Dyslexia Research Information.
1. BDA definition of dyslexia.
There are a number of different definitions and descriptions of dyslexia, which may be variously appropriate for certain contexts or purposes.
In 2009 Sir Jim Rose’s Report on 'Identifying and Teaching Children and Young People with Dyslexia and Literacy Difficulties’ gave the following description of dyslexia, which was adopted by the BDA Management Board, but with the addition of the further paragraph shown below, which should always appear with it:
The description of dyslexia adopted in the report is as follows:
'Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling.
Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed.
Dyslexia occurs across the range of intellectual abilities.
It is best thought of as a continuum, not a distinct category, and there are no clear cut-off points.
Co-occurring difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor co-ordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation, but these are not, by themselves, markers of dyslexia.
A good indication of the severity and persistence of dyslexic difficulties can be gained by examining how the individual responds or has responded to well founded intervention.'
In addition to these characteristics, the BDA acknowledges the visual and auditory processing difficulties that some individuals with dyslexia can experience, and points out that dyslexic readers can show a combination of abilities and difficulties that affect the learning process. Some also have strengths in other areas, such as design, problem solving, creative skills, interactive skills and oral skills.
In October 2007, the BDA Management Board approved the following definition:
Dyslexia is a specific learning difficulty that mainly affects the development of literacy and language related skills. It is likely to be present at birth and to be life-long in its effects. It is characterised by difficulties with phonological processing, rapid naming, working memory, processing speed, and the automatic development of skills that may not match up to an individual's other cognitive abilities.
It tends to be resistant to conventional teaching methods, but its effect can be mitigated by appropriately specific intervention, including the application of information technology and supportive counseling.
The following description is quoted in the BDA Code of Practice for Employers:
“Dyslexia is a combination of abilities and difficulties that affect the learning process in one or more of reading, spelling and writing. It is a persistent condition.
Accompanying weaknesses may be identified in areas of speed of processing, short-term memory, organisation, sequencing, spoken language and motor skills. There may be difficulties with auditory and /or visual perception. It is particularly related to mastering and using written language, which may include alphabetic, numeric and musical notation.
Dyslexia can occur despite normal intellectual ability and teaching. It is constitutional in origin, part of one’s make-up and independent of socio-economic or language background.
Some learners have very well developed creative skills and/or interpersonal skills, others have strong oral skills. Some have no outstanding talents. All have strengths.”
(Dr.Lindsay Peer, 2006)
The first diagnosis of developmental dyslexia mentioned in any publication appeared in The British Medical Journal, 7 November 1896. "A Case of Congenital Word Blindness" by W. Pringle Morgan, M.B. Seaford, Sussex.
It was an account of a 14 year old boy, Percy.
"...in spite of this laborious and persistent training, he can only with difficulty spell out words of one syllable". "The schoolmaster who taught him for some years says that he would be the smartest lad in the school if the instruction were entirely oral."
(The Dyslexia Handbook 1996, p11-14).
The definition recommended by the Research Group of Developmental Dyslexia of the World Federation of Neurology in 1968 reads: "A disorder manifested by a difficulty in learning to read despite conventional instruction, adequate intelligence and socio-cultural opportunity. It is dependent upon fundamental cognitive difficulties which are frequently of a constitutional character."
Dyslexia constitutes a Special Educational Need as defined by the 1993 Education Act having been first recognised by Parliament in the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970."
(The Dyslexia Handbook 1996 p10).
Dyslexia is one of several, often co-occurring specific learning difficulties now recognised under disability legislation:
SENDA 2001(for schools), Equality Act(2010).
3. Specific learning difficulties (SpLDs)
- Attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity (ADD/ADHD).
- Dysphasia, speech and language delay and/or deficit.
More than one SpLD may occur, e.g. dyslexia with a tendency towards one of the other SpLDs: or one SpLD with dyslexia as an outcome.
There may also be co-occurrence with Asperger syndrome and high functioning autism and dyslexia.
4. The incidence of dyslexia.
A study by Nathlie Badian in 1984 suggested that in the Western world, dyslexia was thought to be four times more common in males than females and affected 4% of the population severely, regardless of socio-economic status, race or level of intelligence. However, a more recent study suggests that the gender ratio is more equal. (Zabell C and Everatt J, 2000.) Many studies of incidence have produced varying figures because they have used different criteria.
This means, in effect, one child in every classroom will need ongoing appropriate specialist teaching throughout his/her time in school and support in further education, training and employment.
It has been suggested that up to 10% of the population (or even more) show some signs of dyslexia, particularly when it is present in other members of the family. (See Pennington B F (1991) Diagnosing Learning Disorders, New York; Guilford).
It is not a disease to be cured; nor do people "grow out" of it.
Early recognition and appropriate intervention can ameliorate its effects. Dyslexic people learn to accommodate to a greater or lesser degree depending on their own personality and the type of support they have received from both home and school.
Individuals will experience difficulties throughout their lives and the majority learn to develop strategies to enable them to cope most of the time, although in stress situations all the original problems can recur.
Many achieve academically and go on to further and higher education. Some have special talents, e.g. in art, architecture, or engineering.
5. Sources of research information about dyslexia.
Students should ask tutors who set research essays to suggest relevant articles. These could be requested from the British Library through any public library or (probably) directly for a fee.
COPAC provides free access to the merged online catalogues of some of the largest university research libraries in the UK and Ireland.
Contact their Helpdesk for further information:
Tel: 0161 275 6789
The British Library has over 1,000 journal titles covering education, psychology, cognition and learning.
Google Scholar allows the user to search through a variety of academic literature (including books, theses, peer-reviewed papers, preprints, abstracts and technical reports).
Relevant Journals include:
Annals of Dyslexia: London Library.
British Journal of Educational Psychology and British Psychology Journal, Cognition. Both by the British Psychological Society.
Dyslexia Journal Wiley.
Journal of Research in SEN, NASEN Research database, NASEN.
Journal of Research in Reading, Reading (both UKRA).
New Scientist occasionally has relevant articles.
Reading Research Quarterly, International Reading Association.
See also books, magazines, e.g:
- Books on Dyslexia
Berkshire Mathematics Mahesh Sharma research information.