The end of dyslexia?

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Susan Godsland
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The end of dyslexia?

Post by Susan Godsland » Sun Aug 17, 2014 9:23 am

Julian G. Elliott and Elena L. Grigorenko argue that the label is a cultural meme
that remains unscientific and conceptually problematic.
In 2005 Julian Elliott contributed to a
television programme, The Dyslexia
Myth, that highlighted the many
misuses and misunderstandings of
the dyslexia construct and the
corresponding failure of professional
services to cater for all who
encounter reading difficulties.
In the subsequent fallout he was
repeatedly accused of undermining
efforts to help children with
dyslexia and setting back years of
hard-fought-for advances. Indeed,
in the programme itself he was
criticised by a number of teachers
on the grounds that parents who
have fought for their children for
years will be rendered puzzled and
distraught by such arguments.
Here Julian Elliott and his
collaborator Elena Grigorenko ask,
What is understood by the term
dyslexia? and Is there really any
value in the construct?
http://t.co/Ss0pmCSTlq

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Re: The end of dyslexia?

Post by volunteer » Mon Aug 25, 2014 10:58 pm

Good article. I just wonder if it will get read by the people who need to read it as opposed to those who know it's a misleading label which they wish wasn't used and those who know it's a false label but still think there are benefits to the label.

As a personal aside, I had an interesting time phoning some education law firms last week trying to find one who, if necessary, might help me make some headway with partnership with my DD's school including regular access to her literacy book, at the teacher's convenience, so that I can note down which words she is misspelling in her general writing (see my other recent thread).

Most of them could not see beyond asking if I thought she might be dyslexic and offering to help me get her statemented in the hopes of her then getting the "support that she needs" ... whatever that was I don't know what they thought she would get at a cash-strapped primary school particularly when she is high achieving in every other respect and is on the upper side of the average range for spelling.

For the most part they didn't seem to know much about children or education or spelling but still seemed to think they could sell me a service to gain something which I don't want, have zero chance of obtaining and that, even if I had it, would be of no benefit.

It made me curious as to if there are children who go to independent "dyslexia" schools paid for the local authority where parents have received legal aid for a zealous lawyer or have funded it themselves.

I presume a small number of these schools do teach children to read, write and spell thoroughly using sound principles, but there must be many that don't.

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Re: The end of dyslexia?

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Tue Aug 26, 2014 8:42 am

And possibly some establishments that are fixated on some bizarre 'methods' which do not serve the children nearly as well as a good grounding in systematic synthetic/linguistic phonics.

On scrutiny of various resources, programmes, products and methods advertised and utilised under the 'dyslexia' label, I find it quite shocking (and I'm not exaggerating) as to how poor, or dated, or misguided these can be.

There is often (I suggest) a disconnect between some dyslexia organisations and the advances in understanding and resources in our mainstream SSP/LP programmes - but the mainstream programmes are not only for 'mainstream', it is the same alphabetic code and phonics skills that all learners need - most especially those labelled as 'dyslexic'. :???:

Remember Elizabeth's report? It provides a flavour of some notable differences of rationale and practice between a more traditional approach underpinning SEN (special educational needs) training and SSP:

http://www.rrf.org.uk/pdf/Report%20BDA% ... 202012.pdf

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Re: The end of dyslexia?

Post by Susan Godsland » Tue Aug 26, 2014 9:21 am

On the subject of independent "dyslexia" schools and teaching centres:
Brooks (2007) has described ratio gains of between 1.4 and 2.0 as having ‘small impact’ and being ‘of modest educational significance’; ratio gains less than 1.4 he classes as being of ‘very small impact’ and ‘of doubtful educational significance’. On this basis all the results reported from studies in UK specialist [dyslexia] schools and teaching centres would be regarded as disappointing (or even disregarded altogether), since the largest ratio gain was only 2.0 (except at Moon Hall School)
(italics added. Singleton's Report p74)

Moon Hall School uses a programme similar to Sounds-Write/Sound Reading System.

