9. The Guardian: The battle over dyslexia
I’ve never been diagnosed with dyslexia or any other learning disability, but since kindergarten, it’s been debated whether or not I have dyslexia. I couldn’t read until sixth grade, and I still greatly struggle with reading, writing, and spelling. In elementary school, I remember taking a series of tests and eye exams to figure out why I couldn’t read, but nothing conclusive was found.
The battle over dyslexia is decades-long, but over the past few years, it has become increasingly more public. Joe Elliott, an educational psychologist, believes “dyslexia is such a broad term […] that it is effectively meaningless.” While it was once believed dyslexia only “affected bright children whose difficulties reading and writing could not be explained by the usual factors, such as low IQ, not having attended school or having a chaotic home life,” that is no longer the case. Anyone, regardless of their IQ, can have difficulty reading, and their struggles can vary widely. Further, in the UK, children from wealthier areas are much more likely to be diagnosed with dyslexia than their poorer counterparts, and children from wealthier areas are more likely to have parents apply for public funding to send them to specialized schools. As educational budgets continue to get slashed, this raises a lot of concerns for students who struggle to read, but don’t have the diagnosis of dyslexia to get support.
The battle over the term “dyslexia” is about what it means as much as what having it represents and can get you. Some argue to keep the term around because having a label can be useful to children and families. Others who want to throw out the term because it has no solid definition argue that any child, regardless of whether they have a diagnosis, should receive the support they need.
I went to private school and had plenty of support during the debate over whether I had dyslexia. I don’t know what happened in sixth grade, but I just kind of started reading one day. Now, most of the time I can read anything you put in front of me (although it is particularly hard for me to follow dialogue and I rarely read novels or plays). But there are still days when reading, writing, and sometimes speaking feel almost impossible. Days where I trip over my words and can’t spell the most basic phrases. Days when even spell check is lost.