Dr Steve Dykstra: What do people mean when they say 1 in 5 children are dyslexic?

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Dr Steve Dykstra: What do people mean when they say 1 in 5 children are dyslexic?

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Thu Jan 28, 2016 9:02 pm

Dr Steve Dykstra has given IFERI permission to copy and paste his message below regarding the topic of 'dyslexia'. This is such a very important topic and IFERI share Steve's concerns below:

Steve wrote:

For a variety of reasons I am troubled enough by the lack of progress in the world of reading to finally comment on this issue in a way I have considered for some time.

What do people mean when they say 1 in 5 children are dyslexic? I know what I think they mean: that 1 in 5 children struggle so much to learn to read that they require extra attention in order to do so. But that doesn't make them dyslexic, and failure to read isn't the same thing as dyslexia.

I wouldn't really care except I think that common statistic, 1 in 5, does a lot of harm when it is presented as the rate of dyslexia. It says those children struggle (and at least that many do) because they have an inherent neurological condition that predestined them to struggle when it came time to learn to read. That simply isn't true. 75-80% of those children struggle because of other reasons, primarily poor instruction. These children are not pathological. They are simply in the lower half of a complex distribution of features, some of which are neurogenetic, so they suffer the consequences of poor instruction more severely.

They are not dyslexic. To say they are stands the definition of dyslexia on it's head. It says 20% of the population are born disabled. That's absurd. It also collects these instructional casualties under the same heading with children who will struggle to learn to read no matter how they are instructed. If we do that, then the diagnostic label and process have no meaning. It's like calling everyone in a wheelchair paraplegic, including those recovering from a broken leg, or someone who can't walk because they've been kept in bed for years.

Worse, saying 1 in 5 children are dyslexic shifts the attention away from problems with instruction and teacher training and toward these children. When we begin by saying they are disabled when they're not, we're saying their alleged disability is the problem when there is no disability, not for 75-80% of those 1 in 5.

We're not giving these children what they need, and what they need isn't special. It isn't analogous to advanced therapy. The problem is, in an educational sense, we are starving them. There's nothing wrong with these children. We're starving them! But once you say they are disabled, it shifts the focus. Suddenly, these kids are a special case. It isn't us, we haven't failed. These kids are disabled. You can't expect us to succeed with them. And even if I get you to do what they need, you'll only do it with them, not with the 80% of the kids who need it too.

Stretching the definition of dyslexia to an absurd extent, no matter the intention, does more harm than good. It confuses, it misleads, and it takes the attention away from where it should be. These kids are fine. There is exactly nothing wrong with them, yet they don't learn to read because we fail them.

They're not sick. We're starving them. Diagnosing them, and dyslexia is very much a diagnosis, disguises that essential truth.

Steve Dykstra, PhD
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Re: Prof Steve Dykstra: What do people mean when they say 1 in 5 children are dyslexic?

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Thu Jan 28, 2016 9:02 pm

Dr Steven Dykstra is totally committed to challenging the promotion of dangerously flawed reading strategies which amount to 'guessing' the words on the page and which can cause or exacerbate dyslexic tendencies. In 2013, Steve headed up a letter of complaint to the 'Washington Post' signed by 30 extremely knowledgeable academics from around the world. Please do find the time to read the whole post as I have only copied the final comments of Steve Dykstra and the names of the signatories:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/ans ... ding-wars/

Another blast in the reading wars

...While this approach has been tempered over time, it still dominates the way most teachers are trained to teach reading, and thus the way our school children are instructed. We can trace a clear ideological path leading from Goodman to Reading Recovery to balanced literacy and many present-day iterations of guided reading. Lip service to phonics now allows a child to use the first letter of the word and guess, followed by the first and last letter and more guessing. But this faction adheres to the admonishment of Marie Clay, the influential developer of Reading Recovery, to use phonics only after all other strategies, or “cues,” have been tried.

