Maizie, could you elaborate on what you mean by "cause?"
I am taking the word 'dyslexia' very literally in its meaning of 'trouble with words'. As I understand it, the term was originally used for brain damaged subjects who had lost the ability to read (though that may be an over simplification).
I first heard it used in connection with children who had difficulty with reading in the mid 1980s, when I belonged to a mother/child support group. One of the members had a child who was having difficulty learning to read (this was when WL/look & say/Real books was becoming the accepted method of teaching reading in the UK). 'Dyslexia' was becoming one of those things that middle class parents 'knew' about and were fighting to have their children recognised as such. As I moved away from that area a few months later, and, as my children had no problems learning to read, it wasn't something I gave much thought to until I started working in schools 10 years ago and encountered the term in connection with the children I was 'supporting'.
So, I had no 'training' in 'dyslexia', no indoctrination about the 'condition'; and when I read Diane McGuinnness's book a year down the line, I was fairly open to the idea that it might not actually be a discrete 'condition'. All I was really interested to know at that time was why
children failed to learn to read and what I could do to help them. But, since then, I have read a great deal about the teaching of reading, a great deal of reading research, lots of message boards, and, worked with a fair number of children, some labelled 'dyslexic', some not.
Being a Teaching Assistant, rather than a teacher meant that I have been in the position of watching a 'trained' Special Needs teacher teaching 'dyslexics' with one of the recognised UK 'dyslexia' programmes. Same thing for all the children -'this is what dyslexics need'. But it didn't do much for them. I also supported many children who appeared to have the same kinds of difficulty with reading & writing, but who weren't
labelled 'dyslexic'. Hmmmmm...
Since I have been working independently for the last few years I have come to realise more and more that, for many children, being labelled 'dyslexic' is the end
of a process. Yup, we've found the answer now; that child is dyslexic, so we can all sit back and 'accomodate' it, give it the 'dyslexia' treatment and the job's done. Except that it isn't.
Yes, some children 'recover' very well (given that the children I work with are sometimes 4 or 5 years behind their peers and will never catch up completely) once they understand how to decode and blend words and the gaps in their phonic knowledge are filled. But a few still struggle and it is left to me
to try and pinpoint just what the barrier to their learning can be. Because none of the 'professionals' ever seem to want (or know how) to get past the label. I have even discussed a child at length with the local Ed Psych, prior to her 'assessing him' and the only suggestion she could make was that he was probably 'tired of phonics'. The results of the 'assessment' only told me what I knew already (poor word identification, reasonable phonic skills and poor scores on a digit recall test) and the feedback to his mother was that 'she should read more with him'. 'Professional' advice to us was 'multisensory phonics' and 'age appropriate reading materials'. Ha, ha - he'd had 18 months of the phonics teaching and couldn't read 'age appropriate' materials.
So I don't consider that the label, in itself, is in the slightest bit helpful. All it tells you is that the child has problems with reading and writing, but not why
it has problems. And it is the 'why' that I take to be the 'cause' of the dyslexia'.
All my reading tells me (e.g.Stanovich, McGuinness, Rice's excellent review of research into 'developmental dyslexia, Elliot) that there is nothing which particularly distinguishes a 'dyslexic' from a common or garden 'poor reader', but it does tell me that there are lots of reasons
why children struggle to learn to read.
Yes, a child may have a neurological problem, but dyslexia is a manifestation of the problem, not the problem itself. Other children may equally well have hearing problems, short term memory deficits, emotional problems, visual problems, dietary deficiencies; any of these may be impeding their learning and dyslexia be a consequence of the impediment. But they are all different
problems and I cannot see how they can all come under the same 'umbrella' term, 'dyslexia'. Is 'poor comprehension' dyslexia, or is it a function of poor language skills?
I know there are people out there who have been working with children far, far longer than I have and who have probably encountered far more 'difficult to teach' children than I have, but how many would say that all these children have the same
'condition' and how many would be looking behind the label to find out just what is causing
the barrier and what would be the most effective way to teach that particular child?
Not sure that I've really answered your question, Susan