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Sebastian Wren, Ph.D.

The term "dyslexia" is one of the most misunderstood and confusing terms in education.  It basically just means "unable to read," but the underlying causes of dyslexia are shockingly misunderstood.  If you ask 10 "experts" in dyslexia what it is, and how you know if a child is dyslexic, you'll get 11 different answers.

Much of what we describe as "dyslexia" is based on outdated or ill-conceived notions.  The world of "dyslexia interventions" is fraught with misinformation and terrible practice.

Of course, it goes without saying that learning to read is one of the most important skills any child can learn.  Reading is the key to success in school and in life.  So it is alarming and frustrating when a child seems to be unable to learn to read proficiently.  It is understandable that teachers and parents would want to get a child who seems to be dyslexic into a program designed to support their needs.

However,  in my experience, most "dyslexia programs" are so ineffective as to be educational malpractice.  Most dyslexia programs in my experience do no good at all, and many of them actually do harm.

I have encountered programs that are still entrenched in practices that are nearly 100 years old.  In all that time, they've never been shown to be effective -- they are not based in research -- they clearly do not help children learn to read -- and yet every year, schools and families spend millions of dollars on these programs in the hopes of helping their children.

If you want to learn more about dyslexia (and the malpractice that most dyslexia programs commit), I encourage you to read this paper.  Nearly every dyslexia program I've ever encountered is a shocking waste of time and money, and I think it's high time we all came to some common understanding about what dyslexia is, how we should diagnose it, and how we should treat it.

It is important that dyslexic children be identified, and that they be helped as quickly as possible, and bad dyslexia programs are just standing in the way of progress.

Overcoming Dyslexia
Sally Shaywitz
Published in 2003 by Knopf Publishing

Still one of the best books on the topic of dyslexia, Shaywitz describes modern neuroscience research to give a fresh look at this frustrating disorder.  Over the years, there have been so many myths and misconceptions related to dyslexia, it is refreshing to finally have solid, irrefutable research to guide our work with young children who have profound difficulties learning to read.

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Last Updated 8-7-03