DYSLEXIA - AUTISM

Some might puzzle over why dyslexia and autism are linked on this page. There are five simple reasons.

  • significantly both have been 'researched' by Prof Uta Frith, considered by many to be an infallible authority.
  • each refers to difficulty with interaction: dyslexia - with the written word and autism - with other agents.
  • notwithstanding Frith's 'Theory of Mind', both involve feelings
  • neither is defined in terms of a single critical feature
  • there is endless debate over the cause of each

LET'S SEE WHAT WE AGREE ON

Few people frame dyslexia and autism (and other conditions) within a wider context. And yet unless we do so we might fail to see the bigger picture, of which the particular condition is but one detail. To see whether it's worth your time and effort reading some of the detail we need to see which facts we can agree on.

  1. infants don't learn how to do what they do by listening to then following instructions
  2. infants do learn by acting on and with objects
  3. among the 'objects' that infants act with are other acting agents
  4. other agents have their own ways of acting and interacting
  5. driven by an insatiable curiosity infants' principal tools are mimicry and repetition
  6. brains are malleable throughout life, able to break old connections and make new ones
  7. adults live by doing, enduring and enjoying (or avoiding)
  8. children and adults often experience confusion
  9. confusion is an emotional and mental state, with social and physical aspects
  10. confusion is either worked through or avoided
  11. our dogmatic, reasonable or utter sceptical attitude determines what answers we accept
  12. there'll always be a debate over whether nature or nurture is responsible for our problems
  13. vested interests will often determine what we're prepared to acknowledge
  14. not all facts constitute evidence for or against a given matter
  15. no one can please everyone all the time

Well, how many?

TOPICS

SPELLING OUT THE DYSLEXIA DEBATE
Over-egging the debate
Frith vs Elliott & Grigorenko
Dis-spelling tools

AUTISM: AN INTERACTIONAL INTERPRETATION

ISSUES BEHIND THE DEBATES
Institutional bugs
Observational bias: looking under the street lamp

RECASTING THE ACTION AND INTERACTION
A research defect

SPELLING OUT THE DYLEXIA DEBATE

Graham Stringer MP wrote a column for the Manchester Confidential online in 2009, questioning the status of dyslexia as anything other than a label for ineffective or inadequate 'teaching'. He was in effect defining dyslexia as a multi-million pound business founded on the myth of in-born inability to read / write with seeingly effortless ease.

Unsurprisingly he was reviled and ridiculed for his supposed ignorance, lack of authority and expertise, as the following links reveal: BBC The Guardian The Scotsman But just because others disagreed with him didn't mean he was wrong, as the following 'polemic' will reveal.

Ignoring the existentialist question of whether one is dyslexic or has dyslexia, two questions are bound together::

  • are those labelled 'dyslexic' different in all respects from those who are otherwise regarded as merely having reading difficulties? Some experts claim that they are, others claim they are not.
  • what causes dyslexia or reading difficulties: inadequate teaching or inborn and immutable differences in brain function? Some experts claim dyslexia and reading difficulties are caused by biology (nature), others claim they result from poor teaching (nurture).

To indicate the length and strength of the spell the label casts we only have to read the concluding paragraph of Elliott and Grigorenko's The Dyslexia Debate (2014):

Whether science will ultimately resolve the many contradictions in the field of reading difficulty is uncertain. However, it is hoped that the present book will, in some small way, help contribute to this end, for clear, rational, and rigorous understandings will surely prove essential in our ongoing attempts to serve those who struggle to master the reading process.

Elliott & Grigorneko's problem is that they adopted a yet 'more of the same' atomistic quantitave data rather than more holistic qualitative data paradigm. Critically, they failed to define what 'science' means.

Those who hold the 'nature' can be called, 'dyslexologists', and the discipline they've constructed, 'dyslexology'!

