Durham book authors say the term 'dyslexia' should be abandoned

The term 'dyslexia' should be abandoned as it lacks scientific meaning and educational value, according to new book The Dyslexia Debate

The term 'dyslexia' should be abandoned according to a new book
The term 'dyslexia' should be abandoned according to a new book

Dyslexia is a term that should not be used as it is misleading, North East authors claim.

Durham University authors of the book The Dyslexia Debate, say valuable resources are poured into expensive and time-consuming diagnostic tests which are often questionable and a diagnosis of dyslexia does not point to distinctive treatment.

They suggest it is essential for professionals to spot reading difficulties early in any child and intervene as quickly as possible rather than search for a diagnosis.

Author Julian Elliott, a former teacher of children with learning difficulties and educational psychologist, and currently professor of education at Durham University, said: “Parents are being woefully misled about the value of a dyslexia diagnosis.

“In every country, and in every language, a significant proportion of children struggle to master the skill of reading and some will continue to find it difficult throughout their childhood and into adulthood. It is very easy for teachers to identify such children. The hardship and difficulties that typically result are often incapacitating, undermining and distressing.

“Typically, we search for a diagnostic label when we encounter problems because we believe that this will point to the best form of treatment. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the parents and teachers of children with reading difficulties believe if the child is diagnosed as dyslexic, clear ways to help them will result.

“Research in this field clearly demonstrates that this is a grave misunderstanding.”


The researchers do not question the existence of problems that those with complex reading difficulties have, yet the prevalence of dyslexia is unknown. It is often estimated that around 5-10% of the population is classed as dyslexic.

Schoolgirl Mabel Wolfe, from Stanley, County Durham, was diagnosed with dyslexia three years ago after it became apparent she was having some difficulty reading as “the words were moving fast off the page”. The 12-year-old wears rose-coloured glasses to help her overcome her reading problems.

Last night, her mother Laura, 44, gave a mixed response to the authors’ views.

She said: “Initially, as a parent, it is helpful to have a diagnosis of dyslexia as it allows you to explain to teachers and others what the issue is. The initial assessment allows doors to be opened and helps you to know what is going on.

“However, you can not use a ‘one size fits all’ approach, as dyslexia is a spectrum condition that can range from mild to severe, and by using the term ‘dyslexia’ people have preconceived ideas as to what it means. As a result one word does not do justice to labelling people.”

The research reviewed in the book shows it has proven impossible to identify a dyslexic sub-group that is scientifically justifiable and which has value for practitioners. The authors suggest the term, as it is widely used by teachers, clinicians and the lay public, has become meaningless.

The book, published by Cambridge University Press, is the result of a five-year examination by the authors of current knowledge of reading difficulties, across the fields of education, genetics, neuroscience and psychology, combined with the authors’ extensive experience as teachers and clinicians.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer