I watched a fascinating programme the other night – about poor readers. I don’t know why I’m so interested in such topics since I don’t have children and I managed to escape being a teacher, but I am. (I know lots about autism too, for instance: there’s this Open University programme that’s on at 3am from time to time; I keep catching it – I must have seen at least three times; it’s from the ‘70s and everything's brown.)
Anyway, it’s been known for several years that there is no such thing as dyslexia: all poor readers – low-IQ ones as well as high-IQ ones – suffer from the same minor neurological defect. They said it was like being a bit colour-blind.
Children who’ve been diagnosed as dyslexic are currently given coloured spectacles to wear or put through exercises to improve their coordination, or whatever. But poor reading has nothing to do with poor eyesight or poor coordination, therefore improving those can’t help in any way.
Contrary to what most people think, they said, reading is not a high-level intellectual skill (lots of otherwise mentally handicapped people can read perfectly well). It’s just a question of decoding tiny speech sounds. The bit of the brain that doesn’t work properly is not involved in anything else and has nothing to do with intelligence. We know about that now, thanks to brain scans.
The causes of poor reading can be genetic or environmental: these days, a lot of kids don’t hear spoken language around them. Parents stick them in from of the TV and don’t sing them nursery rhymes, for instance – probably because they don’t have the time or have themselves poor language skills.
At a young age poor reading has no effect on the IQ, but it very rapidly does, because reading, and therefore the learning of new vocabulary, increases the IQ, since vocabulary is an indispensable learning tool. Poor reading leads to poor spelling to poor writing to poor thinking, etc. (What puzzles me, by the way, is how apparently avid readers can be such diabolical spellers and whether that impairs their thought-processes. But that's beside the point.)
Ultimately, those poor spellers/so-called dyslexics give up on the school system and the system gives up on them.
Even the Dyslexia Society in this country acknowledges the scientists' findings. Yet school authorities are resisting the advice of those scientists and continue to do nothing about the problem except sending children to be diagnosed with something that doesn’t exist. Parents are, of course, a big obstacle: they don’t want their kids to be labelled “poor readers” – “dyslexic” sounds so much better. It makes the kids feel “special” too.
I want to slap them all because it only takes eight weeks of intensive tuition to produce amazing results. All they have to do is to follow a pioneering Recovery Programme developed by New Zealand. Only two local authorities in the UK have introduced it – with great success. Shame on the others!