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Re: The end of dyslexia?

Post by kenm » Tue Aug 26, 2014 9:47 am

volunteer wrote:For the most part they didn't seem to know much about children or education or spelling but still seemed to think they could sell me a service to gain something which I don't want, have zero chance of obtaining and that, even if I had it, would be of no benefit.
In addition to the law, lawyers need to understand how to exploit the thought processes of the average ignoramus, so it's not surprising that you find them useless. See also The Tyranny of the Discontinuous Mind.
"... the innovator has as enemies all those who have done well under the old regime, and only lukewarm allies among those who may do well under the new." Niccolo Macchiavelli, "The Prince", Chapter 6

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Re: The end of dyslexia?

Post by chew8 » Tue Aug 26, 2014 10:01 am

If the phonics screening check results are anything to go by, the standard of decoding achieved by the end of Year 1 in England is rising. It will be interesting to see if fewer children are diagnosed as 'dyslexic' as they go on up the system.

Apparently schools in Wales don't do the phonics check. Perhaps that will provide some useful comparisons in due course.

Jenny C.

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Re: The end of dyslexia?

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Tue Aug 26, 2014 1:36 pm

I tried hard during a series of systematic synthetic phonics training events for all teaching personnel in Rhondda Cynon Taf, organised by the RCT local council, to persuade folk of the importance of the Year One phonics screening check - and pointed out that it was made available for free after the official dates the check is used in England's schools. I really hoped that at least some schools in RCT might try using the check.

[By the way, I also promote the use of the Year One phonics screening check internationally - and a couple of schools in South America have sent me very good results. The latest school achieved an average result of 88% of their children reaching or exceeding the benchmark compared to England's results of 69% in 2013 - and yet English is a second language for the children concerned.]

The schools' scenario is different in Wales, however, with its mix of English schools and Welsh medium schools (where English is taught after Key Stage One and then as a 'subject' rather than as core content - at least that is what I understood from what I was told).

There was vociferous complaint about the nature of an English test that infants have to take in Wales as being not-fit-for-purpose - and the last time I read through the Welsh government's curriculum, it was not in the league of the English new curriculum - certainly where 'phonics' is concerned.

I feel sorry for children in Welsh medium schools that may not get anything like the amount of 'English' teaching that they could do with to compete with students from English schools when it comes, for example, to applying to universities in England. I wonder how the children with dyslexic tendencies fare in such schools.

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Re: The end of dyslexia?

Post by chew8 » Tue Aug 26, 2014 5:58 pm

What I had in mind was not a comparison based on results in the Year 1 phonics check – that kind of comparison is impossible if the check is not statutory in Wales. Rather, I was thinking in terms of results on other tests - e.g. standardised tests of reading (including comprehension) and spelling. More emphasis on phonics in Reception and Y1 is not an end in itself – to prove its worth, it needs to result in higher standards of reading and writing generally. Comparisons between England and Wales may provide one way of checking this in due course.

Jenny C.

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Re: The end of dyslexia?

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Tue Aug 26, 2014 6:21 pm

In the article flagged up by Susan, we read this:
While recognising the concerns about losing such a powerful and, for many, desirable label, the book concludes by arguing for an end to its use and calls for a correspondingly greater focus upon identifying and addressing each individual’s particular difficulties in ways that tie into what we know to be the best forms of practice.
Graham Stringer MP is mentioned as being someone who criticises the teaching itself for reading difficulties and the article's authors imply that there is now no such problem with teaching: "what we know to be the best forms of practice".
Understandings of dyslexia

Since clinical cases were first reported by physicians at the end of the 19th century, it has been clear that some children experience substantial difficulty in learning to read. In the view of some commentators, for example, the MP Graham Stringer, the root cause is poor educational practice. On his website in 2009, he described dyslexia as ‘a cruel fiction’ and added:

...to label children as dyslexic because they’re confused by poor teaching methods is wicked... The sooner it
is consigned to the same dustbin of history, the better.

