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Dyslexia a ‘myth’? The Dorries Effect


3:30 pm - January 14th 2009

by Unity    


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It seems to one of the unwritten laws of British political life that if you’re unfortunate enough to be one of those nondescript backbenchers who’s name provokes only the question ‘who?’, if mentioned anywhere out the narrow confines of their own constituency, then the only reliable method you have of getting your name into the national press is by making a complete and utter arse of yourself:

A Labour MP has claimed dyslexia is a myth invented by education chiefs to cover up poor teaching methods.

Backbencher Graham Stringer, MP for Blackley, describes the condition as a “cruel fiction” that should be consigned to the “dustbin of history”.

He suggests children should instead be taught to read and write by using a system called synthetic phonics.

For the sake of clarity let’s call this phenomenon ‘The Dorries Effect’, which can defined as the outward manifestation of Dorries’ Law of Parliamentary Media Coverage:

The degree of media attention afforded to a backbench MP is proportional to their capacity for making public demonstrations of their own, deeply ingrained, ignorance.

So, how do we know when the Dorries Effect is in play?

Well, one of the clearest indicators to look for is an abject and manifestly absurd inability to provide accurate factual information, one prompted by the wholly mistaken belief that no one will ever bother checking your comments for accuracy, for example…

“If dyslexia really existed then countries as diverse as Nicaragua and South Korea would not have been able to achieve literacy rates of nearly 100%.

“There can be no rational reason why this ‘brain disorder’ is of epidemic proportions in Britain but does not appear in South Korea or Nicaragua.”

According to figures compiled by UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics, the adult literacy rate in South Korea is, indeed, given as 99%, but the corresponding figure for Nicaragua is only 80.1%. However, the plot thickens considerably when you look at UNESCO’s figure for adult literacy in the UK, which is also 99%…

But, hang on second, hasn’t it also been estimated that as many as 16% of the adult population of the UK may be functionally illiterate? Well, yes it has, and that tells you something very important about global literacy statistics, even those compiled by the United Nations.

There is no global standard method of assessing adult literacy rates. In the UK and across much of the developed world (Europe, North America, Japan, Australasia, etc.) such statistics can be, and typically are, obtained by means of testing a demographically representative, randomly selected sample of the UK’s adult population. Across much of the rest of the world, and particularly in the developing world, adult literacy statistics are predominately compiled using the simple, but deeply flawed, expedient of incorporating the following question on national census forms and in household surveys:

CAN YOU READ AND WRITE?

A question which UNESCO, in one of most glorious flurries of unmitigated pseudo-intellectual bullshit I’ve seen in many a long year, refers to as ‘the dichotomous variable’.

You’re all (mostly) intelligent folks, so I’m sure that I don’t need to explain all the methodological flaws inherent in that particular approach to assessing literacy, but from a statistical standpoint, the fact that this is the only method used in many countries places an important limitation on the scope of UNESCO’s data. In order to provide a fair assessment of global adult literacy rates, including a country by country breakdown, UNESCO has no option but to forget all about the kind of multi-dimensional assessment methodologies used in the developed world and the detailed information such assessments provide – looking not only at basic literacy but also functional literacy and a range of other relevant skills – and work to a standard common to all countries included in its statistical evaluations, which means working to the lowest common denominator.

In short, the question ‘CAN YOU READ AND WRITE?’; which, at best, could be considered to prove only that the individual completing the census form or survey can read and understand a single sentence consisting (n English) of five single syllable words and write one of two words, ‘YES’ or ‘NO’ – and that’s assuming the questionnaire doesn’t make use of a couple of tick boxes or ask the respondent to circle their answer. In reality we cannot even be sure of that because there’s no absolute method of verifying whether the survey respondent read the question themselves or got someone else to read it to them.

Buried underneath Stringer’s stellar display of wilful ignorance – he has a BSc in chemistry and has, therefore, no valid excuse for being so obviously ill-informed – there is a legitimate and important issue that does genuinely need to be debates.

In its defence, the charity Dyslexia Action, responded to Stringer’s comments by asserting not only that the condition is ‘very real’ but that it affects around 6 million people in the UK, 1 in 10 of the total population, a figure that is legitimately contestable and that does need to be opened up to scrutiny.

