Money In Dyslexia

     Do not think about, write about or deal with  human behavior without determining the effects of incentives.

   Wherein we see that teaching reading is not the straightforward practice it should be. Peculiar methods, recycled over decades, are presented as expensive remedies to the made-up problem. Dr. Orton, the populariser of the term dyslexia, is undoubtedly rotating in his grave. Some students learn, and use, reading much more easily than others. This variation has been a goldmine for the unethical and incompetent. This report is from Britain, but the situation is equally bad in North America.

Yes, dyslexia wrecks lives. But experts say it’s also become a money-spinner for quack therapists and schools

Apr 4, 2014 by Staff

Fiona, 45, has spent more than £4,000 on trying to tackle her son’s dyslexia

When her son George was six, Fiona Wright was called into the head teacher’s office and told that her child was still unable to read properly.

‘My first reaction was utter shock,’ says Fiona, a 45-year-old mother-of-two. ‘I thought there must be some sort of mistake. I went to university and my husband is a police inspector, and our house is filled with books. We never dreamed that our son would have problems at school.

‘When the head suggested he was assessed, we agreed straight away because we were determined to sort the problem out.’

George was diagnosed as dyslexic. But four years on — and after his parents have spent more than £4,000 to tackle it — the now ten-year-old can read only as well as an average seven-year-old.

‘First we were told his eyes were jumping around and he needed a pair of hugely expensive glasses from a specialist optician,’ recalls Fiona, from Barnet, North London. ‘We stuck with them for a year until George announced they made absolutely no difference to how he saw his words.

‘Then we spent £40 an hour for a series of lessons, which involved George hopping around on one leg and wiggling his hips, the idea being that this would connect the right and left sides of his brain better.

‘One tutor had him writing in figures of eight with a different hand every night. Then we paid for a  £1,000 online course, which announced on the last page: “You can read. Congratulations!” Only George still couldn’t.’


    These indirect and useless approaches have been around for decades. Yes, class, the relation between this nonsense and reading is just as absent as it sounds.

Finally, Fiona gave up all the treatments and employed a tutor who — rather than offering a modish cure for dyslexia — simply used the traditional reading technique of phonics, which uses basic word and sound repetition.

At last, after four years of confusion, George is finally making progress.

Today, Fiona believes that, like thousands of other middle-class parents, she fell prey to what many see as a great dyslexia con.


     “How do I get to play in Carnegie Hall.”–“Practice, my boy practice.”

While difficulty decoding words is a real condition (scans appear to show differences in the way the brain is wired in dyslexics and non-sufferers), a growing number of experts say the term is now being used all too readily to explain any difficulty a child has in reading and writing.

Thirty years ago, it was estimated that one in 25 children had some form of dyslexia. Now the diagnosis is so widely given, it’s estimated to affect as many as one in eight children.

Why? It’s simple. Money.

The increase in dyslexia diagnoses has generated both staggering profits for quack therapists and allowed schools to inflate results by giving pupils more time in exams. Indeed, its spread was a huge contributing factor to the fact that, by 2012, 1.7 million children — a staggering one in five — were on the special needs register, at an enormous cost to the taxpayer.

Now, after a Government crackdown, schools or local councils are becoming less willing to accept the diagnosis of dyslexia as a reason to fund extra teaching sessions and assistants for children — which were prized both by sharp-elbowed parents desperate to give their children the advantage in exams, and by wily schools keen to access as many state-funded resources as they could.

Sporting chance: Ody, (left) 16, and Samson, (right) 13, attend their local state school. After being offered a raft of expensive private treatments, Cathy, their mum, decided to reject them.

But dyslexia remains a booming industry outside the classroom, growing year by year.


   In education, as in many areas of the Social Sciences, a description of a condition becomes a diagnosis. The label then becomes the reason for the condition. Tah dah.

After all, from tinted eye-glasses to multi-coloured text books, there are no shortage of products that will be snapped up by panicking parents, convinced their child’s poor achievement is down to dyslexia.

And prices for these products are soaring. Some private educational psychologists are charging as much as £750 for an educational assessment — triple the amount they cost three years ago.
Professor of education at Durham University, Julian Elliott, says that despite the millions of pounds parents are splashing out on specialist tutoring, therapy and products, there is no evidence that they’re spending their money wisely.


     Your child has difficulty reading. That’ll be $2800.

Controversially, he has also claimed diagnosing a child with dyslexia is no more scientific than reading a horoscope.

The term dyslexia is now applied to so many different problems, from messy handwriting to poor concentration, that he says any parent looking for a reason why their child is not excelling can usually obtain a diagnosis.

But he warns that all too often it will lead those desperate parents on a wild goose chase for expensive treatments, which are not sufficiently backed by scientific evidence.

Professor Elliott, author of a new book on the subject, The Dyslexia Debate, says: ‘Even if there is only a slight concern, friends and family come along, trying to be helpful, and say: “Have you ever thought your child might be dyslexic?”

‘The parent then sees this long list of possible symptoms and says: “You’re right!”

‘It’s like the list of traits for a star sign. It’s become so broad, anyone can see some of the symptoms if they look.’

Professor Elliott warns that throwing money at the problem is no guarantee of a solution. Indeed, he says, research has found that structured phonics teaching, the kind that will help any child to learn to read at school, is the only approach that consistently works.

Consultant Yasbir Batchelor from Ruislip, Middlesex, is a middle-class mother who claims she had no choice but to take her son Rohan, 13, out of the state education system. She says teachers refused to discuss the possibility he was dyslexic, even though at eight he was testing two years below his reading age.

She and her Oxford-educated biologist husband Alex now work around the clock to find the £18,000-a-year fees for private school.