The reality is that complex reading problems clearly have biological bases and cannot be ascribed merely to inefficient classroom practice. Of course, environmental factors can be influential in maximising or limiting a child’s progress (for example, after the cessation of the ‘Reading Wars’, we now recognise the importance of structured phonics techniques for those with potential reading difficulties, rather than the primary use of whole-language approaches).
I don't think anyone can make any assumptions about the 'best forms of practice' as delivered by either mainstream teachers, or intervention teachers/teaching assistants - or according to the content of various interventions (compare Reading Recovery teaching principles, for example, with Systematic Synthetic Phonics teaching principles - and read Elizabeth's findings of 'dyslexia training' and its difference with the general approach of SSP teaching and training).

I endeavoured to point out in my May article in SEN magazine that there is still no general consensus or common professional understanding about reading instruction and the dangers of the multi-cueing reading strategies for at least some children - particularly, I would argue, for the weakest or slowest-to-learn children - and the children with dyslexic tendencies (by that I mean, a tendency for muddlement therefore teaching needs to be particularly crystal clear and evidence-based):

SEN article flagging up the different approaches and 'understanding' amongst the teaching profession:

https://www.senmagazine.co.uk/articles/ ... or-phonics

I also think it is far too simplistic to look at the end of Year 2 statutory teacher assessments for literacy for many reasons. First and foremost because these are based on higher-order language ability in the main and therefore they are not comprehensive literacy assessments.

Secondly because children who are articulate can still gain the gist of reading books even where they may still be weak decoders or weak with alphabetic code knowledge, and children who are articulate can still write a good-enough piece of writing to gain a higher level than their level of code knowledge and spelling in comparison.

Thirdly, because the Year Two teacher assessments ARE teacher assessments - and therefore subjective - and in Year Two, there is no assessment of phonics knowledge and skills relative to higher-order skills and thus there is no continuity in the assessment measures. Over and again I have seen at least some examples of dubious accuracy with this teacher assessment process.

In other words, I suggest that Year Two teacher assessments do not give us a full-enough picture of how children are doing in the fullest sense - they do not look closely enough and transparently enough at the learners' full reading and writing profiles.

It's the same for the end of Key Stage Two tests I suggest - any formal assessment should not neglect alphabetic code knowledge and skills. Too many children may slip through the net - and this is particularly the case for articulate children with weaker basic skills - those children who might typically be described as 'dyslexic' as things stand currently.

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Re: The end of dyslexia?

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Tue Aug 26, 2014 6:35 pm

Phonics teaching will prove its worth only when there are no older learners who still struggle with code knowledge and application for reading and spelling.

Such learners slip through the net of many schools and perplex their secondary school teachers in later years.

I suggest that there are many learners going through private struggles including low self-esteem and consequential disaffection from school.

In training, I spend some time talking about the practice of 'skipping words' when learners read privately and silently. I think we have a problem with many learners who reach a ceiling at some point as they get older because of weak code knowledge and phonics skills - and it is possible that no teachers or parents are even aware of this state of affairs. I'm dealing with one such case now in a complaint about an Ofsted inspection.

In fact, the teaching profession - as we can see from the NFER May 2014 report - has very mixed views about the role of multi-cueing reading strategies - and the role of 'guessing the words'. There is no clarity as the authors of the NFER report conclude themselves.

Multi-cueing reading strategies can result in a lot of word-skipping, asking children to read books beyond their code knowledge can lead to a lot of word-skipping, promoting skim-reading and quick scanning can result in a lot of word-skipping - children who are particularly articulate can rely on this to some extent throughout primary and may only stall out in secondary - leaving primary teachers and learners' parents unaware of this issue of 'word-skipping' and surviving from getting the 'gist' of the texts.