Dyslexia, is one of a number of related conditions, including dyspraxia, disgraphia, discalculia, for which there is a solid body of research evidence supporting their existence – PubMed list over 6,000 research papers and journal articles on dyslexia alone, with almost 600 more currently in review – of which our current knowledge and understanding is still very limited, despite the quantity of evidence we have to work with..

Together with autism/autistic spectrum disorder and ADD/ADHD, it belongs to a class of behavioural conditions which, the research evidence suggests, are, at least in part, neurological in origin and may well also have a genetic component. They are also conditions which, statistically, appear to be becoming increasing prevalent in the developed world – but even with all that research to work with there is still a hell of lot we don’t know or understand about these conditions.

We don’t know precisely what causes them or even whether we are looking at singular conditions with a defined cause or a series of very similar, and possibly related conditions, which have very different pathologies.

We don’t understand the underlying neurological or genetic mechanisms behind these conditions or even whether and to what extent genetics plays a part in their development.

We also don’t know for sure whether the apparent increase in the prevalence of these conditions over the last forty years evident in public health statistics is a real increase, i.e. more and more people are developing these conditions, or whether the observed increase is simply a function of improvements in diagnostic techniques and practices. And, as I noted earlier this week in commenting on a media splurge relating to a piece of newly published research into autism, which turned out to be considerably less interesting that may have been suggested by the coverage it received, we also cannot say for certain whether or not we may be overshooting the mark in diagnosing these conditions and, to some unspecified extent, unnecessarily medicalising certain traits and characteristics that are, in reality, well with the normal spectrum of human behaviour and intellectual performance. Factor in the wide-spread practice of disease-mongering, as pioneered by ‘Big Pharma’ and rapidly adopted by purveyors of unproven and unscientific woo (nutritionists, homoeopaths and an assortment of other ‘complementary and alternative therapists’) the world over, and what we have on our hands is a massive and extremely complex series of social, ethical, scientific, economic and political issues and a very important series of unanswered questions that need to be debated openly and honestly with due regard to the actual evidence we have to work with.

Sadly, what we too often get, in lieu of such debate, are the crass, pig-ignorant, solipsistic and semi-splentic outpourings of low-rent, attention-seeking, backbenchers, third-rate hacks – and yes that does mean you, Melanie Phillips, Amanda Platell and (feel free to add your your own selection of idiots to the list) and, of course, the daily part-work edition of the International Journal of Health Scares and Moral Panics, aka The Daily Mail.

Stringer’s casual disregard for trivial matters, like evidence and factual accuracy, is not the only obvious manifestation of the Dorries Effect evident in this particular story, as he also manages to deploy the careworn tactic of incorporating unfounded and wholly unsupported allegations of rent-seeking in his screed.

“It is time that the dyslexia industry was killed off and we recognised that there are well known methods for teaching everybody to read and write.”

In reality, we’d all be much better served by ‘killing off’ (figuratively speaking) our present crop of media-whoring backbenchers and electing many more people to public office of a kind who demonstrate due regard for the value and importance of applying rigorous intellectual standards to their work.

And so, Graham Stringer, Member of Parliament for the constituency of Manchester Blackley, may I extend my congratulations to you because, thus far, you are the Wanker of the Week!

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'Unity' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He also blogs at Ministry of Truth.
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Reader comments


The Dorries Effect is quite a good name, but perhaps it should be called the Dorries-Morris effect, in honor of Chris Morris, whose Brass Eye series conclusively proved that back-bench MPs are as gullible as any other “celeb”.

And most MPs aren’t even good looking. In that respect we’d be better off with Girls Aloud representing us in Parliament.

He’s also overlooking the fact that synthetic phonics is currently widespread (at least since the Rose report in 2006, and I know children taught using the method well before then, and not in Clackmannanshire). Politicians pontificating about schools are almost always several years out of date.

At least according to some educationists, synthetic phonics is less helpful to dyslexics than analytic phonics (there is a theory, although I don’t know how well-founded it is, that dyslexics are more likely to have problems with auditory processing, so they can’t easily make distinctions between phonemes).

Synthetic phonics is not yet widespread enough, but has been spreading in recent years. It is not a panacea and analytic phonics has its uses too. It is more important to establish that someone having dyslexia is not an excuse for them not being able to read, either for the student or the teacher. I know plenty of pretty profoundly dyslexic individuals who read and write perfectly well. Of course, they tend to be middle class and have parents that made sure that one or another they learnt.

As Nick says, you can be dyslexic but still be able to read. So even if Stringer were correct about literacy rates and even if the UN’s literacy rates did track actual literacy then it still would not follow that dyslexia is a made-up disease that only exists in the West.

This isn’t the first that I’ve heard this argument. I believe conservative commentator Peter Hitchens was questioning dylexia’s existence. Personally I don’t know enough about the subject to come to a firm judgement. I’m inclined to accept its existence although I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of children are wrongly diagnosed i.e. they aren’t actually dyslexic but poor teaching has harmed their ability to read and write.

If dyslexia is invented by teachers, how come many dyslexics find it easier to read from coloured paper, suggesting that the high contrast between black ink and white paper has a negative effect on the brain’s ability to process the written word?

Slightly off topic but when I saw the headline ‘READING MP calls dyslexia ‘fiction” on ceefax I assumed it was the MP for Reading.

Hah, Unity doth write post to save me the effort of doing the research. I was going to put his name in the post title to get it high up in SERPS for the arsehole but that’s not Unity’s style.

Isn’t there also some research on different languages and phonetic spelling systems being more helpful for dyslexia? The rather strict and distinctly non-phonetic spelling of a lot of English words is unusual compared toa lot of other languages, which try to write things down as they’re said.

He’s mistaking the level of educational attainment overall with a condition that slows down acheivements within an attainment level, silly fool can’t even get the right issues linked properly.

Spelling’s morphological rather than phonological because it keeps the sense of meaning: ‘photograph’ and ‘photography’ or ‘electric’ and ‘electricity’ are obviously based on the same concepts though sound different: attempt to spell them phonetically and this shared root is lost.

I don’t think that this is a thorough take-down, Unity. The argument presented was certainly a nonsense, but that’s not all that is to be said on the matter.

The difficulty arises (much like Devil’s Kitchen pointed out with regards to Libertarianism, but a lot more so) from the fact that there are two prominent definitions of dyslexia, and no definitive one. The first is a relative one which just gathers the population and portions them out into an arbitrary level of percentiles and those above it. That’s what the “Dyslexia Industry” use, I do believe.

The flaws in that are manifold and hopefully should be quite obvious.

The second is more complicated and less flawed and generally has a lot more going for it. It does a far better job of transcending the issue of different people in different areas counting as dyslexics or not dependent upon where they are. I’ve had how it does this explained to me very well, but have since forgotten. But either way, the utterly bewilderingly stupid argument you take to pieces here is not the totality of the argument at hand.

Didn’t really read all the post but I suffer from a mild form of dsylexia – evidenced in the appalling typos in my posts which I only spot over time. When writing I have a tendancy to mix upper and lower case letters, when typing I tend to type the wrong words, for example, I always type walk instead of work and vice versa. Not that I care very much, I just live with it 🙂

Oh yes, and I was not diagnosed until I was in my late twenties but I still managed to get a degree.

Didn’t really read all the post but I suffer from a mild form of dsylexia – evidenced in the appalling typos in my posts which I only spot over time.

And here’s me thinking that was all just an unfortunately side effect of having to deal with so many L33t Hax0rz as part of the day job. 😉

Oh dear, what a load of rubbish.

I’ll be sending a letter about dyslexia tomorrow on my blog to explain to you people why Graham Stringer MP is absolutely correct. If you understood the science behind what he’s saying, you’d see why. Dyslexia doesn’t exist and never has done.

James:

No, its not the totality of the argument at hand, which is why I took the time to provide an overview of some of the limitations in our understanding of dyslexia and the issues that raises and stress that there is a hell of a lot to debate in this issue.

That said, glib and unsupported claims of rent-seeking deserve to be dismissed out of hand, not because there may not be some underlying truth to be discovered and examined, but simply because resorting to lazy rhetorical tricks and errant sophistry contributes nothing whatsoever to the overall debate.

