E801: Action 3.2: Definitions and Issues
1. 3 main issues which are relevant to your understanding and experiences of dyslexia and the ways in which they impact on the higher education context:
'It provides a definitive and descriptive response to what for many can be an area of emotional stress and personal conflict' (Reid, 2009, p.2)
Many students having struggled through school, go through a plethora of emotions when they finally receive a diagnosis of dyslexia. They have to come to terms with the fact that they are now considered disabled and also the anger at their parents and school teachers for not believing they had genuine difficulties earlier in their lives. They are also relieved that they do have a genuine problem. They are already struggling to keep up with their work and the extra emotional stress just makes things so much worse.
'Definitions can help provide a label' (Reid, 2009, p.2)
The label is necessary to prove the necessity for facilities and equipment obtained through Disabled Students' Allowance but it returns to the medical model of disability with the student regarded as having a deficit which can be disabling in itself. The label can also help students begin to understand themselves and develop coping strategies.
'Dyslexia is multifaceted' (Reid, 2009, p.2)
Reid suggests this is a problem when devising a definition but there is a similar problem with Asperger Syndrome which has been solved by referring to a spectrum of symptoms which may be present to differing degrees.
2. It can be suggested that a definition of dyslexia should take account of the following points but there are problems with this
i. Related to theory and underpinned by a sound research basis
ii. Easily translated into practice to make it a working/operational definition
iii. Informative in relation to assessment and intervention.
iv. Accepted by the majority of educators in the field to ensure consistency in practice
v. Readily understood and accepted by teachers, parents and other professionals
There is no one theory for dyslexia, it is multifaceted and, although there is recognition for the factors involved, there is no accepted weighting for them. Various academics have their own favourite theories and justify them by criticising the others. The research base is vast and varies in quality. This makes it difficult to transfer into practice and it should also be asked 'what practice?' Education? Psychological assessment? Education? Funding allocation? Explaining to parents? Charities asking for money?
Investigating the incidence of a range of symptoms works for Asperger Syndrome in the majority of cases although sensory disabilities can confuse the situation as sensory disabilities can cause social isolation and affect a person's relationships, thus causing Asperger-like symptoms. Social issues may confuse the situation in literacy difficulties and cause dyslexia-like symptoms which may account for the high diagnosis rates seen in higher education.
The confusion in research leads to confusion for educators, students and parents. There is little in the way of consistency in educational practice.
The aims for a definition are laudable but they all rely on the first point - that they should be related to theory and based on sound research.