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“Dyslexia ‘is just a middle-class way to hide stupidity’
By REBECCA CAMBER
Last updated at 20:34 28 May 2007
Dyslexia is a social fig leaf used by middle-class parents who fear their children will be labelled as low achievers, a professor has claimed.
Julian Elliott, a leading educational psychologist at Durham University, says he has found no evidence to identify dyslexia as a medical condition after more than 30 years of research.
“There is a huge stigma attached to low intelligence,” he said.
“After years of working with parents, I have seen how they don’t want their child to be considered lazy, thick or stupid.
“If they get called this medically diagnosed term, dyslexic, then it is a signal to all that it’s not to do with intelligence.”
He added: “There are all sorts of reasons why people don’t read well but we can’t determine why that is. Dyslexia, as a term, is becoming meaningless.”
One in ten people in the UK – including 375,000 schoolchildren – has been diagnosed with dyslexia.
The condition is said to impair short-term memory and the ability to read, write, spell and do maths.
Supporters of the condition argue that dyslexics are intelligent people who have difficulties processing information and need extra help and time than others who are poor readers.
But Professor Elliott has claimed that the symptoms of dyslexia – such as clumsiness and letter reversal – are similar to those seen in those who simply cannot read.
He argues that the condition should be rediagnosed as a reading difficulty.
His comments provoked fury among dyslexia campaigners.
John Rack, head of research and development at the charity Dyslexia Action, denied that the disability was a middle-class phenomenon.
He told The Times: “There is ample evidence that dyslexia exists across the spectrum and the argument that there is no consistent means of identifying it is one cited by people who don’t know enough about the subject.”
However, other experts have suggested that parents are putting their children forward for reading ability assessments to “get them off the hook”.
Dr Michael Rice, a dyslexia and literacy expert at Cambridge University, said: “There is a sense of justification when children are diagnosed.
“It gets them off the hook of great embarrassment and personal inadequacy.”
According to Professor Elliott, dyslexic university students are gaining an unfair advantage by getting extra time for their studies and many are getting diagnosed simply to get up to £10,000 worth of equipment including laptops and extra books.
University lecturers have complained about students “milking the system” by pretending they have the condition.
One lecturer who teaches in the South-East said:
“On one degree course I teach, about one quarter of the students get help with their coursework and other assistance because they have this label. You become quite cynical.”
The number of students who receive disability allowances at university has risen to a record 35,500 at a cost of £78.4million a year.
When carrying out research I came across this article form the Daily Times by Rebecca Camber (2007) .
When I read the title of this article in all honesty it made me laugh, at how a medical condition could be referred to as a a middle-class phenomenon. It baffles me that this can even be suggested. This article was written in 2007, which although a good few years ago now, is still current enough when referring to the attitudes and the stigma that people have around dyslexia. Camber who wrote this article referes to Jullian Elliot who is a psychologist at Durham university who states that “there is a huge stigma attached to low intelligence”, he said after working with parents it was clear they didn’t want their child to be labelled stupid, thick or lazy. But surely if parents were informed correctly this stigma would be lost.Elliot suggests that the term Dyslexia is becoming meaningless, as he said “there is all sorts of reasons people can’t read well, and we can’t determine why.”
Camber also referances John Rack who is head of research & development at the charity Dyslexia Action, he denies the statement that dyslexia is simply a middle-class phemomenon and told the Times that “there is amble evidence that dyslexia exists across the spectrum”, and to the argument made by Elliot, Rack says it is “cited by people who don’t know enough about the subject”. Although this is a piece of text the thought from David Campbell seems highly relevant, Campbell said that “a good body of work is the work that understands it’s own context”. When reading this article it was clear to me that the writer Camber wasn’t well informed on the topic she wrote about, she collected thoughts from opposing sides of the arguments however it was rather more one sided, she wasn’t able to conclude whether this accusation of dyslexia being a middle-class way of hiding stupidity.