If you understood the science behind what he’s saying, you’d see why. Dyslexia doesn’t exist and never has done.

Oh dear, I sense a train wreck coming on…

I don’t tend to make a big deal of it when blogging, as I don’t practice professionally, but I do have a degree in psychology, the acquisition of which entailed spending about 70% of my time studying cognition, neuropsychology, information processing and a bit of Evo-Devo and wrote my dissertation on the cognitive modelling of information systems.

So I do hope you’ve got something to bring to the table other than citing Julian Elliot and that piss poor Dispatches documentary from a few years ago or this is going to get messy…

Look, if you intend to argue that dyslexia is frequently misdiagnosed and that the diagnosis, itself, is often used a palliative for over anxious middle class parents then we’re not a far apart on this issue as you seem to think, but that doesn’t mean to say that all diagnosed cases of dyslexia are subject to such flaws.

As usual Unity you have been so busy monkishly piling up details you have missed the point. ( Has this condition got a name ? ). The point is that when little Samantha and Sebastian are ever so slightly thick it is rather helpful to deem them to be dyslexic . It is , as you say ,one of a number of conditions it is virtually impossible to disprove the existence of having symptoms so extraordinarily like being a bit thick that an observer ( for such will be despatched ) and sympathetic Doctor will usually be willing to sign little lord thicko up.
Once you have achieved this you have unlocked the gate to squillions of tax funded assistance and more importantly you get your choice of school ahead of everyone else .Needles to say it is the sneaky middle classes that have become expert in manipulating the system and given the cost of private education the financial boon of choosing your own school, is worth a fortune . It is a good weeze for Labour MP`s such as Ruth Maria Kelly who sent her backward daughter into s spiffing private school when she was suffering from having-to-go-to-the-same-shit-schools-Labour-inflict=on=the-rest-of-us- itis .Well the poor thing was a whole four years behind her reading age and astonishingly has benefited greatly from having a four teacher to one little lady Fauntleroy class size
Thats what the dyslexia myth is .As the father of a slightly badly behaved boy I we are already thinking about doing it ourselves or something like it . Why not get one on one tuition why not get a choice of secondary school ? We have already managed to get him all sorts of things on the basis that he will not sit quietly and do what he is told an understandable state of affairs in that they are not allowed to punish him or even speak harshly to him in Labour`s potty Britain
The holy grail of any decent parent is to achieve for their child the magical status of being statemented . In a given class in any normal school there will be several statemented children on the “autism spectrum” for example , and in many cases quite rightly .
The extent to which the system is defrauded however is an open secret among parents . That is the point spelt POINT.

Maybe you’ll get the point if I pick out the relevant section for you…

And, as I noted earlier this week in commenting on a media splurge relating to a piece of newly published research into autism, which turned out to be considerably less interesting that may have been suggested by the coverage it received, we also cannot say for certain whether or not we may be overshooting the mark in diagnosing these conditions and, to some unspecified extent, unnecessarily medicalising certain traits and characteristics that are, in reality, well within the normal spectrum of human behaviour and intellectual performance.

Evidence of over diagnosis is NOT proof that the condition doesn’t exist.

we also cannot say for certain whether or not we may be overshooting the mark in diagnosing these conditions and, to some unspecified extent, unnecessarily

Yes I admit I did miss that pithily expressed paragraph in all the excitement but you are not quite on the money. Enormous financial incentives driving ” medicalising certain traits and characteristics that are, in reality, well within the normal spectrum of human behaviour and intellectual performance.” are produced by the state . You would not believe the number of people employed to sit around discussing the implications of young Newmania throwing his plasticine ( dats my boy ). Neither perhaps are you aware of the animal cunning of the parent. As ever when you have needs based hand outs everyone gets needy (or nweedy )
As those of us who are economically dyslexic recognise ,thanks to the squanderer leaving the hose on for ten years we are approaching a period of tax rises and cuts to state spending . The public Sector has got to be slashed now or later and the question then arises what do we cut . It is not going to be sustainable to waste the colossal sums we are on fictitious conditions and the army of parasites they support. It is immoral now.
( Although I am happy to milk it while its there of course ). Incidentally the whole business of getting statemented is a lengthy bureaucratic one involving many letters evidence and so on. I am sure you can imagine how that works. You would be brilliant at it .

