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One way to help clarify criteria

I was interested, but hardly surprised, to note the massive number of responses to my TES article (September 2) and the subsequent media coverage both here and internationally. In many cases, my arguments, and those of other academics featured in the Channel 4 programme, have been oversimplified and reduced to unhelpful questions such as "Does dyslexia exist?"

Of course, a wide range of reading-related difficulties exists. We can, if we wish, employ a diagnostic construct such as "dyslexic" to describe some, or all, of these or, as some would prefer, use this term to encompass a much wider range of difficulties.

In my article, I tried to highlight the multiple understandings that render the construct so problematic. In relation to literacy, dyslexia can be employed as a term to describe all those with reading, spelling and writing difficulties, a subgroup who demonstrate an IQreading discrepancy (a now discredited but still popular conception), those who have phonological difficulties (the option employed by most researchers in this field), or as Professor Maggie Snowling has suggested, operationalise the term to describe an even smaller group who appear to be highly resistant to systematic, long-term intervention. The important point here, however, is that, in this latter case, the diagnosis would be made subsequent to the intervention, rather than at the outset.

I think that Professor Snowling's view has much to commend it. The term would describe a particular subgroup of poor readers; we could all be clear on the diagnostic criteria, and attempts to support this group (both by means of teaching and the provision of highly specialised resources) could be differentiated from the earlier forms of second and third-wave intervention.

Professor Julian Elliott. Durham university

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