Dyslexia – manifesto
Since the word dyslexia entered the world there have been debate as to its origins, effect and indeed its authenticity. It has mainly been associated with poor reading, writing and spelling. However, other issues include poor focus and attention, organisation and often a lack of self belief. Please see this link to the BDA for a list of possible indicators. As time has past several culprits have been proffered as to the underlying cause. There is certainly compelling scientific evidence that there is a genetic component to the issue and advances in brain imaging have shown functional and geographical differences between dyslexic and non-dyslexic brains. Just like we have different bodies we all have different brains. Please do have a look at the links on this page to some excellent research.
What is also clear, is that some people find academic work much much harder than others and often results are not linked to either effort or intelligence. Many dyslexic learners work twice as hard and are very very clever but can struggle to convert that academically. This would indicate that dyslexics process or think in a different way. I don’t believe it can be fixed either and neither should it. Working on the assumption that there is a strong genetic component and, by its prevalence, it must have been around for quite some time. At least three and a half million years. For any genetic difference to survive that long in a population it must have some level of worth to the population (consider survival of the fittest). So some of the population with this genetic difference survived because they were useful and this perpetuated the survival of the genes. However society has changed somewhat since the last ice age. One of these Recent changes (150 years or so) is the the need for everyone to read and write in a standard form. Think of spelling as an analogy. In the medieval times monks were the main group who read and wrote. The emphasis then was in being neat and justify each line – make it line up at the end with the previous lines. This lead to a zealous use of extra letters (mainly es) to make it look nice – or to glorify God – depending on your religious beliefs. Obviously at the expense of spelling. In fact a glance at the history of spelling indicates the plasticity rather than rigidity of the spelling system. It continues to be thus. Our fine Dr Johnson who valiantly tried to standadise spelling in English. He recognised its amorphous nature and remarked that his dictionary was a commentary on the language of the day rather than a fixed entity. However until relatively recently your ability to do a job was based often on your skills and knowledge of the job rather than your ability to read, write and spell accurately. Times have changed often you now need these skills just to get an interview.
This then moves dyslexia from a problem that needs to be fixed – like a medical ailment – to one that has been constructed by social changes, not least by our education system. Too much focus on possible origins, whilst important, can be unhelpful. Placing an emphasis on ownership, self-belief and the right action (e.g. cumulative multi-sensory teaching and coaching) can be the key to overcoming the problems associated with this specific learning difference (not broken or wrong but different). However, individuals still have to operate in a world that often is not designed for this difference So the fact is that dyslexia is a real thing and denying it won’t make it disappear or go away.