Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sir Jim Rose report on Dyslexia

The long awaited report by Sir Jim Rose on "Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties" has been published.

Significantly, the report provides an authoritative statement that dyslexia does exist.

It also offers a description of dyslexia, which seems likely to be helpful in reducing confusion and may well become a standard definition. (The existence of a multiplicity of definitions has curiously been used in the past as an argument against existence of the condition. Some strange logic there.)

The report admits that research into dyslexia has tended to keep a narrow focus on reading and writing, even though many dyslexics would regard other issues as more significant. It does mention (in section 5) some of the related issues that dyslexics face - though this is touched on rather briefly.

On the negative side, the report does seem to fall too easily into the language of disability. If there are references to typical dyslexic strengths, I have been unable to find them. It seems to me that this was a missed opportunity.

Dyslexic strengths are under researched and under reported. When we look at the widely published lists of successful dyslexics, we are reminded of people who learned to harness exactly these strengths.


Alan Gurbutt said...

Hello Rod

Dyslexia is correctly classified in Sir Jim Rose's report as a disability. Some sufferers are gifted, but many are not. Why do you think 70% + of prison inmates have some form of LD? Dyslexia is a massive socio-economic problem which the government are attempting to sort out - 4,000 teachers is a start and so is raising the awareness of dyslexia as a disability.

I think to keep harping on about the 'gift of dyslexia' would be akin to shooting ourselves in the foot. Just because we're doing okay doesn't mean others don't need assistance. I have dyslexia as well as a spinal injury, so I know what it is like to struggle.

We need to pass on what techniques we use for overcoming dyslexia (assisistive technology etc.) instead of making out nothing's wrong.

All the best,

Rod Duncan said...

Thanks for your contribution Alan. It is much appreciated. And respectfully considered.

As you will know - since you are kind enough to be a frequent visitor to this blog - I believe that among the tell-tale cluster of dyslexic attributes are some that have strong positive potential.

My observation is that these are under researched and under reported.

You correctly identify the fact that a significant proportion of inmates in UK prisons are dyslexic. You will, I am sure, be aware that an anomalous percentage of entrepenurial business leaders are also dyslexic.

Dyslexia can certainly be a very significant disability. But it seems to sometimes be an enabler also. Is it possible to understand how to help dyslexics if we don't understand the areas of strength?

I would not wish my experiences in education on anyone. It was hell, to be honest. And I don't say that easily or lightly. I don't often speak of it. It left many scars.

I just wish someone in my school days had known how to help me. I wish someone had had the knowledge to point out the areas I might be expected to be strong in. I wish someone had taught me methods of remembering things based on my strengths, instead of my weaknesses.

Alan Gurbutt said...

Thank you for you're comments also. I can relate 100% to your school experiences. School, for me, was also a time of emotional and mental frustration (an understatement).I am stronger for the experience, which is my "gift" - most days :)

Putting our opinions and experiences aside for the moment. What can we do to help others? I think we have the benefit of hindsight - what a waste if we don't use it!

I think today your glass is half full whereas mine is half empty :) Some days dyslexia seems much more like a disability than an attribute!


Rod Duncan said...

I think you put your finger on the issue exactly - how can we help people who are suffering because of their dyslexia? (Whether we say it is a disability or that they are suffering from a mismatch between their pattern of abilities and the abilities of a non-dyslexic society.)

Part of that is through the education of the general population and specifically of teachers. Dyslexia is very real. It is no myth. The education system can be a mill of suffereing, in which the dyslexic is ground down.

But there is hope. Apropriate systems of education and enabling technology can be a huge help.

And if we get it right, what potential is there to be unlocked? My estimate - as you know - is that the potential is very great. Very great indeed.

Emma said...

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines disability as “the condition of being disabled, inability to pursue an occupation because of a physical or mental impairment”. Legally a disability is an impairment that significantly affects someone’s ability to do normal daily activities. Therefore dyslexia is a disability. A disability in itself is not a socio-economic problem: the problem is general attitudes and discrimination towards people with disabilities which prevent them earning their full potential. It's that discrimination that encourages people with "hidden" disabilities to keep them hidden so disabilites such as dyslexia become under-reported by people who can also manage a successful life.

However, Rod is right when he points out that dyslexic strengths are under-researched and under-reported. Whilst dyslexia is a negative experience for most because of prejudice, ignorance and discrimination, why are some dyslexics very successful while others aren’t? Richard Branson, Jade Jagger and a thriller writer called Rod Duncan might not be ideal role models for everyone, but as a model of success, what can be learnt and translated into successful outcomes for people more used to being labelled ‘failures’? We don't know if the research isn't done.

Frequently parents report the main problem of having a disabled child (whatever the disability actually is) is the constant focus on what the child can’t do. Never is the focus on what the child can do. Dyslexics (and those with other disabilities) need support: that’s beyond argument. What’s needed is a more positive focus on what people with dyslexia can do.

Rod Duncan said...

Thank you Emma.


Alan Gurbutt said...

Hello Emma,

"The Merriam Webster dictionary defines disability as “the condition of being disabled, inability to pursue an occupation because of a physical or mental impairment”."

Many people pursue occupations even though they are disabled. Don't take everything you read literally!

You cannot possibly change everyones' attitudes toward LDs. Discrimination exists, it always will to some extent, therefore, it's a socio-economic problem.

"Frequently parents report the main problem of having a disabled child (whatever the disability actually is) is the constant focus on what the child can’t do."

Why single out parents? It's a bit like blaming ALL teachers for not identifying and supporting dyslexic students - stereotyping. It's an old game for trying to shift blame which has run its course and is wearing thin. Who will we blame next, the family pet?

I am a father of two daughters and I can tell you, from experience, that praise is essential for a child's self-esteem, well-being and for overcoming disability, as is working together.

Finally, role models come from all walks of life. My role model is 12, she's our daughter. She has more humility than most, doesn't let disability phase her and rarely complains, unlike me :)

Gifted or not, we all need a little luck (and help) to fulfil our true potential.


Emma said...

@Alan Gurbutt - where do I say that disabled people don't pursue occupations? I list at least three who definitely do. My point is about the barriers that prevent people with disabilities earning their full potential.

I'm not picking on parents. I'm highlighting the fact that systems in place to assist disabled people focus on what people with disabilities can't do. That's not blaming parents, that's blaming the systems in place that are supposed to help. If praise is essential for a child's self-esteem, that praise can only come from a focus on what the child has achieved, not constantly reminding them they can't do x, y or z. These observations come from having worked with children with learning disabilities.

Actually teachers *are* responsible for identifying children with problems including learning disabilities and referring them for assessments. It's part of their job. Teachers who fail to identify that a child is struggling (for whatever reason) and fail to make a referral are failed teachers.

Why can't we change attitudes towards learning disabilities? It won't happen overnight but people are learning that discriminating on grounds of race, religion and sex are wrong, people are changing attitudes towards drink driving so it's now being seen as anti-social.