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Dyslexic Delusions?

CBS just published an article called "Cracking the Code of Dyslexia".

Dyslexia has always been something that interested me ever since I fit the basic profile of a "dyslexic" from my grade school years.

This was basically what my eyes did when I used to read. Needless to say, I did not score so well on my reading tests.

Before you read further, In the interest of transparency, I'll just go ahead and admit a bias I have in learning problems in general.

I am an optometrist who does vision therapy to treat vision disorders which affect reading and learning. My patients are treated with visual treatments and the problems get better, regardless of whether they have a dyslexia diagnosis or not.

Ok, with that out of the way, after I really learned what dyslexia is, I began to get mixed feelings about the word. I also wondered if dyslexia was even a real thing, like, let's say brain cancer, myopia, a stroke, or a diabetes. Finally, I wanted to know how productive it is for us as a society to diagnose one in five people with this brain disability.

Before we get into that, let's look at what most of us can agree on when it comes to dyslexia and reading problems in general.

1) It's estimated that one in five people fit the profile of dyslexia (this means that they read at a level lower than their intelligence would predict).

2) Dyslexia is not caused by eyesight or hearing problems

3) There is no link between dyslexia and intelligence

4) People with a diagnosis of dyslexia can be highly successful. There are all sorts of examples all over the internet of brilliant dyslexics

I don't think I'd argue any of these points. I think most honest person could agree on them.

What I fail to see however, is why the leading experts of the dyslexia field seem to want to ignore other factors that could be plaguing this population of struggling readers.

Look at the first photograph of the CBS article. It shows a kid (maybe a middle school or a high school kid?) reading a page of text with the use of a finger. I'm going to go out on a thin limb and assume the photo is of a kid with 'dyslexia'?

After seeing this photograph, I wondered if this is a technique that most dyslexics employ when they have to read. That is, do most dyslexics feel the need to use their finger on the page?

Ok. That was a rhetorical question.

I know exactly why.

The reason I know why is because almost everyone with an ocular motor dysfunction (aka - eye tracking disorder) does that. Why would someone with an eye tracking disorder do that?

The reason why a student with an eye tracking disorder would do that is not because he is dyslexic. It is because there are errors in where the eyes jump (errors in saccadic eye movements) on the line of text. It is because - without the finger to guide the eyes - the eyes would dart around the page and the person would get lost. Once a reader loses his/her place on the text, it slows them down and they generally won't feel like they are good readers.

This problem is treated with vision therapy. If I saw a dyslexic person do that, the first thing I'd want to know is whether they need vision therapy.

I'll get to more of the issues I see with the article and the overall term of dyslexia in my next post.

Until next time.

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