Yasbir says she has spent hundreds of pounds on special glasses and coloured plastic sheets that are supposed to help text stand out more easily when her son reads. Like Fiona, she believes they have made no difference to Rohan’s reading.


     I could have told her that wouldn’t work for free.

Professor Elliott warns that throwing money at the problem is no guarantee of a solution. He says research has found that structured phonics teaching is the only approach that consistently works.
‘As a parent, when you see your child struggling you will try anything — and that’s the trap you fall into.

‘It seems people can say and charge what they want because they know desperate parents will pay.’
Restaurateur Cathy Graham, 40, from Colchester, Essex, has four sons, two of whom are dyslexic. Ody, 16, and Samson, 13, attend their local state school. After being offered a raft of expensive private treatments, she decided to reject them.

‘We had one private teacher saying: “They have got to wear yellow glasses. They’ve got to use this pen.” But I was wary of going down that route because I am not that easily fooled.

‘Instead, we channel their energies into sport, which takes a different type of intelligence, so they can excel in another area.’

Dr John Rack, of charity Dyslexia Action, agrees there is a danger that panicking parents are being exploited. ‘If you want a survey on your house, then you would pay a professional person a respectable amount to carry out a proper assessment,’ he says.

‘The same applies to a proper educational assessment of your child. But I would question why some parents are being charged more than £500 for a dyslexia assessment.


   I would question why more than $100 is needed for something you already know.

‘There are, for example, businesses out there offering parents courses of physical exercise programmes for dyslexic children for £2,000 a year, even though this approach is not well-supported by evidence.


    Not well-supported is being kind. Unsupported is the word that applies.

‘Parents are always looking for solutions. But if these new methods are not tested, then they should say so, and not be marketed as miracle cures.’

While there is no doubt that some severely dyslexic children, such as Rohan, need help — such as 25 per cent extra time in exams — there are also fears that other parents may be taking advantage.

In today’s competitive atmosphere, in which a few A-stars can mean all the difference to a young person’s university place or a school’s league table position, it seems that some parents, and even head teachers, may be milking the system.

‘I had a supervisor at university who told me: “Take the dyslexia test. It’s easy to pass, and you get a free laptop.”’

The number of pupils getting extra time in public exams has soared, usually secured by parents who can afford to pay the huge cost of private educational psychologists’ reports.

Recent figures show that 123,248 pupils won the right to get more time in exams last summer, up more than 13,000 in just two years.

While some of that rise may be down to a greater awareness of special needs, the exam watchdog Ofqual has admitted it is ‘concerned that in some cases, extra time is being given to candidates to help them improve their grades rather than address a significant disadvantage’.

The regulator is cracking down. Instead of just relying on a private educational report, from last September all schools had to provide extra evidence that their pupils qualified.

Amanda Allen, 43, a mother-of-three from Guildford, Surrey, who educates her children privately, says she started to notice a flurry of parents securing a diagnosis of mild dyslexia for their child just before her eldest son’s GCSE exams.

‘At first I thought nothing of it when my son mentioned quite a few of his classmates were getting diagnosed.

‘Then, when it started happening in my second child’s GSCE class a few years later, I wondered if there was any real basis for these kids having so much extra time in their exams.

‘The coincidental timing certainly begged questions. They may be borderline cases, but you do ask why they didn’t get it done before. You wonder if it means that children with less sharp-elbowed mums and dads — or who couldn’t afford an educational psychologist’s report — were losing out.’ Higher up the educational system, there may be even more abuse.

Fiona warns other mothers of children with genuine reading problems not to assume that giving them the dyslexia label will help

New figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency reveal there were 104,580 university students saying they suffered dyslexia in 2012, compared with 74,490 five years ago — a huge leap, even taking growing student numbers into account.

One major reason for the increase may be that dyslexic students can get money for equipment, including laptops, up to the value of £5,161, as well as an allowance of up to £1,724 for other costs, such as printer ink. Indeed, on student websites, there is open discussion of how easy it is to play the system.

One says: ‘I had a supervisor at university who told me: “Take the dyslexia test. It’s easy to pass, and you get a free laptop.” He used to justify this by claiming that maths had the highest rate of undiagnosed dyslexia out of all the subjects, but it still seemed like a poor attitude.’

Another added: ‘All you have to do is see the Student Support Leader and complain that your handwriting is illegible and is losing you marks.’

There is widespread anger that some are cheating the system, creating an unfair playing field.
Professor Elliott says: ‘Some better-off students are more likely than others to be able to afford a report from an educational psychologist. ‘The problem with private schools and parents spending their own money [on diagnosing dyslexia] is that this feeds through into university, where there is an expectation that additional resources — this time paid for out of public funds — as well as extra exam time will be made available to them, too. At university, it’s possible to secure as much as  50 per cent extra time in exams’

Dr Rack says bluntly: ‘Some people are getting something for free when they don’t need it.
‘I would agree the system could benefit from some improvement, although I would not want to see the baby thrown out with the bath water. Some dyslexics can only attend university because they get this help.’

But for Fiona, who is still working hard on helping her son to read and write, university feels a long way off.

She warns other mothers of children with genuine reading problems not to assume that giving them the dyslexia label will help.

‘There’s an industry out there playing on your vulnerability and the fact you are deeply worried,’ she says.

‘Because no one really knows the answers, you end up chopping and changing therapies, when I now know that, for George, plain and simple repetition of basic phonics works best.

‘Unless your child has a serious and obvious learning disability, we are all being led a merry dance which, in my case, put George behind even more. Most of it is snake oil — and the middle classes get charged a premium.’


Government Job or Respect–Which’ll It Be?
Cheerio and ttfn,
Grant Coulson, Ph.D.
Author, “
Days of Songs and Mirrors: A Jacobite in the ‘45.”
Cui Bono–Cherchez les Contingencies


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