kitchen table math, the sequel: teachers say they cannot cope with needs of dyslexic children

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

teachers say they cannot cope with needs of dyslexic children

(Cross-posted at D-Ed Reckoning)

As reported in the Independent:

The majority of state school teachers lack confidence in educating dyslexic pupils, a survey for Britain's biggest teaching union shows.

Fewer than one in 14 say they would be "very confident" in identifying a child with dyslexia while only 9 per cent say they would be "very confident" in teaching such a pupil. The survey, by the National Union of Teachers (NUT), reveals the vast majority believe they do not have enough training to deal with special needs children. (emphasis mine

My how quickly they give it. (And, by the way, that is a very unfortunate acronym.)

I'm not convinced that dyslexia is a legitimate disease or handicap or whatever the en vogue euphenism is today. I view dyslexia like the other bogus ailment "specific leearning disability"-- an educator created problem designed to excuse ineffective teaching ability.

I'll give you two good reasons:

1. The MRI evidence they're using to base the dyslexia theory on is bunk (pdf):

[T]he MRI scientists’ interpretation of brain-function data is what is logically referred to as a false dilemma or an argument from ignorance. The scientists observe a correlation between brain patterns and not learning to read.

The possibilities are:
  1. The brain pattern caused the nonlearning.
  2. The nonlearning caused the brain pattern.
  3. The interaction of a third variable caused both the nonreading and the brain pattern.
These scientists apparently don’t consider possibilities 2 or 3, but proclaim that the brain pattern causes the nonlearning. There is no question that there are individual differences in reading performance; however, if the kid can find his way into the right classroom and follow simple directions, he can be taught to read in a timely manner.

2. When kids are taught effectively, the incidence of "dyslexia" drops dramatically:

If it’s true that students in places like the worst slums in Baltimore and rural Mississippi taught with DI have 100% of the children reading—not guessing or memorizing—by the end of kindergarten, something is seriously wrong with the portrait of dyslexia. After all, these students exhibit all of the “warning signs” referred to in the analysis. When they come into kindergarten, they can’t rhyme, they can’t alliterate, they can’t blend orally presented words, and they have lots of problems figuring out unique sound patterns (such as repeating something like 4, 4, 4, 4 and yet are able to repeat four or more random digits). So they should all be dyslexic, and indeed historical performance records show that virtually all of them had been greatly retarded in reading, with the average fifth grader stumbling about on a weak second-grade level. Some of the schools that currently have no nonreaders coming out of K historically had end-of-first-graders scoring at the 6–9th percentile on standardized achievement tests. Yet, the new science tells us that we can expect 1/5 of the population to have dyslexia. That’s a 20% failure rate to teach reading in a fat-cat suburb where parents care about and influence the schools, and where they are lavishly funded with aides, material, and whatever.

You might want to take a look at this article (pdf) as well.

While normal children look at a capital letter R and see R, dyslexic kids are purported to see (backwards R). Normal children see receive; dyslexic children see recieve. Very little of this screwed up perception would actually manifest itself very directly in reading. If a reader actually sees (backwards R)ed, for instance, that child is most likely to say /rred/. If the child “sees” (backwards R) and thinks it’s R that’s not going to cause a decoding problem. If a child sees (backwards R)eb, that could cause a decoding problem, but most letters, written backward, are just backward letters.

Similarly, if the only problem is that a reader looks at receive and “sees” recieve that alone isn’t going to cause any reading difficulty. Look at all the people who write recieve but who think they’ve spelled the word right, and can certainly read what they wrote.


Anonymous said...

I don't know if I agree with you on this one. I remember a very bright guy in my college class. He graduated with high honors.

He was dyslexic, but compensated by being extremely disciplined about his work. He was pretty smart, and was a good reader, but it took him longer than other people. If dyslexia wasn't real, I think he would have figured that out. He thought it was real.

KDeRosa said...

RobynW, this guy might be a valid counterexample or;

1. he was mistaught how to read but subsequently found ways to compensate for the problem, or

2. he had some other language language center impairment.

Both are possible explanation given the fact pattern.

Read the second article I linked to, Dixon lays out a good argument that even if dyslexia exists, most dyslexics would be able to compensate and it should not affect their reading ability.

It's similar to the fact that our eyes see everything upside down, but our brains comspensate.

Anonymous said...

What is the official DSM IVdefinition of dyslexia? The DSM III (not the latest version) only has a "developmental reading disorder" diagnosis.

Interestingly, one of the differential diagnosis that MUST be excluded before concluding that a child has a developmental reading disorder is "faulty schooling."

I wonder out of all the hundreds of thousands of evaluations that school districts have done for developmental reading disorder how many come back with, "Junior isn't up to speed with his peers but it turns out his issue falls into category of the differential diagnosis of faulty schooling."

Queen Mama said...

My 23-year-old, highly gifted husband considers himself to be dyslexic.

His school taught phonics, but he was completely lost until somewhere around age 8 when he learned to compensate. He was never officially diagnosed (though his father and brother were) because he learned to read before he was old enough for it to be obvious that he was struggling.

He was/is an avid reader, and reads quickly with great comprehension. He is a good, but not excellent speller. Once he learned to read, he "took off" immediately and read and loved The Hobbit at age 8.

The reason he thinks he is dyslexic is he reverses letters within words, though not whole words. Usually the reversals result in him saying things like "angel" instead of "angle", but there are times when he has to ask me what a word is because the reversal that he sees in his head is not an actual word. He has also been known to mix up the letters in a normal person's name, reading it aloud as a nonsense word, thinking it's an unusual made-up name.

Observing him has led me to believe that there is such a thing as dyslexia, but it (like ADHD, bi-polar, etc.) is over-diagnosed. I've known several kids who were labelled dyslexic who simply were never taught effectively. Someone asked them if they saw letters backwards, and they answered "yes" because it was better to have a problem with a fancy name than to just be "dumb".

Sam-Is-Mad said...

I'm with Andyjoy. Dyslexia exists, but its very rare. I'd say 90+% are misdiagnosed. My brother Robert was one. I found it funny that his 'dyslexia' disappeared within weeks of changing from a public school to a private school.