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Over-egging the debate

Gillian Tett wrote a column on 'America's reading problem' in the Financial Times of December 2015. Amongst other issues she focussed on the correlation between poor literacy and incarceration. Significantly Tett did not label those with reading difficulties as having dyslexia or being dyslexic. She thereby sidestepped the dyslexia debate altogether.

Not so for Labour MP Graham Stringer. In his column for the Manchester Confidential online he said millions of pounds were being wasted on specialist teaching for what he called a "false" condition. As a visitor to Strangeways Prison in Manchester he too noted the link between poor literacy and incarceration. He did not claim one caused the other as some of his critics complained. To quote Stringer:

The education establishment, rather than admit that their eclectic and incomplete methods for instruction are at fault, have invented a brain disorder called dyslexia, ... To label children as dyslexic because they're confused by poor teaching methods is wicked.... If dyslexia really existed then countries as diverse as Nicaragua and South Korea would not have been able to achieve literacy rates of nearly 100%. ...There can be no rational reason why this 'brain disorder' is of epidemic proportions in Britain but does not appear in South Korea or Nicaragua. ... Currently, 35,500 students receive disability allowances for dyslexia at an annual cost of ?78.4m... Certified dyslexics get longer in exams. ...There has been created a situation where there are financial and educational incentives to being bad at spelling and reading... It is time that the dyslexia industry was killed off and we recognised that there are well-known methods for teaching everybody to read and write."

There were at least three different reactions to Stringer's column.

  • Comments on the Manchester Confidential website were either for or against. Anyone who has followed the dyslexia story ove the past 40 years or so could predict they few would be for. The majority condemned him, many were abusive and some vitriolic. Sentiments ranged from "If his view represents the Labour Party's position I will be revoking my membership of the party", all the way to the claim that "He quite clearly doesn't know what he's talking about". Testimony from parents, teachers, sufferers and dyslexia experts was felt to be sufficient evidence to invalidate Stringer's claim.
  • I wrote to Stringer supporting him, outlining a mechanism which underlays both reading difficulty and offending and re-offending behaviour. I did so hoping to enlist his help in informing others of the role of a major co-factor. But to no avail.
  • The first chapter of Elliott and Grigorenko's The Dyslexia Debateopened by referring to Stringer's Manchester Confidential column. They took, however, a different direction to that outlined here. They became ensnared, in the regressive 'what is dyslexia?' question, which led them to produce weighty evidence both for and against the brain explanation.

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Frith vs Eliott and Grigorenko

The intensity of the debate over poor teaching versus inborn brain function can best be illustrated by referring to Clegg's profile on Uta Frith (Financial Times: Pioneering Force 11 October 12 October 2014 ). Clegg said "This underlying message [i.e. Elliott & Grigorenko's] fills Frith with dismay" She then quoted Frith herself:

The existence of systematically researched case studies of children who have all the prerequisites for reading and spelling well - intelligence, supportive parents and good motivation - yet still flounder, is proof enough that the condition exists...To claim otherwise risks turning back the clock. It makes me feel ill."

Much honoured for her work on autism and dyslexia, Frith's reaction is at odds with her theory-of-mind and not theory-of-emotions for autism; and for dyslexia being a cognitive condition. Implicit in her cognitive bias is that the emotional facet is underplayed, neglected or rejected. Anyone familiar with the UK television's trouble shooters Gordon Ramsay or Alex Polizzi will have seen that the physical, emotional, social and mental are all involved when effecting a change in routine behaviour. Indeed change was never achieved without strong emotions being aroused. And the social interaction was often fraught before it got better.

Those familiar with Stephen Pepper's World Hypotheses: A Study in Evidence, won't be surprised at Uta Frith's disagreement with Elliott and Grigorenko over the nature of reading difficulty, its labelling and its treatment. They each inhabited and continue to inhabit two different worlds and therefore possess different mindsets.

Frith said:"To have a theory, you really need a long period of immersion. You observe and observe and you think". The implication is that only after a long period of neutral and objective observing, observing, observing can a hypothesis emerge which can then be tested. But as Karl Popper pointed out many years ago, there are no such things as interpretation-free observations; for how else does one choose what to observe? During her course in clinical psychology at the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London, Frith will herself have been immersed in a model of human functioning which generally seeks to explain differences among individuals in terms of inherent biological (brain) mechanisms and not contingent interactions.

By contrast, Elliott, as an ex-teacher hopefully will have engaged with pupils and students in a progressive problem-shifting, participatory observer manner. He will, surely, not have acted in a look-look-look then think, then act manner. For the essence of teaching is to induce changes in pupils such that they become able to do what they previously couldn't.

Frith's atomistic position is rather paradoxical given the holistic nature of her German mother tongue. German can be characterised as a 'the whole is greater than the sum of the parts' language and English as a "the whole is the sum of the parts' language. Frith's 'the whole is the sum of the parts' position is redolent of an atomistic and mechanistic mindset instead of the German holistic and organicist mindset. Looking for evidence? Just consider the difference between Anglo-Saxon behaviourist psychology and German gestalt psychology. Frith's atomistic world-view might then be explained thus: she entered the world of clinical psychology not as a native Anglo-Saxon speaker. And as anyone who tries communicating in a foreign language will tell you, comprehending humour is the most difficult part. It was, therefore, almost inevitable that her theory would emerge not as a 'theory of emotions' but as a a 'theory of mind'. Yet she expresed her emotions when commenting on Elliott & Grigorenko's work while not wishing to blame 'cold parenting' for autism. Note the use of 'blame' and contrast its emotional tone with 'responsible'.

Nobody, I am certain, including Elliott & Grigorenko would deny that some children and adults have problems reading and writing fluently. This is not in dispute. What is in dispute is the value of the Greeko-Latin labels 'alexia / dyslexia'. Label substitution is not an explanation, it serves only to create an illusion of understanding: if by understanding we mean ability to effect change.

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Dis-spelling tools

We need five 'tools' to dispell the debate: Karl Popper, Stephen Pepper, a holistic, faceted view of human attributes, 'common-sense' over how we label hands and finally grasping the nature of the hegemony of the right.

T1: Popper claimed that (a) there is no such thing as a theory-free [culture-free] observation (b) academic disciplines arose through historical accident and are maintained for primarily bureaucratic purposes, and (c) "What is ....?" as in "What is dyslexia?" are essentialist questions. They are non-scientific in that they are not operational. He characterised science as being problem-driven rather than discipline-based.

T2: Pepper wrote, in 1942, a generally ignored but seminal work entitled World-Hypotheses: a Study in Evidence!!! He stated that (a) there are three cognitive attitudes - dogmatism, scepticism and reasonable scepticism, (b) nothing can or will convince dogmatists and [utter] sceptics against their better judgment: reasonable sceptics are open to being swayed by evidence and (c)of all the objects that are in the world there are world-views, which reduce to six core and incommensurable world-views. Here he anticipated Mary Douglas's 'How Institutions Think.' Both explain why experts, working in the same field so often disagree with each other: they hold different core world-views.

T3: Human attributes. There are two core world-views about the relationship among the human attributes: physical, intellectual, emotional and social: atomistic and holistic. Atomists hold that the physical, intellectual, emotional and social attributes exist as separate entities or components which may or may not interact with each other in a mechanistic fashion for better or worse. Holists hold that these attributes reflect observers' focus of attention and are therefore better regarded as different facets of a single integrated entity. This model is best imaged as a 3-d tetrahedral pyramid with each of the faces representing a different facet of the same core. There are two critical differences between them (a) the faceted world-view implies that if anything is found to be out of kilter with one of the facets then (often discovered with deeper probing) something will be found to be out of kilter with the others. This holistic world-view is more compatible with the evolutionary fact that the facets did not evolve as separate entities but rather as a single dynamic system adapting to the demands made on it by the environment (b) the atomist world-view is essentially linear and accumulative; the hollist non-linear and catastrophic.

Both views embody systemic differences in organisational structures and matters of definition, diagnosis and treatment. Novices and some experts are atomists while true experts are holists ie. 'facetists'.

T4: Common-sense over hand labelling

  • Common-sense
    is 'commonly' defined as when everyone is in agreement. However as Bertrand Russel once said: "Even 50 million people can be wrong!". Descartes and the Ancient Greeks defined common-sense differently. For them common-sense exists when the different senses (sight and sound) register the same message in the brain. In short, when seeing and hearing are in harmony with each other.
  • Handedness
    is shorthand for a whole mind-body phenomenon. Biologically the left cerebral hemisphere is in a positive feedback loop with the right hand and the right cerebral hemisphere with the left hand. Bio-logically, only left handers are truly in their right minds!
  • Adept hand
    is the hand better able to handle complex manipulo-spatial tasks with seemingly effortless ease. In the case of writing, it is the hand's ability to read and project the mind's eye image onto paper with seemingly effortless ease. Sometimes the adept hand is called the natural hand.
  • Writing hand
    is self-evidently the hand that holds the pen when writing
  • Preferred hand
    may not be the adept hand: with some it is, with others it isn't.
  • Mis-matching hands
    when the writing hand is not the adept hand.

T5: Software, hardware and the hegemony of the /right/
On the page we can see the differences and similarities among the programmating software spelled 'right', 'wright', 'rite' and 'write'. But in the ear (ie brain) one hears only the same sound. Neuroscientists might ask whether the sound of this hegemonic quartet occupies a single location in the brain or four separate locations. Whether they do or not is pertinent to the question of whether their meanings overlap and to the question of how the brain sorts them out.

Ignoring this hegemony when trying to resolve the superficial problem of the meaning of dyslexia and the substantive problem of reading difficulty explains why the public debate has not yet been resolved. To draw an analogy with computing: in the development of computers and computing there has been an interdependence between chip design (brain organisation) and the development of operating systems (language). But the analogy breaks down because the human 'chip has evolved to be bilaterally symmetrical: the two sides being labelled right and left. Thus when asked, for example to "Hold up your right hand", as opposed to when someone else says "Copy me" or "Do what I'm doing" we need to orient ourselves ego-centrically to the other geo-centrically! When young children are asked to copy (in the face-to-face condition), they typically produce the mirror image. Rarely is the transition to the non-mirror image spotted as when the child uses the correct arm but crosses it in front of their body in order to point in the same direction as the instructor.

At the same time that they are learning how to orient themselves and apply the labels left and right they are also learning (ie hearing) about "being right" or "being wrong". From this a multiplicity of ineluctable issues arise. The principal one being, what if the chip design (ie brain) is not right oriented but left oriented? Allied to this is the fact that the software (ie language)is framed in terms of needing to know our human rights. But right, wright, rite or write or all the 'rights'? This creates the potential for a core mis-match between what is heard, seen and felt. This becomes an acute issue when sense of self-efficacy is determined to by an ability to read / write.

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AUTISM: AN INTERACTIONAL INTERPRETATION

Another of Frith's area of 'expertise is autism. And here too, she encounters an unresolved problem, created by the fact that when she used brain imaging -a scanning technique for observing the brain's neurological processes- it did not yield autism's secrets. Her early hopes were dashed. She resolved this cognitive conflict by invoking the research in progress mantra. This is often accompanied by the mantra that psychology / cognitive science is a young science.

At one time I worked with ex-long stay hospital adults among which was a female who exhibited classic institutionalised autism; echolalia, avoidance of eye-contact with self and with others, and ritualistic repetitive hand / body gestures. I asked her mother when she first became aware of her daughter's autism. She replied it was when she cuddled her baby in her arms, she noticed her baby stretch out to reject her. When on a later occasion I asked the mother when she first noticed her daughter's eye-contact avoidance, she said when her daughter was a toddler she scribbled over a mirror to avoid seeing herself. An interactionist will ask: "How many mothers would interpret a baby's natural stretching as rejection of the mother, and how many would interpret scribbling on a mirror as hiding from the reflection?" Don't all babies stretch while being cuddled and isn't scribbling over everything, including mirrors, something that almost all toddlers do given a drawing tool? Instead of trying to understand the daughter's autism, her carer and I operated in a progressive problem shifting manner. We succeeded in reducing her echolalia so that when asked, "What's your name?" she didn't echo, "Your name" but uttered her name. We changed her view of herself as evidenced by her ability to look at herself in mirrors, others in the eye, and reduced her stereotypical repetitive gestures.

Is 'autism' yet another immutable brain function condition like dyslexia then? Well, yes and no! The New Scientist (10 September 2014) reported the results of a study, under the banner 'Early interventions may be effective at treating the symptoms of autism in very young infants.' To quote: "In a pilot study, Rogers and Ozonoff taught the parents of seven infants with symptoms of ASD [Autistic Symptom Disorder], aged between 6 and 15 months old, how to overcome developmental delays through interactions during play, bathing and diaper-changing. Two researchers independently used multiple tests and evaluations to distinguish between infants with symptoms of ASD and those who might just be developing more slowly than average. "These were very symptomatic infants," says Rogers. "In general these babies did not use their bodies, faces or voices to send and receive messages from their caregivers on what they liked or didn't like, or wanted more or less of."

Six of the infants began to show accelerated development by 18 months of age, and by the time they were 3 years old, their development was in the normal range" says Rogers. In contrast, four infants who qualified for the study but whose parents chose not to participate continued to show a worsening of ASD symptoms.

Rogers speculated that the reason for such a dramatic change is that the programme intervenes when infants' brains are most plastic, when babies are establishing social skills. For 'scientific' reasons she cautioned that a large, randomised trial would be needed to prove that the intervention works.

Lonnie Zwaigenbaum, director of autism research at the University of Alberta in Canada, called the Rogers and Ozonoff study "...a significant study because it demonstrates the ability both to detect symptomatic infants and provide a meaningful intervention prior to 12 months of age." He said parents and doctors should feel encouraged by this approach as it is specific to autism, rather than a generic treatment drawn from experience with infants with developmental delay. Here I would totally disagree: such interaction would have wide ranging effects on other conditions too. The article concluded: "Parents spend much more time with their baby than a professional therapist can, and so are likely to have a greater impact on their development, said Paul Wang, head of medical research at the advocacy group, Autism Speaks, which also supported the study. Because parents can be trained to deliver these interventions, they should be cheaper and more widely available".

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ISSUES BEHIND THE DEBATES

We must not ignore the following issues.
  • Every condition has a brain correlate so there's little to be gained by stating that dyslexia and autism are brain conditions. A correlation doesn't prove causation. Much might be gained by questioning the existence of co-factors in a variety of conditions - from Frith's work with dyslexia and autism, through ADHD, depression, dysgraphia, PTSD, to her husband Chris's work with schizophrenia.
  • Look for the vested interests, for they are as much a part of the problem as they are the solution.
  • The media has its own interests at heart in perpetuating debates, for once resolved where's the news?
  • Instead of looking to the USA, Frith and Elliott & Grigorenko should have looked at the work of Dr Johanna Barbara Sattler, director of a Consulting Center for Left Handers and Converted Left Handers, in Munich, Germany. Most puzzlingly is that Frith makes no reference to Sattler a compatriot of hers, who is responsible for introducing screening for converted handedness in all Elementary schools in Bavaria. Sattler has established a network of co-workers from a variety of professions and disciples. Interestingly Barbara Sattler told me Chris McManus, author of 'Right Hand, Left Hand', used Sattler's work, but failed to acknowledge her.
  • Recent research shows that the brain is malleable throughout life: it is referred to as the plastic -as opposed to fixed-brain

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Institutional bugs

What lies behind the inability of individuals and institutions to see what's hidden in plain sight goes by a number of labels: blissful ignorance, wilful neglect or dogmatic denial. Sometimes all three evidence the interplay between individual practical belief and institutional policy position is well illustrated by Frith's perpetuating the 'fixed-feature' cultural mindset. The tragedy is that the one discipline which ought to be amenable to exploring an alternative to the immutable brain function condition, namely the British Psychological Society (BPsS) failed to do so. But of course they have a vested in sustaining the dyslexia myth.

To illustrate: in 2007, as a long standing Associate Fellow of the BPsS with Chartered Psychology status , awarded on the breadth and depth of experience criterion, I conducted separate evaluations on three primary school pupils and sent my report to the parents. I heard nothing further from one family. The second resulted in two follow-up meetings with the family and one with the school. The third exposed the institutional inertia and silo thinking of the BPsS. Mrs K Brown, headteacher of Sandiway Primary School, Cheshire complained to the BPsS that my report was like no other she had seen and certainly was unlike that from any Chartered Educational Psychologist. In her opinion the school had been maligned for not ensuring the child's progress. She correctly stated that no educational psychologist had ever come across the condition of writing with the non-adept hand and therefore the condition did not exist. The BPsS held that even if it did, it wouldn't explain the pupil's lack of education progress or its role in a multiplicity of conditions.

It is worth noting three further facts. First, the parents had already changed the child's school and were on the verge of changing school yet again. Second, Mark Sugden, the child's father, compromised his personal integrity by remaining invisible and unheard throughout the euphemistically labelled 'disciplinary' hearing. Third, Prof Tommy McKay, former president of the BPsS (a) noted that I had offered to run in-house workshops for the school and for the BPsP and that both offers had been refused (b) asked somewhat rhetorically shouldn't all educational psychologists, all clinical, all forensic, indeed all psychologists know about the implications and consequences of not writing with the adept hand (labelled for short-hand latent / converted handedness,) (c) how had I come to 'discover' the phenomenon. The simple answer to the last question is that I worked across the age range and with a variety of intractable problems, not just reading. In short I wasn't stuck in one the BPsS's silos!

Dogmatic denial over the role of the mis-match between the writing and the adept hand rather wilful neglect or blissful ignorance is the reason the dyslexia debate continues. The situation would be laughable were it not so scandalous. For by failing to emulate the work of Dr Johanna Barbara Sattler we are failing to tackle other well-being problems.

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Observational bias: looking under the street lamp

Know the story of the drunkard who lost his keys and was spotted searching for them under the street light even though he lost them somewhere else? When asked why he was looking under the light he replied he could see better there!

A similar story can be told about the hunt for the meaning of dyslexia or autism and their treatment. If you hunt only under the already pre-defined label you will seek what you find. What are the broader intractable problems that are costly to deal with in terms of time, money and effort? Consider the following:

Reading-writing difficulties
ADHD
Repeat offending
Depression
Radicalisation
Obesity
Tackling each as a separate field of enquiry makes it difficult if not impossible to establish whether there are indeed any common co-factors underlying them all. If we look with a closed mind, we will never find them even were to indeed exist. Focussing on only one leads to the kind of debate, reminiscent of the mediaeval problem of working out how many angels could stand on the head of a pin. Here the modern version is how much evidence (in the case of Elliott & Grigorenko their number of references) can be accumulated. Their debate would have been resolved much sooner had they differentiated between 'facts' and 'evidence'.

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RECASTING THE ACTION AND INTERACTION

While some might seek help for a reading difficulty or even dyslexia, no-one seeks professional help for writing with their non-adept hand. And they don't seek help because no agency in the UK or the USA offers it. This is why, in a case involving a repeat young offender, Judge Mort, asked why don't all psychologists know about the mis-match between the writing and the adept hand, its diagnosis and treatment? Judge Mort had sought a psychological evaluation which answered the question: why does this young adult offender keep re-offending even though he has attended many courses in the Young Offenders' Institution? This is a pertinent question since at that time the prison education budget was ?130 million!)

We can operationalize this puzzle by asking the question, derived directly from Pepper's work:

What evidence will convince reasonable sceptics that the mis-match between the writing and the adept hand
is NOT a co-factor in any presenting problem?

There are at least five obstacles in the path of seeking such evidence:

  • blissful ignorance- wilful blindness
  • vested interest & institutional inertia
  • inability to deal with puzzles-within-puzzles
  • passing the parcel
  • catch-22

Nevertheless, in addition to all those many clients, whether child or adult, whose evaluation resulted in self-generated evidence 'explaining' the role of the mis-match between their writing and adept hand as a co-factor in their presenting problem, the following eminent experts have also been convinced:

  • MP David Mowatt - Warrington South
  • Emeritus Professor Michael Tobin - University of Birmingham;
  • Emeritus Professor Lewis Wolpert CBE FRS - Professor of Biology as Applied to Medicine, University College London
  • Professor Nigel Saunders Interdisciplinary Chair of Systems Biology - Biosciences, formerly of Oxford University but latterly at Brunel University. Professor Saunders was so convinced of the case that he had offered to arrange fMRI scan facilities for one of my former clients: in order to convince the utter sceptics.

Significantly the ability to identify those not writing with the adept hand is easily acquired as the following example shows. I had two short 3-hour sessions with at first a group of 10 young then a further ten multilingual young adult students in Islamic Morocco. The significance of this setting is that many students wrote French and English right to left and Arabic left to right. It was the students themselves who stated that it was not reading / writing right to left or left to right that was a problem but writing with the 'wrong' hand. They also 'anticipated' my finding that writing with the wrong hand could and would affect every aspect of one's life.

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A research defect

Elliott & Grigorenko call the participants in the dyslexia debate 'stakeholders'. A stronger description would be to call them 'vested interest' groups. It should be clear by now that with the appropriate conceptual and practical tools the dyslexia debate is well past its sell-by-date. The British Psychological Society is no longer blissfully ignorant of the role this condition plays in a whole variety of debilitating conditions. Yet it fails to train its practitioners to diagnose and thus treat this condition. The BPsS holds the position that one person can't be right and all their other practitioners wrong. But of course it isn't only me advocating this alternative 'handedness' route. Dr Sattler and her team of practitioners, drawn from a variety of professions, has been successfully pioneering this route since the 1980's. And even before either of us, Samuel Orton in the 1930's emphasized hemispheric difficulties as the underlying cause of reading disability! Orton's study of reading difficulties in children led him to hypothesize that these individuals have failed to establish appropriate cerebral organization to support the association of visual words with their spoken forms. He termed this difficulty strephosymbolia, meaning "twisted symbols". This term stemmed from Orton's observation that many of the children he worked with tended to reverse letters or transpose their order. Orton also reported that some of his research subjects could read more easily if they held pages up to a mirror, and a few were rapid mirror writers. Working in the 1920s, Orton did not have access to modern brain scanning equipment, but he knew from his work with brain damaged adults that injuries to the left hemisphere produced symptoms similar to those he observed in children. Many of the children Orton studied were also ambidextrous or had mixed handedness. This led Orton to theorize that the children's reading problems stemmed from the failure of the left hemisphere to become dominant over the right. Some of Orton's theories about brain structure and organization would later be confirmed by modern brain researchers, such as Dr. Albert Galaburda, who compared the brains of deceased dyslexic and non-dyslexic adults in the late 1970s.

All the facts reported by Orton are consistent with converted or latent handidness. It is a testimony to the pervasive power or the hegemony of the /right/ that Orton interpreted his observed facts in terms of under-developed cerebral dominance of the left hemisphere rather than writing with the wrong hand. It should be clear now that it is not more of the same sort of /right/ orentied research that is required for over 80 years of such research has failed ease the plight of those with reading difficulties, whether labelled dyslexia or not.

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Convinced or not?

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