We don’t call it dyslexia anymore

Teacher 1: It’s a shame about John; he will get excluded soon.

Teacher2: Why what’s up?

Teacher: I don’t know, he seems fine when you speak to him but he can barely read and write. 

Teacher 2: Does he have dyslexia?

Teacher 1: We don’t use that term anymore, it’s unscientific -dyslexia doesn’t exist. We call it dysteachia.

Teacher2: So you haven’t taught him properly?

Teacher 1: Well not me, he came to us with very poor skills now he just won’t engage in our lessons. 

Teacher 2: But his friends can read and write? So the teaching can’t have been that bad? Surely John is confused why he can’t read and write when his typically developing peers can? Do you tell him he’s got dysteachia? 

Teacher 1: No we tell him he’s got a severe reading difficulty.

Teacher 1: Like dyslexia?

Teacher 2: Well last year he would have had dyslexia but it doesn’t exist, it’s unscientific …

Teacher 1: So now you say severe reading difficulty?

Teacher 2: Yes which wouldn’t have been so severe if he’d been taught properly.

Teacher 1: Right – I thought dyslexia, sorry, severe reading difficulty or is it dysteachia? Anyway, whatever you call it, was when a reading difficulty persists despite interventions?

Teacher 2:  *Shrugs* He doesn’t get on with most of the class. The others tend to spend time in the nurture group, come here for lunchtimes and enjoy the quiet little class we have. 

Teacher 1: Where’s John at break and lunchtime?

Teacher 1: Well he’s outside with his friends – they’re all much brighter than him though – yet you wouldn’t know that to talk to them all – John’s got excellent language skills.

Teacher 2: There’s a discrepancy between his reading and verbal ability?

Teacher 1: But you can’t diagnose dyslexia using the discrepancy model – dyslexia (even though it doesn’t exist) affects all abilities.

Teacher 2: Well it’s not diagnosed purely on a discrepancy model but that can be one factor and dyslexia may well explain why he can’t read and write.

Teacher 1: Well he’s actually weaker than the rest of the group with his reading and writing despite his verbal ability -he’s the worst and needs to learn to read and write.

Teacher 2: But he’s not learning anything because of his behaviour. Do you think John would be better in mainstream English?

Teacher 1: How can he? His reading and writing is like a 6 yr old.

Teacher 2: Well you say he has good language skills, could he not use audio books? Text-to-Speech? Speech recognition?

Teacher 1: He needs to learn to read and write.

Teacher 2: Yes but that could be in a daily 1:1 session;  using a systematic and cumulative reading programme. How is he accessing text and recording his work in the meantime? 

Teacher 1: He’s not, he just plays up, gets sent out of classes and as I said, will be excluded soon. 

Teacher 2: Right.


  1. We just got our child diagnosed and had a similar conversation with a Doctor of Psychology… We are in Ontario, Canada

    Psychologist: So your daughter has what is called a Specific Learning Disability

    Us: Ok, Specifically what?

    Psychologist: She has trouble in areas a,b,c

    Us: Did I mishear, I thought you said it was a SPECIFIC Learning Disability, which one?

    Psychologist: Yes, she has a Specific Learning Disability

    Us: (At this point, I’m thinking of that “whose on first skit” but since I’m a pessimist I’m also thinking “holy sh!t, my daughter has something SO BAD she can’t even frickin blurt it out?!”… i.e. I’m not sure if to laugh or cry)
    Do you mean Dyslexia, does she have Dyslexia?

    Psychologist: (gives the “I know something you don’t smile”) OH, we don’t call it Dyslexia anymore, Dyslexia is a “component of her difficulties,” but Dyslexia is so specific to visual perception (is it? I thought it had more to do w/ decoding), so it’s really not used any more, we prefer the term “Specific Learning Disability”, and soon they won’t call it a “Disability” either…

    So rather than give people more specific diagnosis, they now favour a “CATCH ALL” term?? Isn’t that EXACTLY what the psych/learning fields were moving AWAY from?
    Still reeling from it all, apologies…

    • How frustrating for you. It’s crazy isn’t it? I would use the term anyway personally as people recognise the term immediately and will make adjustments. You’re right about specific and then not being specific at all. Good luck.

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