Dyslexia - Labeling or Describing

October 01, 2017

“Identifying a label for student’s type of learning disability is not the key issue.  Use of the label dyslexia may not even be necessary.  Describing the phenomena observed in the child should be the goal of the diagnostic assessment, especially in an area as muddled as this one.”

If it is decided to use the diagnostic label dyslexia, then it is critical to identify, the particular symptoms the student exhibits”. (Regina Richards, in “Dyslexia Testing: A Process Not a Score”)

Do you remember in Alice in Wonderland, where Alice discovers the little bottle that says “drink me” on the outside of it?  Well, recently, I was cleaning out the archaeological dig known as my office and I came upon a little pamphlet book that has been on my shelf forgotten for a number years – “Dyslexia Testing:  A Process Not a Score,” by Regina Richards, the renowned educational therapist.

Like Alice, I took it off the shelf and peaked inside.  It’s loaded with jewels like the above quote.

As Richards noted, it is a “muddled field,” loaded with multiple players offering various commentaries.  One’s head can spin with all of the interpretations and permutations.  As I said in “School Struggles,” so much depends on whose door step you land.

Richards is reminding us to be sensible (not an easy task).  The question of “does my child have dyslexia,” is not central.  The question “does my child have a reading (spelling, writing) problem and what are its characteristics is essential and a very different question.

If I describe the phenomena reasonably well, then there is an inherent prescription as to what to do next.  Saying the child had “difficulty with high frequency words in a first grade text,” offers an idea of what you need to target.   You need to target high frequency words with a research-supported approach.  It’s sensible.

If I say “the child is dyslexic,” I’m not sure that tells me what to do next.

What’s the nature of the difficulty?  What are we targeting?  Where is the zone of competence?  How mild, moderate or severe is the problem.

Those questions are far more important to understand and address.

Hey, if Regina Richards is in my camp, I’m sticking with that.

I’m heading back to Wonderland.  See you there.

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All comments (4)
  • Luqman Michel
    October 06, 2017 at 10:38 pm

    Excellent post.

    Reply
  • Heidi Kroner
    December 02, 2017 at 7:51 pm

    Richard. I do not agree. In The US because they only treat symptoms, so they miss the forest and treat a tree. No one gets […] Read MoreRichard. I do not agree. In The US because they only treat symptoms, so they miss the forest and treat a tree. No one gets better. And dyslexics will show good skills/symptoms on one day and different ones on another day. If the etiology is identified, a wholistic treatment can be given...student-paced, structured literacy given till the concept is mastered. This is true learning and good teaching practice. Read Less

    Reply

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