I have been thinking about the different schools of thought about dyslexia evident in the literature and in practice. The most dominant is a deficit model wherein dyslexia is a disability. In fact severe dyslexia is covered under the Disability Discrimination Act:

The DDA defines a disabled person as someone with a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Dyslexia does not always affect a person’s ability to carry out normal day to day activities. Dyslexic people can often reduce the effect of their disability if they are able to do things their way. However, if they cannot do this for any reason the effects can be disabling. When the Bill was being debated in parliament, the government made it clear that they thought severe dyslexia was covered under this law. [Paragraph A8, Guidance to the Definitions of Disability]

This approach assumes that ‘treatment’ is necessary and likely to be painful and prolonged. A US medical journal gives this gloomy summary:

Dyslexia is an impairment of the ability to read caused by a difference in brain function. Dyslexia, also known as developmental reading disorder, is a learning disability. Because dyslexia is caused by a difference in the structure and function of specific areas of the brain, there is no cure. Early identification is important for initiating treatment before the child with dyslexia becomes frustrated and loses motivation for learning in school.

Another school of thought claims that dyslexia is a gift. Sometimes great proficiencies in some areas can involve surprising and unexpected deficiencies in other areas.  This is not seen as a cruel trick of fate, but rather a basic quality of design: what is optimised (deliberately or inadvertently) for one function may involve fundamental elements that make it unsuited for another function’. (Thomas West) It is a remarkable irony that those who have had the greatest difficulties with bookish technologies seem to be those best suited to the new technologies that emphasise hands-on ways of learning and visual modes of accessing and creating knowledge and understanding.

I shall continue to explore these differing approaches over the next wee while.

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