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Dyslexia: a categorical falsehood without validity or utility

Literacy and Learning

ISBN: 978-1-84950-776-9, eISBN: 978-1-84950-777-6

Publication date: 22 February 2010


Children's failure to develop proficiency in reading and writing continues to challenge educationalists, parents and carers. In this chapter we argue that the concept of dyslexia as an explanation for failure or as a starting point for intervention is fatally flawed. Our argument is that the concept is a socially constructed category with no scientific basis. Hence quasi-medical differential diagnosis is invalid and educationally divisive. We question this phenomenon that persists despite the protestations of Stanovich (1994, 2005) and others, through a brief survey of work in the fields of social categorisation, cognitive psychology and neuroscience. In summary our view is that whilst there are some ‘natural’ tendencies to categorise, with regard to literacy there is no identified objectively defined and unambiguous discontinuity between skilled and unskilled reader. There is, therefore, no support for the persistence of a distinctive category of dyslexia. Further, the notion of ‘dyslexia’ in itself does not support appropriate intervention.


Gibbs, S. and Elliott, J. (2010), "Dyslexia: a categorical falsehood without validity or utility", Scruggs, T.E. and Mastropieri, M.A. (Ed.) Literacy and Learning (Advances in Learning and Behavioral Disabilities, Vol. 23), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 287-301.



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