Researchers say dyslexia affects up to one in five people, but one college professor thinks the disability is only a “meaningless label used by middle-class parents who fear their children are being branded stupid.”
Durham University Professor Julian Elliot, an educational psychologist and former special needs teacher, says while there are children who do have reading difficulties, the problem is that the definition of dyslexia is too broad. It fails to separate those dyslexics with those who are just poor readers, he says.
Elliot argues both poor readers and dyslexic people struggle with matching print with the sounds of words. He adds both groups are given the same type of treatment, which includes engaging them in phonological exercises.
Because there are treated the same, there is no point in diagnosing dyslexia and therefore, dyslexia does not exist, Elliot says.
But most parents are happy with the label, the professor says.
“You have a long list of symptoms, things like anxiety when reading out loud, but any kid that is learning to read might be expected to show some anxiety,” he said according to the Daily Mail. “You show a parent this list and they say, ‘You are right, I didn’t realize my kid was dyslexic.”
Other professionals have been quick to slam Elliot’s stance.
Doctor John Rack of the charity Dyslexia Action said the term has both a scientific and educational value.
“We don’t accept the argument that is it wasteful to try to understand the different reasons why different people struggle,” Rack said. “And for many, those reasons fall into a consistent and recognizable pattern that it is helpful to call dyslexia.”
Professor of neuroscience John Stein at the Oxford University Medical School said Elliot’s argument is wrong for two reasons, one being because dyslexics struggle with more than just a phonological problem.
He added that dyslexia does exist because it has a “genetic, immunological and nutritional causes.”