5th November 2004 at 00:00
DYSLEXIA IN CONTEXT. Edited by Gavin Reid and Angela Fawcett. Whurr. Pounds 29.50

These papers from a recent British Dyslexia Association international conference are a useful account of what the editors see as "the many and disparate strands of thought" that surround dyslexia. Each receives a fair hearing and, while the editors do not see any prospect of consensus, they arrive at the interesting conclusion that current theories are not incompatible with each other. This suggests that dyslexia may be a spectrum of difficulties rather than a single issue.

Among the most informative papers is David Jack's analysis of the Dyslexia Institute's teaching. It seems to enable pupils to make average rates of progress, but not to let them read to the same level as their IQ.

A challenging study from Aryan van der Leij, of the University of Amsterdam, analyses dyslexia in the context of different spelling systems, of which English is one of the most difficult. Van der Leij criticises teaching techniques that focus only on phonic skills and leaves the mental flexibility that is needed to make sense of more complex spelling systems to chance. He makes a strong case. If he is right, almost all current teaching strategies for dyslexia need to be rethought.

John Bald

Literacy consultant

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