Durham Expert Claims Term 'Dyslexia' Should Be Ditched

26 February 2014, 06:00 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50

The term ‘dyslexia’ should be abandoned as it's not scientifically accurate, according to a new book by a Durham University academic.

The authors of the book, from Durham and Yale universities, say that valuable resources are poured into expensive and time-consuming diagnostic tests which are often highly questionable and a diagnosis of dyslexia does not point to distinctive treatment.

They say professionals need to spot reading difficulties early in any child and intervene as quickly as possible rather than search for a diagnosis. 

The book, called The Dyslexic Debate, shows that teaching methods that help children who have difficulty reading are no different from those who have been labelled dyslexic.

Although the researchers do not question the existence of the very real underlying problems that those with complex reading difficulties typically experience, they are critical of dyslexia as a term often used to describe a wide range of problems, of varying degrees of severity.

Although it's not known exactly how many people are dyslexic in the UK, it's estimated that around 5-10% of a given population is classed as dyslexic.

The research by the authors suggests that the term that is widely used by teachers, clinicians and the public, has become meaningless.

Book author, Julian Elliott, a former teacher of children with learning difficulties and educational psychologist, and currently Professor of Education at Durham University, said:
“Parents are being woefully misled about the value of a dyslexia diagnosis.

In every country, and in every language, a significant proportion of children struggle to master the skill of reading and some will continue to find it difficult throughout their childhood and into adulthood.

It is very easy for teachers to identify such children. The hardship and difficulties that typically result are often incapacitating, undermining and distressing.

Typically, we search for a diagnostic label when we encounter problems because we believe that this will point to the best form of treatment. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the parents and teachers of children with reading difficulties believe that if the child is diagnosed as dyslexic, clear ways to help them will result.

Research in this field clearly demonstrates that this is a grave misunderstanding."

The book calls for an end to the use of the term dyslexia. In its place it advocates the use of an alternative approach that ties more closely to children's educational needs.

But Liz Ferguson from Dyslexia North East disagrees with the findings and told Capital:
'Dyslexia is a very loose term, but it has been used for a number of years now and to try and say something different is going to confuse people.

In the North East there is a lot of disadvantage for a lot of children who still aren't getting enough help at school.

I think that the more knowledge and understanding we can help with and raise awareness, the better.'