Many children can survive in Key Stage One by getting the gist of the texts - and if teachers are not well-trained and sympathetic with the SSP teaching principles, knowledgeable and in agreement about the Simple View of Reading, and fully aware of the research which shows the dangers of the multi-cueing reading strategies - then we cannot have transparency and shared understanding with the higher-order end of Key Stage One and Two literacy results.

Elizabeth's findings from some typical (I suggest) dyslexia training, the findings of the NFER May 2014 report - the lack of consistency in the type of assessment in Year One and Year Two - the lack of consistency in various government's continued commitment to Reading Recovery giving teachers mixed messages, the lack of interest from various dyslexia organisations in some leading SP and LP programmes and training, the lack of appreciation of someone of Elliot's specialism regarding the mixed picture of early years, infant and intervention provision - surely this provides evidence of the parlous state of affairs for the weaker readers - whether apparently 'dyslexic' in profile - or not.

All of these factors may also result in 'dyslexia' being caused or exacerbated in at least some learners. :sad:

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Re: The end of dyslexia?

Post by cartwheel » Tue Aug 26, 2014 11:59 pm

Debbie wrote:
I spend some time talking about the practice of 'skipping words' when learners read privately and silently.
It was not until I began tutoring that I realized that word-skipping was not only common among weaker readers, but is actually encouraged by some (many?) teachers at the elementary school level. I am not referring to the skill of skimming for key ideas, but to a person reading a novel, for example, and simply skipping over words because they looked unfamiliar and too difficult to work out.

Skilled decoders learn a great deal of their vocabulary by decoding unfamiliar words. If they are not 100% sure of the pronunciation, at least they know how the word looks, from left-to-right, and typically which part of the word is tricky. This, in turn, helps with spelling the word in the future.

Jennie (U.S.)

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Re: The end of dyslexia?

Post by JIM CURRAN » Wed Aug 27, 2014 9:21 am

There are a number of children that I have worked with who score above their chronological ages on standardised reading tests but whose reading fluency is very poor and as a result comprehension presents a problem and in many of these cases I'm not convinced that the poor fluency is simply due to a lack of practice.

This short piece by Maryanne Wolf is worth a read.

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/arti ... ut-fluency

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Re: The end of dyslexia?

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Wed Aug 27, 2014 8:30 pm

Skilled decoders learn a great deal of their vocabulary by decoding unfamiliar words.
I agree - in fact much new vocabulary is learnt through reading literature - not through spoken language necessarily.

Even unskilled readers learn masses of new words as they access more and more books.

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Re: The end of dyslexia?

Post by Debbie Hepplewhite » Wed Aug 27, 2014 8:36 pm

If they are not 100% sure of the pronunciation, at least they know how the word looks,
Even if their pronunciation is not entirely conventional, at least a good decoder can come up with a pronunciation which may well be a close 'approximate' pronunciation.

It is surely better to come up with an approximate pronunciation to enable the word to contribute to spoken language.

The trouble is that when new words are 'skipped over' the reader doesn't even stand a chance of learning a new word associated with a pronunciation - and entering into spoken language. This is extremely limiting - and teachers and parents may be largely unaware of this state of affairs and, as Jennie describes, this skipping technique may have been encouraged or taught by the teachers themselves. :sad:

Great article Jim - thank you for that.

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Re: The end of dyslexia?

Post by kenm » Thu Aug 28, 2014 9:14 am

Debbie Hepplewhite wrote:Even if their pronunciation is not entirely conventional, at least a good decoder can come up with a pronunciation which may well be a close 'approximate' pronunciation.

It is surely better to come up with an approximate pronunciation to enable the word to contribute to spoken language.
Not only that. Evolution suggests that we should have a better memory for the sounds of spoken language (even if worked out "incorrectly") than the appearance of a written word. See the Pinker quote below.
"... the innovator has as enemies all those who have done well under the old regime, and only lukewarm allies among those who may do well under the new." Niccolo Macchiavelli, "The Prince", Chapter 6

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