My students will never hear the term Dysteachia 

I wrote this:

David Didau wrote this.

After early Twitter conversations with David Didau I don’t usually engage with him on dyslexia anymore. His version of dyslexia “I just showed him how to spell a few words” compared to mine “identical twins with the largest disparity between verbal ability/comprehension and reading and spelling I have ever seen” is so vastly different there’s no point. 

But I’m going to this time; I’m also responding to @ThinkReadTweet who has named me in her blog and questions why interventions are linked to SEN not the English department. She also uses a term I vociferously disagree with ‘dysteachia’.

It’s a shame as I admire her greatly and enjoy many of her blogs.

To ensure students with dyslexia access the curriculum and are able to record their work at a quality commensurate with their ability  I have seen the benefits of assistive technology and promote it widely. This does not replace reading instruction just enhances it. For I too would like every child to read before they leave school – in fact in my interview for a new post I start in September I said “I want to ensure every one of the 1500 students can read before they leave us”. 

Now back to this twin; he’s at university. He’s partly there because I told him he could, because I made sure he understood that his poor reading and spelling was due to his dyslexia not his intelligence. 
When I wrote his assessment for his Disability Student Allowance (it is a disability for him) I wrote how over the two years I’d known him, he had increased in confidence and that he’d told me how he uses Dragon in the library (he was far too embarrassed to do this when he arrived) how a peer came up to him and asked what he was doing. When he told her she said ‘but you sound so clever in class’ – his response was ‘dyslexia doesn’t mean you’re stupid’. This belief in himself was the most important thing – he’d come to college with a complex history, a school refuser and then statemented and he was now off to university (we’re still in contact and I’ve shown him this post).

I also teach young ones and as we know early intervention is best; I’ve created a six week booster for year 1. It’s pretty pragmatic but intensive – under a score of 85 they have a 6 week booster; if they reach 85 they go back – we’ve had some whose spelling went up 8 months, their handwriting improved, their confidence improved and some have sailed through the phonics check since. 

I am obsessed with getting children to read through picture books, oral language and phonics but I also recognise some students do have difficulties and dyslexia for those children is an empowering term and explains to them, simply, why they struggle more than their peers. 

This does not mean we give up on them, that we stop teaching them to read but it does ensure we put appropriate strategies in place. And if this means assistive technology in mainstream classes with their typically developing peers then that’s a good thing in my opinion. 

So if you don’t mind, I’m going back to my job of teaching all ages to read while letting them know there may be a reason why they find it harder than their peers to read, that they can still learn to read but may always find it hard. I will also tell them that no matter what, there is now assistive technology available to them which means they can still succeed and I will remind them that despite poor reading and spelling, they can go to University and flourish like many students I have met over the years. 

Oh, and my new role as literacy and language co-ordinator for 1500 children is not linked to SEN but nor is it part of the English department because it’s for all teachers to take seriously; across the curriculum – whole school.

You carry on using Dysteachia if you like but it will never be used for my students. 


  1. Are people seriously trying to suggest that the only ‘genuine’ SEND is caused by physical disability, and that every other case of SEN is the teacher’s fault? That would be really bizarre, although I suppose it would chime with the current ‘no excuses’ rhetoric. I’ve taught and know people who very clearly have a specific difficulty with reading and writing (one is a hospital consultant, so obviously a highly intelligent person). People can say that they ‘don’t believe’ in dyslexia all they like, but there’s most definitely a specific condition that the term describes.

    • Yes Sue – I agree; it concerns me with the no excuses/Dysteachia rhetoric that children will never understand themselves. As someone said on Twitter it would be like going back to the 60s where children were just labelled failures. There is a lot we can do to help but we do need to recognise their strengths and work with them; if they are being taken out of the subjects they love for more reading instruction then I have concerns.

      • I don’t understand why anyone would say that the result of identifying SEN would be an ‘implication that there is nothing you can do about it’. Surely it’s the opposite? If an identification is made, that helps ensure that teachers put appropriate strategies in place. I find our ‘brave new world’ of ‘no excuses’ education very confusing at times!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s