Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Demise of Dyslexia

By Tim Hannan

Leading scholars argue for the abandonment of a flawed concept.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Since it was first recognised that some children experience significant difficulty learning to read, much academic ink has been spilled in the battle over the concept of dyslexia, with its nature, cause, neuropathology, diagnosis and treatment all furiously debated. Now, a new book by two leading scholars argues that current approaches to dyslexia are largely incoherent, and that the battle should simply be abandoned.

First used in 1887 to describe the reading problems exhibited by some adult patients after a stroke, the term “dyslexia” was later employed to refer to the difficulties exhibited by those children who, despite possessing age-appropriate intellectual and linguistic abilities and having experienced sufficient educational opportunities, nevertheless failed to learn to read. While early theories held that this was due to a primary visual pathology, research over the past several decades has demonstrated that reading difficulties are associated with deficits in phonological skills – specifically the ability to discriminate, manipulate and reproduce the sounds of one’s native language.

Being conceptualised as a specific problem with reading, the diagnosis of dyslexia was traditionally restricted to those children who possess at least average intellectual abilities. In practice, this required a clear discrepancy between scores on standardised tests...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.