'The People Affected by Dyslexia Want Solutions Not Arguments'

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 3, 2005 | Go to article overview

'The People Affected by Dyslexia Want Solutions Not Arguments'


Byline: By Madeleine Brindley Western Mail

Claims that dyslexia does not exist have been rubbished by scientists at the forefront of cracking the common learning disorder's genetic code.

A group of influential academics has said that there is no real scientific basis for the term dyslexia.

They claim because the term is often linked to being bright, many parents are anxious their children are labelled dyslexic to excuse their poor reading skills.

And the group has cast doubt on there being a distinct set of dyslexia symptoms, such as reversing letters, poor short-term memory and being clumsy, which characterise the learning disorder.

The controversial ideas will be put forward in a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary on Thursday night.

But Welsh researchers last night said there was a wealth of scientific data to support a spectrum of dyslexic disorders.

And experts have called for an end to in-fighting.

Wynford Dore, a Welsh millionaire who developed a non-drug cure for dyslexia, said, 'This is an industry which should be united by the tragic plight of so many individuals and families, instead of scientists arguing with each other about what causes the problems.

'The people affected by dyslexia want solutions, not arguments.'

The Channel 4 programme will see a host of experts warning that the popular view of dyslexia is both wrong and could be making it more difficult to provide help to the thousands of children with reading difficulties.

It comes amid concerns that experts are unable to distinguish children who are diagnosed with dyslexia from those who are simply poor readers.

Professor Julian Elliott, a professor of education at Durham University, said dyslexia is a construct which has become popular for emotional reasons, not scientific reasons.

He said despite his 30 years in the field he has little confidence in his ability to diagnose it, avoiding having to label children as either dyslexic or as poor readers.

Writing in the Times Educational Supplement, he added, 'Public perceptions often link reading difficulties with intelligence and, in our culture, an attribution of low intelligence often results in shame.

'It is hardly surprising therefore that the widespread, yet wholly erroneous, belief that dyslexics are intellectually bright would create a strong, sometimes impassioned, demand to be accorded a dyslexic label.'

But Prof Julie Williams, a professor of neuropsyhological genetics at Cardiff University, led the team which became the first in the world to discover the a gene responsible for dyslexia in children.

She said, 'There is over-riding evidence that dyslexia exists. …

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