Thursday, January 15, 2009

Graham Stringer MP and the Dyslexia Debate

I've had a stack of e-mails and comments in response to yesterday's posting on this topic. Many thanks to all of you.

Unfortunately, Graham Stringer's ignorance reflects a fairly widespread lack of understanding about dyslexia. Perhaps this stems from the tyranny of the name dys-lexia. It suggests a problem with writing. Thus the MP seems to believe that if people can be taught to read then they are not dyslexic.

Dyslexia got this name because it was through differences in speed of learning to read and write that the condition was first noticed. But this is just one manifestation of a difference in mental processing that causes a wide range of surprising advantages and disadvantages. That is why, when people tell me they are dyslexic, my usual response is to ask them what they are really good at. Dyslexics are well practiced in explaining what they are bad at. The flip-side question is more unusual but, in my opinion, far more interesting.

Where this ill-informed MP is correct is that there does seem to be something of a 'dyslexia industry' offering 'cures' and 'treatments'. I often get adverts and links posted as comments to my blog articles on dyslexia.

There is a lot of dubious pseudoscience connected with this subject on both sides of the argument. The waters are very muddy. It may even be that Mr Stringer and the Synthetic Phonics industry are onto something good in the method they are promoting. Time will tell. But choosing a deliberately narrow definition of dyslexia in order to 'prove' that it does not exist - this is bad thinking and coming from a person in a position of authority, it will cause confusion and distress.

Thinking about the distress of many dyslexics I have met and my own distress as a child, I find myself too angry to continue writing. More another day, when I have cooled down.

No comments: