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Child reading book

A new book by two leading psychologists warns that a focus on diagnosing dyslexia is leaving many children without the help they urgently need.

Book author, Professor Julian Elliott, believes educators, psychologists and policy makers should rethink assessment and support for struggling readers.

Professor Elliott and his co-author, Professor Elena Grigorenko (University of Houston, USA) argue that all struggling readers should get support regardless of whether they have a dyslexia diagnosis or not.  

Left without help

Their book highlights that many struggling readers are left without help either because they cannot access dyslexia screening or do not meet the diagnostic criteria.

This is particularly a problem for those from economically disadvantaged schools and communities.

However, according to the authors, the clinical diagnosis of dyslexia is scientifically questionable. They outline that currently there is no scientifically valid or agreed means of differentiating dyslexia from any other form of reading difficulty.

As a result, they say a diagnosis of dyslexia should not be relied upon when deciding who receives reading support.

Alternative approach

Instead, the authors say that the primary focus should be on ensuring that all struggling readers receive support and intervention as early as possible.

They suggest that all primary school teachers should be trained to confidently identify, and intervene with, children who are struggling to read.

Systems also need to be in place to rapidly provide additional educational support if this first level of intervention is not sufficient.

A dyslexia diagnosis is unnecessary in this process because the recommended interventions for struggling readers are typically the same regardless of a dyslexia diagnosis.  

A formal diagnosis of dyslexia, has no meaningful relevance to the interventions and strategies needed to help struggling readers. The current system is leaving swathes of children struggling, particularly those in economically disadvantaged schools and communities. This is surely wrong.

Professor Julian Elliott
Principal, Collingwood College

Removing the requirement for formal diagnosis could also free up educational psychologists and others to focus on supporting and guiding interventions both at home and at school.

Find out more:

  • The Dyslexia Debate Revisited by Professors Elliott and Grigorenko is published by Cambridge University Press. It undertakes a detailed study of contemporary research into the nature of reading difficulty and its assessment and treatment. It draws on decades of experience on the part of both authors, as mainstream and special education teachers, teacher trainers, educational and clinical psychologists, and as university teachers and researchers
  • Read Professor Julian Elliott’s profile.
  • Read Professor Elena Grigorenko’s profile.
  • Visit our Disability Support pages for information about the help and support available to our students.
  • Feeling inspired? Visit our Psychology webpages to learn more about our postgraduate and undergraduate programmes.