Dyslexia is one of the most common diagnoses for children with learning disabilities or problems. However, the instances of this diagnosis have skyrocketed in recent years, and now it is one of the most common labels teachers, clinical psychologists and other educational professionals use.
My concern as a behavioural optometrist is that no one actually knows what anyone else is talking about because the definition of dyslexia is universally so broad these days! This is a far cry from the original understanding of the term dyslexia.
What Does Dyslexia Mean?
Interest in people with reading difficulties probably began in 1878 with Adolph Kussmaul, a German neurologist, looking at adults with long-standing reading problems and neurological impairments.
He noticed that several of his patients could not read properly and regularly used words in the wrong order. He coined the term ‘word blindness’ to describe their difficulties.
In1887, a German ophthalmologist, Rudolf Berlin, was the first to use the word ‘dyslexia’ in place of word blindness. The condition was described as ‘dyslexia’, from the Greek meaning ‘difficulty with words’. Again, this represented a situation where the eyes of the patient appeared to be OK, their vision appeared to be 20/20, but they had difficulty interpreting and understanding words.
There are numerous definitions of true dyslexia, such as the British Dyslexia Association’s (http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/) definition is as follows: “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.”
Essentially, a dyslexic was thought to a specific learning disability which involves the inability to process, understand and read words.
Part of the problem is that this definition overlaps potentially hundreds of similar ideas about learning, leading to a massive over-diagnosis of the condition, and a heap of confusion about the subject in general.
Can Dyslexia be Helped?
After all the labels, the real question facing parent is, “Can we help your child who has been diagnosed as dyslexic?”
I see many children who are carrying this and a number of other labels, and I love trying to find a way to see improvement using specialised lenses and therapies. At Eye CU, we actually have a great record for helping hundreds of kids overcome the labels that have haunted their learning for years, and while I cannot claim to cure every dyslexic (and who can?), I certainly can promise some innovative and highly effective ways fo helping these children.
So the bottom line is, if your child has this or any other label you are uncomfortable with, please don’t give up on them! I believe we can have a positive impact on most children who are struggling in their learning, reading and writing, so click below and find out if your child is suitable…