freak them out, which American schools, in my experience, have a hard time doing.

    EDIT after 4 votes: There was an intended context for the math thing. I wonder if there's a more nefarious reason for dyslexia in kids if it's not neurological, a stress-related issue like the later-developed math issue. It wouldn't take much to frustrate a three year old to the point of long-term psychological distress if the kid is having a hard time, but not expressed in a typical way with crying, a tantrum, or whatever else would be "typical."

    I think the "dyslexia lobby" is pretty harmful in trying to defend the concept in the name of keeping the entitlements that come with the diagnosis. It doesn't help anybody. The main researcher in question, however, ought to re-evaluate his quest to end the concept of dyslexia in the face of a baked-in culture of government entitlements, and the people who take advantage of them with private psychologists. It's a situation where one side needs to give, like what happened in Cambridgeshire, where they quietly fixed the issue, and got praise from an organization they actively undermined.

    8 votes
  4. [3]
    Happy_Shredder
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    There's an interesting comment in the article that dyslexia is hereditary because dyslexic parents produce dyslexic children. I might have to do some more reading later today, because I'm...

    There's an interesting comment in the article that dyslexia is hereditary because dyslexic parents produce dyslexic children. I might have to do some more reading later today, because I'm immediately struck that there's a confounding variable: there's not just a genetic relationship between parents and children, but also social. Do adopted children of dyslexic parents also show high rates of dyslexia?

    My parents are bookish and so us kids learnt to read very early, before school. And today we continue to read at a high level. It's easy to speculate that parents with literary difficulties don't raise their kids in a book-rich environment, which fuels literary difficulties.

    Edit:

    According to "Thomas S. Scerri, Gerd Schulte-K├Ârne. Genetics of developmental dyslexia. European child & adolescent psychiatry, 2009, 19 (3), pp.179-197. 10.1007/s00787-009-0081-0. hal-00540651" which is a review article, there is significant neurobiological differences between dyslexic individuals and those without. They discuss postmortem examinations which reveal relevant abnormalities in the brain. Further, they discuss an array of twin studies which compare monozygotic to dizygotic twins. These studies showed that usually both MZ twins have dyslexia, whereas less often in DZ twins. This is compelling evidence that there is a genetic basis for dyslexia.

    Useful google scholar search: "dyslexia twin study"

    Another interesting review: https://psycnet.apa.org/fulltext/2015-58960-001.html. This one does briefly discuss my speculation and suggests that home literacy environment may be significant.

    7 votes
    1. [2]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      You might also be interested in examining the idea that dyslexia manifests different depending on the nature of the written language (I know Wikipedia is not a good source but I'm just linking it...

      You might also be interested in examining the idea that dyslexia manifests different depending on the nature of the written language (I know Wikipedia is not a good source but I'm just linking it as a good starting place for the idea in general).

      5 votes
      1. Happy_Shredder
        Link Parent
        Thanks! I recall hearing about that before, but I had forgotten. That also reminds me of how schizophrenia manifests differently in different cultures...

        Thanks! I recall hearing about that before, but I had forgotten. That also reminds me of how schizophrenia manifests differently in different cultures...

        2 votes