Identification and Overidentification of Specific Learning Disabilities (Dyslexia) in Greece

Article excerpt

Abstract. The present study analyzed identification procedures and explored the possibility of dyslexia overidentification in Greece. Data from various institutional sources provided evidence that the prevalence rate of dyslexia in the school population, aged 6-18, was slightly higher than 1%. Compared to the corresponding percentages from the United States (approximately 5.5%) and an arbitrary estimation of 5% of a Greek legal document, the dyslexia rate was much lower, thus excluding the possibility of an overidentification problem on a national scale. Nonetheless, the relevant worries expressed by Greek governments seem to be partly justified by the phenomenon of a disproportionate percentage of students with dyslexia in secondary schools, when compared with that in elementary schools. This seems paradoxical, considering that the inadequacies in supportive special education services are much greater in the secondary-level education system. This finding was analyzed in terms of the legal and social actualities of Greece. Finally, a comparison between the Greek situation and the specific learning disabilities reality in the United States revealed differences regarding the issue of identification as well as similarities in the social factors that lead to distortions of the diagnostic procedures.

**********

In Greece, there is no such thing as a single state authority exclusively responsible for the statistical count of students with specific learning disabilities (SLD) and the provision of special educational (and other related) services. The National Statistical Service of Greece (E.S.Y.E.), the official statistical service of the country, does not publish any form of special statistics about students with SLD and the services such students receive. Yet, official state documents from time to time include statements expressing serious concerns about the excessive number of children with dyslexia. On the international level and in the current decade, the field of SLD is undergoing a turbulent period, putting identification of SLD at the center of international scientific discourse. Recently, and as a result of federal law, P.L. 108-446, the "Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act" (IDEA 2004), drastic changes have been effected in the United States in terms of the procedures followed for identification of students with SLD. One of the fundamental factors that led to these changes has been the problem of overidentification (see Lyon et al., 2001, p. 260; President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education, 2002, p. 25).

The essence of the changes in U.S. federal legislation lies in shifting the identification approach away from the basic criterion of an IQ-achievement discrepancy toward a novel procedure, response to intervention (RTI). The identification process that was centered on a severe discrepancy between intellectual ability (measured with an IQ test) and academic achievement was considered responsible for (a) overidentification of students with SLD and consequent high financial costs, and (b) delayed educational intervention for the children identified with SLD (President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education, 2002; Reschly & Hosp, 2004; Stuebing et al., 2002).

In this turbulent period, confirmation or non-confirmation of overidentification of dyslexia in the student population of Greece is an important issue that can exercise a considerable effect on Greek educational policy, in terms of resources and services.

SLD, Dyslexia, and Relevant Terminology

In Greece, the general public (parents as well as the mass media) makes much more frequent use of the term dyslexia than the term SLD, even though both terms are included in the relevant legislation.

The Greek state guaranties special education services backed by a series of laws, presidential decrees, ministerial decisions, and other secondary ministerial circulars. …