Dyslexic authors, Agatha Christie, WB Yeats and Hans Christian Anderson will be rolling in their graves this week.
I had to take a look at the article that has been taking the press by storm this week. You’ve guessed it – Graham Stringer MP’s article in the Manchester Confidential about dyslexia being a myth.
The reason I read it was because I couldn’t believe that anyone could be so stupid (and, yes, I mean stupid not poorly educated) as to make such a ridiculous comment in public. But then again, he is an MP. So I had to find out for myself whether he was really so ill-informed.
The article started out quite well, by pointing out the link between illiteracy and crime (although there was a slight irony in the misspelling of Strangeweys Prison!). And I agree with the fact that we are letting children down if we allow them to go through their school careers being unable to read and write. I quote from him; “Children who cannot read or write find secondary school a humiliating and frustrating experience.” Perfectly true.
But to go as far as to say that dyslexia is an invented brain disorder that does not exist is ridiculous and insulting. It is insulting to those who suffer from it and to those who work so hard to understand it and to help people overcome their difficulties.
What makes Mr Stringer’s article even more comical is that he goes on to make statements that I believe are blatantly untrue. For example, that Nicaragua has 100% literacy rates. I would imagine that would be quite difficult for them to achieve as only 87% of the children of primary school age actually enrolled in and attended school in 2005! And, in 2004, the percentage of Nicaraguan people aged between 15 and 24 who were literate was 86.2%, so I’m guessing they’ve come a long way in the last four or five years. And these figures refer to people who can, “with understanding, both read and write a short, simple statement related to their everyday life”. I would argue that children in the UK need to be able to do a whole lot more than that to access the secondary school curriculum.
It is such a low blow to suggest that people want a label purely so that they can have more time in exams. How petty. Our education system has come a long way from one in which children who found reading difficult were labeled ‘stupid’ and left to suffer to one in which children are often given the right support and help so that they can overcome these difficulties.
And Mr Stringer’s obvious lack of understanding of teaching and learning comes out by suggesting that synthetic phonics teaching is the only way in which to make sure that all children can read and write. Well, I’ve got news for you Mr Stringer – all children are different, whether dyslexic or not. Some will flourish with this system, others will not. They all have what’s known as “different learning styles”. Some will learn to read by sounding out and others from remembering patterns and whole word photographically.
And, Mr Stringer, maybe if you want to know more about whether dyslexia is a real life phenomenon or not you should have a chat to the likes of Richard Branson or look at the biography of the neurosurgeon (and author of several books) Fred Epstein.