IN recent years the psychological approach to dyslexia has become all powerful. Language and cognition assessment by psychologists and therapy by educationists are the order of the day. This is, I believe, a damage limitation exercise and untenable in light of current techniques. In particular, there is a belief by psychologists that cognitive assessment is crucial in diagnosis of dyslexia. This is an obviously flawed assumption if the sensory input is not at an optimum level.
To put it crudely, rubbish in, rubbish out. How does a cognitive psychologist ascertain whether optimum visual (or other sensory) performance is present? Therefore any assessment for dyslexia must be conducted after optimum sensory performance is achieved.
There is a role for psychologists and educationists in dyslexia, but their training must be advanced significantly. To be unaware of the physical nature of dyslexia is unacceptable and causes great damage to children as they do not have access to the range of treatments that are available. Dyslexia is often a physical condition that may be treated and resolved using physical interventions.
So, what of the public perception of dyslexia? The reply would almost certainly be something along the lines of "words moving around, letters turning back to front, not being able to spell correctly". They would not usually describe a cognitive or language problem, indeed the psychologists have hijacked the original definition to the detriment of the treatment of many children.
The common reading problems encountered by all ages, but particularly in children learning to read, are often visual in origin and can be considered treatable (but not using the ubiquitous language therapies suggested by psychologists and educationists). The lack of treatment can be considered a disgrace partly due to the insistence that dyslexia is an educational matter and must be kept in-house, and partly due to the lack of research into alternative therapies.
Dyslexia must be addressed as early as possible. We have undertaken three small surveys (not yet published) into the prevalence of visual dyslexia in three groups, school excluded children, first time offenders and prisoners serving life. About two-thirds of the first two groups and half of the lifers had major visual perceptual problems. None had had any previous visual perceptual intervention and treatment is now under way.
In the next six months there will be a number of new techniques announced that will allow visual dyslexia symptoms to be measured, assessed and their treatments determined. As a result of these advances medicine and the optical professions will have to adapt and consequently further training is already being planned. Most of the visual symptoms can be stopped immediately using physical interventions.
Therefore I throw down a challenge to the psychological and educational establishment (represented in your columns recently by Philip Seymour, TESS, March 1) to an open demonstration of physical visual dyslexia to determine the validity of my assertion that educational methods and assessments have to change and that we are failing our children.
Ian Jordan is a qualified optician who works exclusively on the research and development of techniques to combat visual dyslexia. He is currently on a lecture tour of the UK to tell teachers and educational psychologists how to recognise the condition.