Home » The Problem with the Current Fragmented Approach to Dyslexia

The Problem with the Current Fragmented Approach to Dyslexia

Where there are no universally-agreed statistics, governments and pan-European bodies have consistently failed to allocate the proper resources to education intervention, mental health provision, employment support, homelessness strategies, and even crime prevention. Where one single government fails to realise the scale of the issues facing those with dyslexia, it risks worsening the problems for individuals, for education, for the economy, and for society as a whole. The The Dyslexia Compass makes a significant contribution to European – and potentially global – efforts to provide the right help to the right people in the right places, effectively and compassionately.

Trauma in Young Dyslexics​

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Of the many different and influential dyslexia organisations and associations taken seriously by European national bodies, even a quick glance shows that there is little agreement from one authority to another.

Different Dyslexia Definitions

OrganisationDefinition of dyslexia
British Dyslexia AssociationA learning difference which primarily affects reading and writing skills. Dyslexia is actually about information processing.
Rose ReportA cluster of difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed.
British Psychological SocietyDyslexia is a disability defined as a specific learning difficulty, manifesting difficulties in reading, writing, and spelling. Accurate and fluent word reading and / or spelling develops incompletely or with very great difficulty.
European Dyslexia AssociationA disorder mainly characterized by severe difficulties in acquiring reading, spelling and writing skills.
International Dyslexia Associationa specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin, and a disorder mainly characterized by severe difficulties in acquiring reading, spelling and writing skills.
American Dyslexia AssociationA gene-conditional assessment transmitted by inheritance in humans, whose deficient sensory perceptions are affected by genetic processes in the brain.

While these descriptions of dyslexia look superficially similar, they are saying very different things. For instance, the International Dyslexia Association and the European Dyslexia Association agree that dyslexia is neurobiological, the Rose Report calls it developmental, while the American Dyslexia Association claims it is gene-conditional and inherited. The IDA and the Rose Report discuss it as a phonological decoding issue, while the EDA talks about dyslexia as a combination of phonological and literacy issues and the BDA discusses it as an information processing issue. Finally, the ADA describes dyslexia in terms of one’s sensory perceptions. These may not be contradictory, but they are very different.

The consequence of this is that education systems in Europe are inconsistently served, yet statistics show that as a dyslexic child progresses through school and into adulthood, the traumas of living with dyslexia in an environment that does not understand the condition can affect their mental health. Only with an understanding of dyslexia that is acceptable beyond the parochial boundaries of individual agencies will this trauma be alleviated, because only then can a coordinated effort be made to make the situation better. If we wish to help dyslexic children, we need to know who they are, how many there are, and where governments can allocate provision. 

Horrifyingly, according to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Dyslexia and Other SpLDs, 84% of parents said their child feels dyslexia-related anxiety, and a staggering 88% reported their child has having low self-esteem because of dyslexia. The Dyslexia Institute’s European Dyslexia Charter, 2018, showed that 40% to 60% of dyslexic children in Germany have psychological manifestations, including anxiety and depression. 

Self-harm, and suicidal ideation, are probably the most extreme manifestations of the psychological consequences of inappropriate education on dyslexic students. But while they may be extreme, they’re not uncommon. The figures are startling. In one longitudinal study of dyslexics it was found that 63% had feelings of helplessness, 85% had self-harmed, 50% had had thoughts of suicide, and a heartbreaking 42% had attempted suicide.

In other words, a proper, trans-national, and agreeable understanding of dyslexia and the proper measurement of dyslexia can directly target the causes of trauma, substance abuse, and suicidal ideation that have blighted the lives of so many. Without this, help will only ever be targeted to restricted places.