“All readers, from five year old beginners on their first books to the effective adult reader need to use: the meaning, the sentence structure, order cues, size cues, special features, special knowledge, first and last letter knowledge before they resort to left to right sounding out of chunks or letter clusters, or in the last resort, single letters.” (p. 9) Clay (1998). An observation survey of early literacy achievement. Auckland, Heinemann..
The goal is to keep phonetic decoding of words to a minimum, despite a wealth of research that shows it is a cardinal feature of all skilled reading. Skilled reading and poor phonetic decoding are mutually exclusive. The guessing advocates ignore this richly validated fact because it is inconsistent with their own beliefs. The damage comes when, as the NCTQ found, so many university teacher programs confuse the philosophy with the science. Fresh out of high school, our future teachers are hugely dependent on their college education to prepare them to teach children to read. Teachers can hardly be expected to teach what they haven’t been taught, much less that which they have been trained to reject.

Attacks on the NCTQ review are merely ways for defenders of guessing to deflect attention from years of misguided and, ultimately, damaging instruction. There is nothing enlightened about denying serious research, and there is nothing liberal about denigrating or withholding the tools and knowledge on which teachers’ successful careers and children’s educational horizons depend. Strauss, Goodman, and others need to give up their smokescreen of concern over the politics and particulars of the NCTQ review, and account for the relentless adherence to the guessing strategies that really are perpetuating the Reading Wars. Future teachers and all stakeholders who want our children to have the keys to skilled reading should demand this accounting.

Marilyn Jager Adams, Ph.D., Visiting Scholar, Psychology, Brown University

Isabel Beck, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, University of Pittsburgh

Susan Brady, Ph.D., Professor of School Psychology, University of Rhode Island

James Chapman, Ph.D., Professor of Educational Psychology, Massey University, New Zealand

David Chard, Ph.D., Dean, Simmons School of Education and Human Development, Southern Methodist University

Carol McDonald Connor, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology, Arizona State University

Carolyn Cowen, Board Member, Literate Nation

Molly de Lemos, Ph.D., President-elect, Learning Difficulties Australia

Mary Delahunty, M. Ed., Learning Difficulties Australia

Steven Dykstra, Ph.D., Founding Member, Wisconsin Reading Coalition

Jack M. Fletcher, Ph.D., ABPP (ABCN), Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of Houston

David Francis, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Psychology, University of Houston

Margie B. Gillis, Ed.D, President, Literacy How; Research Affiliate, Haskins Laboratories

Sally Grimes, Ed.M., Founding Director, Grimes Reading Institute

Cinthia Haan, Haan Foundation for Children

Lorraine Hammond, Ph.D., Senior Lecturer, Edith Cowan University; President, Learning Difficulties Australia

Kerry Hempenstall, Ph.D., RMIT University, Australia

Marcia K. Henry, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, San Jose State University

E.D. Hirsch, Jr., Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Education and Humanities, University of Virginia

R. Malatesha Joshi, Ph.D., Professor, Teaching, Learning, and Culture, Texas A&M University

Edward J. Kame’enui, Ph.D., Dean-Knight Professor of Education, University of Oregon

Yvonne Meyer, Committee Member, National Inquiry into Teaching of Literacy/Report: Teaching Reading (2005) Australia

Louisa C. Moats, Ed.D., Moats Associates Consulting; former Vice President, International Dyslexia Association

Frederick J. Morrison, Ph.D., Professor, School of Education and Department of Psychology, University of Michigan

Mary Newton, J.D., CALP, Founding Member, Wisconsin Reading Coalition

Charles A. Perfetti, Ph.D., Distinguished University Professor of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh

Margot Prior, Professor of Psychology, AO, FASSA, FAPS, University of Melbourne, Australia

Daniel J. Reschly, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Special Education, Vanderbilt University

Mark S. Seidenberg, Ph.D., Donald O. Hebb and Hilldale Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Donald Shankweiler, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Haskins Laboratories; Professor Emeritus, Psychology, University of Connecticut

Holly Shapiro, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, Ravinia Reading Center, LLC

Bennett A. Shaywitz, M.D., Professor, Co-Director, Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity

Sally E. Shaywitz, M.D., Professor, Co-Director, Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity

Susan M. Smartt, Ph.D., Vice President of Science Core Group, Literate Nation

Louise A. Spear-Swerling, Ph.D., Area Coordinator, Graduate Program in Learning Disabilities, Southern Connecticut State University

Morag Stuart, Ph.D. Professor Emerita in the Psychology of Reading, University of London

Geraldine L. Theadore, M.S., CCC-SLP, Clinical Associate Professor, University of Rhode Island

Joseph K. Torgesen, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Education Emeritus, Florida State University; Director Emeritus, Florida Center for Reading Research

William E. Tunmer, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Educational Psychology, Massey University, New Zealand

Kevin Wheldall, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor and Director of MULTILIT Research Unit, Macquarie University, Australia

Joanna P. Williams, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Education, Columbia University

Please note that five of these signatories have gone on to become the founding members of the International Foundation for Effective Reading Instruction as you can see here:

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Re: Dr Steve Dykstra: What do people mean when they say 1 in 5 children are dyslexic?

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Thu Jan 28, 2016 9:25 pm

Please also note that even in England where the provision of the Systematic Synthetic Phonics teaching principles are embedded in the statutory National Curriculum for English, it is looking like many teachers still base their overall reading provision on the 'searchlights' multi-cueing reading strategies according to the findings of the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) surveys of phonics in 2013, 14 and 15.

Note this key finding in the 2014 NFER survey:

https://www.nfer.ac.uk/publications/YOP ... 2_home.cfm

Teachers were positive about phonics as an approach to teaching reading, and its contribution towards early reading development. In the majority of schools, however, other strategies alongside phonics were also supported.

I've added the red colouring.

See pages 60 and 61 in this survey:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/s ... _FINAL.pdf
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Re: Dr Steve Dykstra: What do people mean when they say 1 in 5 children are dyslexic?

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Thu Jan 28, 2016 9:40 pm

The Wisconsin Reading Coalition:

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Re: Dr Steve Dykstra: What do people mean when they say 1 in 5 children are dyslexic?

Postby Debbie_Hepplewhite » Fri Jan 29, 2016 6:51 pm

Alison Clarke of 'Spelfabet' writes yet another great blog posting about the '1 in 5':

Teachers' feelings are not more important than children's rights

http://www.spelfabet.com.au/2016/01/tea ... ts-rights/

Yet most early years teachers are starving about one in five children of the type of literacy teaching they need.

If teachers withheld children’s lunchboxes and starved them of necessary nutrition, there’d be a riot. Consider the long-term consequences of failing to learn to read and write well, in our complex, print-based, modern society. Worth rioting about.

It’s over ten years since our National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy clearly stated “that direct systematic instruction in phonics during the early years of schooling is an essential foundation for teaching children to read”, but this has had little impact on classroom practice, or what universities teach, education departments and teacher registration bodies require, and mainstream educational publishers promote.

Yes, a literacy riot would probably hurt teachers’ feelings, but teachers’ feelings are not more important than children’s rights.

Please read the whole piece.

So - readers of the IFERI site are reading about the same problems regarding teacher-education and provision in schools in different countries - the problem is the same world-wide.

Teacher-training is not always based on research findings nor of sufficient high-quality, or undermines training on phonics by still promoting 'mixed methods' or 'whole language' or 'multi-cueing reading strategies' or 'balanced literacy' (different names of the same approach).

Teachers themselves may not even be fully aware of the research findings according to the 'body of research' or they bring their own biases or experiences to bear despite the research.

Steve Dykstra, and others, draw attention to this issue of 'dyslexia' whereby dyslexic tendencies can be caused or exacerbated by the actual teaching provision being flawed - and where the attention is focused on 'within child' difficulties at the expense of (detracting from) the content and quality of the teaching itself.

Parents should not have to resort to protesting or 'rioting' (as Alison describes) but teachers and teacher-trainers should be held to account when the research is there informing us as to what the best approach, content and quality of literacy teaching should look like.

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