At Helen Arkell we like to know what researchers are thinking. On Saturday, 7th November Professor Julian Elliott shared his many, sometimes thought provoking views with us; we wanted to be part of ‘The Dyslexia Debate’. Our principal, Bernadette McLean, offers you her response:
The Dyslexia Debate
Unfortunately the media has distorted many of the points raised in “The Dyslexia Debate”.
Some may agree with part of Julian Elliott's argument. Dyslexia is ill defined; there is no universally accepted definition. Some will receive diagnoses and some not. And that might depend on where you are and what resources are available.
The label is not the only or even most important thing. And indeed it has different manifestations in different learners.
Nevertheless, that does not mean that the term dyslexia should be abandoned, certainly not until we have a better one. While we have it, it points us forward to designing effective interventions fit for the individuals assessed. More importantly, it promotes better understanding of the person with dyslexia, both self-understanding and understanding by those around him/her. This can help to eliminate guilt and less helpful labels such as “thick” and “stupid”, labels that these individuals may have internalised prior to assessment.
We do not wish to abandon assessment either. With early assessment and intervention children can benefit enormously and this can reduce the cost of more expensive intervention later. The earlier intervention takes place, the more likely it is to be classroom based as this is when all children are still at the stage of learning to read. By Key Stage 2 the gap widens between achievers and non-achievers in the classroom and thus it decreases the likelihood of intervention being totally classroom based.
Let us not throw the baby out with the bath water. “The Dyslexia Debate” offers challenges to which we must rise; we must work towards clearer distinctions between those with dyslexia and those with poor literacy skills. And we must continue our endeavours to help our learners build on their strengths regardless of whatever label we attach to them.
We must help them to:
Believe, Achieve, Succeed
We need the collaboration of parents and teachers to make this happen. And we need to build on what has been achieved through the Rose Report and government funding for the provision of dyslexia since 2009.