Sunday, July 16, 2023

How Dyslexia Became the Child’s Fault


Here is a comment by Tom Berend on Educhatter I wrote about. LINK

He said the following:

The students are not “learning disabled”. There is nothing wrong with the CHILD. There was a famous but horribly flawed experiment, ‘dowel tapping’ that created the dyslexia industry. It should be as infamous as the vaccine-causes-autism fraud.

And here is a link he shared and my comments:  

There is no question that phonological awareness in early readers is an overwhelmingly powerful ‘predictor’ of later reading skills, and disabled readers are almost always deficient in phonological awareness – that relationship is the most robust correlation in reading research.

But correlation is not causation.  YOUR CHILD ALREADY KNOWS HIS PHONEMES.  Your child cannot manipulate phonemes explicitly simply because he has not been taught to read properly.


What does the author mean by ‘not been taught to read properly’? This is what is echoed by numerous educators/ researchers and when I question them they avoid my question. In 2015, I asked Reid Lyon what he meant by instructional casualties and his wife Diane Lyon claimed that they were travelling and couldn't commit the time needed at this time for a thorough response.

Anyway, I have answered that question in my book shut down kids.

A majority of kids are unable to blend phonemes which are taught with extraneous sounds. Fortunately, many kids somehow figure out how to read despite being taught wrongly.


Further, students in shallow orthographies do not seem to develop dyslexia in the same manner – either they have an easier time developing phonological awareness or they require it less.  Dyslexia is almost unheard of in countries like Italy and Finland, which have regular writing systems.  It is only the English writing system that seems to create so many dyslexics.


Malay and Hanyu Pinyin use the same 26 letters as the English language. Children have no problem reading in these languages but are ‘dyslexic’ when it comes to reading in English. Again, I have discovered the reasons and elaborated on them in my book. How then can it be said that disabled readers are almost always deficient in phonological awareness?


By grade 1, all students had mastered the phonetic hiragana and phonetic awareness was uniformly at the ceiling. (Incidentally, the incidence of dyslexia in Japan is reported as 0.1%).


Once a kid has learned the sound of the letters in hiragana he can read any Japanese word. The question to ask is, how is it possible for a so-called dyslexic kid to be able to read in Hiragana if he has a deficit in phonological awareness?


The best-documented case is the Torgesen study with which we launched this blog. Readers will recall that the subjects were grade-3 students who had failed Reading-Recovery and were sitting in LD classrooms – the bottom 2% of readers. After an 8-week intervention, their phonological awareness scores jumped dramatically, and after a delay of two years reading scores did as well.


Yes, this is what I wrote on my blog LINK without knowing that Torgesen was talking about the bottom 2% who probably had some auditory problems.


Isabelle Liberman was a great scientist, a superstar of the research world. Her students and colleagues read like a Who’s Who of reading research. A remarkable number of papers seem to have a footnote thanking her for helpful comments – even those who challenged her theories (for example Read, Zhang, Nie & Ding 1986). But I could not help but feel that Liberman knew the bricks were coming loose around her developmental theory of phonological awareness. She had invested 30 years into it and could not let it go.


Yes, this is the sunk cost fallacy I wrote in my blog yesterday. This is a crime that has cost many parents a lot of money and sleepless nights.


Max Planck once said: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die”.

And horribly, the pervasive Liberman hypothesis that the dyslexic child is developmentally impaired lives on, infecting our discourse, our schools, and our research. This is a cancer that hurts millions of students whose only fault is being poorly instructed.

Because of the stubborn obstinacy of this once-great researcher, we wrongly believe there is something different about the brain of a struggling reader.  We have built a large industry around a disorder that doesn’t exist.  We shrug impotently at the child who can’t read, and offer accommodations.


Unfortunately, many advocates of dyslexia are profiteering from this misinformation/ disinformation. I think many of these so-called educators should be put in their place. I simply have no respect for so-called educators who tweet disinformation and do not correct their mistakes when informed. 

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