Evidence of over diagnosis is NOT proof that the condition doesn’t exist.

Proving that something does not exist is not easy is it , when you meet god ,( looking pretty damn silly ) you will probably want to thank him for making the fact of his non-existence so hard to establish .It can be harmful however to invent a condition that actually covers numerous effects . There used to be such a thing as a nervous breakdown which was assumed to have some reality. That assumption only stopped the development of what is pretty much the witch doctor branch of medicine anyway. How much suffering did the error cause . Most of the progress of medicine in the 19th century was not so much discovering new things as realising everything they thought before was rubbish . Questioning a convenient label is not necessarily an attack on sufferers . It can be exceedingly helpful and from what I understand may be so in this case

No, its not the totality of the argument at hand, which is why I took the time to provide an overview of some of the limitations in our understanding of dyslexia and the issues that raises and stress that there is a hell of a lot to debate in this issue.

Ah, so you did. My mistake.

That said, glib and unsupported claims of rent-seeking deserve to be dismissed out of hand

Too true. The comments made seem to have contributed nothing to an already happily raging debate.

Perhaps this could be the Tories compensating for not making any motion on the genuine middle class tool of “faith” (church/mosque/synagogue) schools? A rather ignoble fidget, if so.

It honestly surprises me when MPs (and celebs, but mostly MPs) let their negative personal opinions about disability, race and minorities in general reach the media, and with it public attention. I would have hoped that they of all people would realise the negative consequences of talking rubbish in public. I really wish that most MPs would keep their opinions on such things to themselves, as they don’t usually have a clue what they are talking about.

Unity, can I please cross-post this excellent essay to my blog, Same Difference? (My name links to it, in case you don’t remember.) I wanted to write about this there myself, but you’ve done a much better job. You and LC will get full credit, the original will be linked in the cross post and I’ll throw in a blogroll spot for Ministry of Truth. You’ll also be added to my ‘Guest Contributors’ page. With your permission, it will go up tomorrow night. Thanks!

“So I do hope you’ve got something to bring to the table other than citing Julian Elliot and that piss poor Dispatches documentary from a few years ago or this is going to get messy…”

Oh so you’re one of THOSE people – bury head in sand, ignore scientific evidence, etc. Read my post this morning then I’d be happy to discuss it further.

Letters From a Tory’s post does make a lot of sense.

But then it seems a condition of 20th now 21st century living to medicalise as many problems as possible.

cjcjc, I couldn’t agree with you more. ADHD, ODD, dyslexia – it’s all part of the same problem.

If we medicalise something, it relieves us of the responsibility for causing the problem and in some cases dealing with problem as well. If a child is behaving like a rabid animal in the classroom and they get diagnosed with ADHD, it’s not the parents fault anymore. If a child can’t read or write and they get diagnosed with dyslexia, it’s not them education system’s fault anymore.

etc etc

LFaT vs. Unity, this is one I’m looking forward to…

Sarah:

1. By all means repost this piece at your own blog but be clear that it stands only a rebuttal of Stringer’s boneheaded remarks and not a comprehensive ‘take’ on the dyslexia hypothesis

2. LFAT’s response is a pleasant surprise in as much as raise the bar on this debate significantly, largely because LFAT does bring some genuine firepower to the debate.

(And BTW, LFAT, the note of caution I sounded in referring to my own academic background was purely to make the point that if all you were going to bring along was the Dispatches documentary and the press cuttings of Elliots’ comments then you were going to your arse comprehensively handed to you, in part because the media did its usually bang-up job of mangling Elliot’s arguments into near incoherence but also because his views too often tend to be bandied around on teh Internwebs by the usual bunch of half-arsed denialists who wouldn’t know what to make of a research paper if you recycled it into Andrex before handing it to them.

The fact that you also have credible academic background and know Elliot’s work well makes a hell of a difference as it means we can take this discussion up a few levels and really get into the meat, all of which makes a pleasant change from the usual bollocks that gets passed off as argument)

3. Bearing that comment in mind, I’m putting together a response to LFAT’s response, and if they’re agreeable and you’re interested to taking things up a few notches in terms of the depth of the issues then it may be worth reposting both responses, so your readers get to see both sides of the detailed argument. It’s not that LFAT doesn’t have a number of valid points here, but there are some significant points of dispute, and underlying reasons for those disputes, which deserve to aired but rarely get mentioned in public because they relate to internal ‘fissures’ within psychology itself.

As soon as I’ve sorted out my reponse, which I’ll post over the MoT because this debate is moving rapidly away from LibCon territory, I’ll drop a link in here and then we can all get into this.

Innnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn the blue corner…

*flicking head from side to side, spitting water into a bucket for no apparent reason, jumping on the spot….*

Unity, a rebuttal was exactly what I wanted to post. Your take matches mine exactly. Thanks for your permission and suggestion. Can I get a link in here to LFAT’s response, and your MOT response to LFAT, so that I can cross post the whole debate tonight along with links to you as promised. I’ve thought of setting up a page for it at SD since it is getting so much reaction. Thanks again!

Although many children do struggle to read, those who understand that written English is a code, and have sufficient time to practise the skills to automaticity, do learn to read. Undoubtedly, it is malinstruction that has caused huge problems of illiteracy. This is surely Graham Stringer’s main point ? (The children who need more focused teaching and practise may, or may not, be ‘dyslexic’ -that is open to debate.) In addition, the tests we have in this country do not test for mastery of this skill; therefore underlying causes of the difficulty become distorted and open the way to a variety of ‘remedial’ options.

The Rose Report 2006 into the teaching of early reading presented a genuine opportunity to eliminate illiteracy -children at last could have simple, logical and unambiguous instruction . But Gordon Brown introduced Reading Recovery for struggling children at around the same time. This much-discredited and hugely expensive programme is the antithesis of the Rose recommendations. The government refuses to address the issue, so what are teachers now expected to do?

Reading Recovery constitutes a significant part of the ‘gravy train’ that Graham Stringer referred to. He should be warmly congratulated for raising the issue, even if some of the detail of his argument lacked precision – but then the term ‘dyslexia’ also lacks precision.

31. David Williams

I could comment that in the past 5 year Graham Stringer MP has ranked 1st twice out of 657 MPs for additional cost allowance on his expenses, As I know nothing about what these costs involve I would be in my view irresponsible to comment. It should be noted that as far as I know Mr. Stringer has no interest in any committees or topics of interest relating school aged education. To note further I believe that Mr. Stringer has conducted no educational research, has no background and has not referenced a single educational paper. His comments in my opinion have as much academic rigger as would be expected from an 8 year old pontificating on the plastics industry (Mr. Stringer area of expertise).

SPLD dyslexia isn’t an excuse to be illiterate; it’s just harder to achieve certain processing skills than the average person. As with any cross section of society there are low ability, average and high ability people, this is no different for Dyslexia. The brain functions in a different way for dyslexics; this is shown in many studies of brain activity. Normal readers are found to use the left side of the brain in reading. By contrast, competent dyslexic readers use the right side of the brain; further to this, the more competent the dyslexic reader is, the less likely they are to use the left-hand side of the brain: “Dyslexics who read well consistently bypass the left temporal region.” (Abigail Marshall 2003). I’m dyslexic, but I am not illiterate. Having had a low reading age at primary school I received a 1st for my thesis and have had educational research papers published.

Interesting point, A one legged man who has a false limb is able to walk. Does this mean that the disability does not exist?

“Dyslexia is a myth invented by education chiefs to cover up poor teaching methods” Obviously a very old myth! Orton (1937) claimed that reversible letters (b/d. q/p) were literally perceived wrongly by dyslexic readers either through a lack of suppression of the mirror image, produced by the alternate hemisphere of the brain; or through misperception based on incomplete visual information being obtained from the stimulus. Or not quite as old: “Dyslexia an inability to read normally as a result of a dysfunction in the brain”. Myklebust and Johnson (1962)

Although individuals can learn to read, reading is never fully mastered by anyone. Definitions of what exactly dyslexia is have varied over the years, but there is a broad consensus that it is a phonological memory problem.

