January 10, 2007

Teachers say they cannot cope with needs of dyslexic children

(Cross-posted at KTMII)

As reported in the Independent:

The majority of state school teachers lack confidence in educating dyslexic pupils, a survey for Britain's biggest teaching union shows.

Fewer than one in 14 say they would be "very confident" in identifying a child with dyslexia while only 9 per cent say they would be "very confident" in teaching such a pupil. The survey, by the National Union of Teachers (NUT), reveals the vast majority believe they do not have enough training to deal with special needs children. (emphasis mine

My how quickly they give it. (And, by the way, that is a very unfortunate acronym.)

I'm not convinced that dyslexia is a legitimate disease or handicap or whatever the en vogue euphenism is today. I view dyslexia like the other bogus ailment "specific leearning disability"-- an educator created problem designed to excuse ineffective teaching ability.

I'll give you two good reasons:

1. The MRI evidence they're using to base the dyslexia theory on is bunk (pdf):

[T]he MRI scientists’ interpretation of brain-function data is what is logically referred to as a false dilemma or an argument from ignorance. The scientists observe a correlation between brain patterns and not learning to read.

The possibilities are:
  1. The brain pattern caused the nonlearning.
  2. The nonlearning caused the brain pattern.
  3. The interaction of a third variable caused both the nonreading and the brain pattern.
These scientists apparently don’t consider possibilities 2 or 3, but proclaim that the brain pattern causes the nonlearning. There is no question that there are individual differences in reading performance; however, if the kid can find his way into the right classroom and follow simple directions, he can be taught to read in a timely manner.

2. When kids are taught effectively, the incidence of "dyslexia" drops dramatically:

If it’s true that students in places like the worst slums in Baltimore and rural Mississippi taught with DI have 100% of the children reading—not guessing or memorizing—by the end of kindergarten, something is seriously wrong with the portrait of dyslexia. After all, these students exhibit all of the “warning signs” referred to in the analysis. When they come into kindergarten, they can’t rhyme, they can’t alliterate, they can’t blend orally presented words, and they have lots of problems figuring out unique sound patterns (such as repeating something like 4, 4, 4, 4 and yet are able to repeat four or more random digits). So they should all be dyslexic, and indeed historical performance records show that virtually all of them had been greatly retarded in reading, with the average fifth grader stumbling about on a weak second-grade level. Some of the schools that currently have no nonreaders coming out of K historically had end-of-first-graders scoring at the 6–9th percentile on standardized achievement tests. Yet, the new science tells us that we can expect 1/5 of the population to have dyslexia. That’s a 20% failure rate to teach reading in a fat-cat suburb where parents care about and influence the schools, and where they are lavishly funded with aides, material, and whatever.

You might want to take a look at this article (pdf) as well.

While normal children look at a capital letter R and see R, dyslexic kids are purported to see (backwards R). Normal children see receive; dyslexic children see recieve. Very little of this screwed up perception would actually manifest itself very directly in reading. If a reader actually sees (backwards R)ed, for instance, that child is most likely to say /rred/. If the child “sees” (backwards R) and thinks it’s R that’s not going to cause a decoding problem. If a child sees (backwards R)eb, that could cause a decoding problem, but most letters, written backward, are just backward letters.

Similarly, if the only problem is that a reader looks at receive and “sees” recieve that alone isn’t going to cause any reading difficulty. Look at all the people who write recieve but who think they’ve spelled the word right, and can certainly read what they wrote.


MikeZ said...

Dyslexia is unquestionably a real affliction. You might be able to dismiss it out-of-hand if you were a practicing neurosurgeon, opthalmologist, or some realted medical person.

One treatment that works - I've seen it work - (at least, on that one form of dyslexia) is dark glasses, or blue-tinted glasses. When they're worn, the effects of dyslexia go away.

There are more than enough "so-called diseases" going around to deal with that we don't have to start putting real ones in that category.

I don't suppose you actually believe there's such a thing as "near-sighted"? How could that possibly be? I see just fine, and littel Billy ought to get off his rocker and pull his weight.

KDeRosa said...

Yeah, there are some real medical conditions that have dyslexia-like symptoms. They are very rare in the general population. Much less than teh incidence of dyslexia claimed and/or diagnosed (depending on whose stats you want to go by: 4%-20% of teh population).

Anonymous said...

I don't think the argument is that dyslexia isn't "real", but rather that it is overdiagnosed and used as an excuse for poor teacher performance. It is a lot easier to blame the victim than to admit that a teaching method just doesn't work.

Anonymous said...

shortwoman, I'd say that the argument that it's overdiagnosed is a reasonable argument, but that's not what Ken said. He called dyslexia "bogus." Ken, if you want to convince people you're right, that kind of rhetoric won't work. Parents of children with reading trouble would read your post and think you're a jerk who doesn't know what he's talking about. Most likely, they'd extend that judgement to every other thing you say.

Are you trying to convince people or not?

KDeRosa said...

We have a definitional problem here. It seems that no one, bit even the experts, can agree on the definition of dyslexia. So let me say this. I'm referring to the version of dyslexia that's defined as a learning disability. I'm sticking with my assertion -- it's bogus. There certainly isn't any real evidence that supports it being a real condition. the diagnosis is too tied up with poor reading instruction.

What I'm not referring to are those very rare medical brain/visual disorders than afflict some people that are either confused with or associated with the term dyslexia.

Anonymous said...

Ken, I do understand what you're saying, and I don't disagree with you (I don't know enough about it to agree or disagree). What I'm saying is your rhetoric was needlessly confrontational.

trrish said...

I'm one of those parents. I have two children, the second one was very, very different. I finally, right before kindergarten, found someone who could describe my child (Susan Barton) and then I understood what was going on.

You can decide whatever you want, but I live with an 8 year old who thinks and learns differently. Your remarks about dyslexia seem hostile and make me wonder what your agenda is? I'm having enough trouble trying to get his school to help me, so I don't have to take out loans and go to the $15,000 a year private school. Comments like yours really do not help me.

If you are going to make these remarks, would you please review information on Susan Barton's site and let me know exactly where you think she's going wrong. Seriously. I would like to understand more about your point of view. I have not read through your entire site, but will do that now.


trrish said...

Ok, I did some more reading and I see it traces pack to "Direct Instruction", which is apparently controversial. I went to the web site and haven't yet figured out what DI is.

My request would be that you focus more on changing what you think should be changed about public education (which I suspect I might agree with) rather than knocking a diagnosis that is one way those of us using the public schools *today* can get what we need.


KDeRosa said...

Trrish, I'm not sure what you're getting at. What I am saying is that "dyslexia" is in reality "dystechia" for the vast majority of students. It is true that some kids find learning to read difficult. If it makes you feel better to label these students with some quasi-medical diagnosis, then go right ahead. What I am saying is that with proper instruction, most of these kids will learn to read just like any non-dyslexic. One of those instructional methods is DI which is the point I was trying to make.