The Myth of Dyslexia

Adult Dyslexia Organisation Response to the Channel 4 Programme Dispatches:

"Dyslexia - The Myth" Thursday 9pm September 8th 2005

The Adult Dyslexia Organisation (ADO) has several points to make about the way in which information and research was presented in this programme feeling that it was misleading viewers about an emotive issue. We also felt that the programme raised some important questions that were left unanswered. In particular we would like to raise the following issues:

1. There is a growing body of evidence from cognitive psychology that clearly demonstrates that some people have considerable difficulty in literacy acquisition. This is supported by genetic and brain scan research, using the same techniques that are so successfully used in medicine, from cancer treatment to genetic inheritability of diseases.

2. The failure to diagnose the existence of a problem does not negate the existence of the problem but highlights the shortcomings of the professionals charged with identification of those difficulties.

3. Each year thousands of individuals are recognised who have failed to learn to read in an environment where others thrive, highlighting a difference and a difficulty in the acquisition of literacy skills when taught using methods that suit a large percentage of the population. These individuals are very grateful of the label of "dyslexic".

The ADO acknowledge that the system is imperfect and welcomes:

A) the call for early identification of difficulties

B) the need for better training of teachers to assist in the process

C) acknowledgment that the underlying causes of the difficulties are lifelong and more than just literacy acquisition, and that the dyslexic individual will require support and accommodations in order to fully contribute to an increasingly literate society.

The ADO considers that:

Dyslexia is a neurologically based difficulty in the acquisition of literacy skills.

The ADO also recognise that the underlying causes of reading and writing difficulties may also impact on other life skills, making the difficulties extend well beyond the academic areas.

The ADO acknowledge that there are a number of dyslexia services available for which there is little scientific evidence of their benefits. We, and other dyslexia organisations, are aware of these services and aim to give people the benefit of our experience in order to make more informed decisions.

ADO welcomes responsible research and constructive debate about dyslexia, which unfortunately this programme lacked. The consensus of opinion in the UK (ADO, British Dyslexia Association, Dyslexia Institute and Dyslexia Scotland) is that dyslexia affects people regardless of race, socio-economic background and intelligence. The programme failed to appreciate that high intelligence is not a pre-requisite of dyslexia, that some dyslexics do find relief from the stress of reading using coloured overlays, and that availability of assistive technology can make a considerable positive impact on the lives of dyslexic students.

Given the emotive nature of Professor Elliott's analysis, we hereby invite him to listen to the views of a group of adult dyslexics, who would like to explain how their difficulties extend well beyond his narrow viewpoint, and why they find the label of dyslexia useful. We hope that he, and the programme makers, may appreciate that whilst they do make some relevant comments on the state of education, to be so dismissive of the difficulties of the dyslexic individual would be doing an injustice to the millions of dyslexics in the UK and the rest of the world.

The ADO is a registered charity formed in 1992 run by dyslexics for dyslexics. The ADO's 'Dyslexia Friendly - User Friendly' campaign, supported by a variety of government departments, aims to demonstrate that services and support put in place for dyslexics can benefit other disabilities and non-disabled alike. This goes across education, employment, ICT and day-to-day living.

ADO is working with colleges, universities, trade unions and government departments to recognise and address dyslexia. An example of this work is, the Adult Learning Inspectorate has recognised this policy as working through the work we have done with HABIA in increasing the retention and achievement levels for their training courses.

ADO and other dyslexia organisations are now fielding an increased number of calls from distressed parents and adults with dyslexia expressing their concern over this programme. We would hope that in future programme makers take into consideration the considerable harm that can be caused when dealing with disabilities.

Donald Schloss

Chief Executive

Adult Dyslexia Organisation

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