My belief is that public officials that think this kind of ignorant, tabloid nonsense is appropriate for public forum despite breaking the “Disability Discrimination Act” (1995) should not be in office. Mr. Stringers actions, by association, bring his party into disrepute and provide in my opinion strong grounds for his resignation.

Mr D Williams

Reference:
Marshall, A 2003 http://www.dyslexia.com/science/different_pathways.htm

Mykebust, HR and Johnson, DJ 1962 “Dyslexia in children” Exceptional Children, 29 14. In Naidoo, S 1972 “Specific dyslexia” Chap. 2 London: Pitman.

Orton, ST 1937 “Reading, writing and speech problems in children.” New York: Norton.

Reid, G 2003 Dyslexia A Practitioner’s Handbook Wiley p7

Singleton C 1999 : Dyslexia in Higher Education – Policy, Provision and Practice (Report of the National Working Party on Dyslexia in Higher Education). University of Hull.

33 David, seeing as you cut and paste this comment onto my blog, I will cut and paste my response here as well….

Dave, the study you linked to cited a single piece of research on grown men who showed different patterns of brain activation when confronted with language tasks. How much variation do you get on this task with other individuals with reading problems? Do normal readers always use one side of the brain? What use is looking at adult brain scans when their difficulties have been cemented through years of education of varying quality?

The study concluded that “left brain areas associated with phonetic decoding are ineffective” in those who apparently have dyslexia, which again suggests that the method of teaching is crucial and that synthetic phonics may help in a large number of cases, especially when taught from an early age.

But, more importantly than all of that, did you notice that (purely by coincidence) this single study supported the conclusions of an author who just happens to be peddling their book, educational materials, workshops and reading programme about how to educate children with dyslexia on the very same website, and that their programme just happened to fit very nicely with the findings of the single study that they cited?!?!?! Unlike you, I don’t make a habit of listening to researchers who clearly have vested financial interests in the findings that they publish.

33. twoseventwo

PubMed list over 6,000 research papers and journal articles on dyslexia alone, with almost 600 more currently in review

Nitpicking, but no, that’s not how it works. The 600 are review articles (going back to 1964 if you look), and are included within the 6000. PubMed doesn’t either review articles itself or involve itself with the peer review process; it just indexes the entire contents of journals.

(This is also a dubious piece of evidence for anything – that there are 4000-odd results on homeopathy in PubMed doesn’t say anything in particular about anything other than the fact that research has been done on the subject. If dyslexia actually was conclusively found to be a myth tomorrow, there would still be 6000 hits for it.)

But I am nitpicking. Good article.

Hi Unity and LFAT,

You’ve both been cross-posted, word for word, at Same Difference with full links and credit. Thanks a lot! You’ve also been added to my blogroll and my Guest Contributors page.

Unity, you said you planned to respond to LFAT’s letter at MoT. I’m waiting to cross post that too, when it’s up.

If anyone else wants to contribute to the debate at Same Difference, cross-posting is automatic and comments are more than welcome.

I know dyslexia exists because I’ve experienced it. My parents kept an old bible at the back of the cupboard – on leafing through it I was astonished to see the little letters spinning, cartwheeling off the page!

I have since met quite a few others, some good friends, who experience the same problem, in a more general sense


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  4. Graham Stringer MP is right: dyslexia doesn’t exist and never has done « Same Difference

    […] that dyslexia was a “cruel fiction” that should be consigned to the “dustbin of history”, your post over at Liberap Conspiracy simply wittered on about a fairly irrelevant part of his comm… and completely sidestepped the issue of the research evidence on the matter.  In this post (which […]

  5. The Dyslexia Hypothesis | Ministry of Truth

    […] pick up the full background to this post, you’ll need to read this article of mine at Lib Con, and this response from Letters From A Tory, […]

  6. The Dyslexia Hypothesis « Same Difference

    […] pick up the full background to this post, you’ll need to read this article of mine at Lib Con, and this response from Letters From A Tory, […]

  7. MartinSFP

    Excellent, detailed debunking of Graham Stringer’s ‘Dyslexia is a myth’ comments last week: http://is.gd/gz0j





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