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The Study of Dyslexia
The Study of Dyslexia
Martin TurnerConsulting Educational Psychologist
and Head of Psychology, The Dyslexia InstituteEgham, United Kingdom (19912003)
John RackThe Dyslexia Institute
University of YorkYork, United Kingdom
KLUWER ACADEMIC PUBLISHERSNEW YORK, BOSTON, DORDRECHT, LONDON, MOSCOW
eBook ISBN: 0-306-48534-6Print ISBN: 0-306-48535-4
Print 2004 Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers
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2005 Springer Science + Business Media, Inc.
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Dr Alan A. Beaton, Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology, University ofWales, Swansea, Singleton Park, Swansea SA2 8PP, UK
Bruce J. W. Evans, Director of Research, Institute of Optometry, 56-62Newington Causeway, London, SE1 6DS, UK, and Private practice, 23 ShenfieldRoad, Brentwood, Essex, CM15 8AG, UK
Prof. Rhona S. Johnston, Department of Psychology, University of Hull, HullHU6 7RX, UK
Richard K. Olson, Department of Psychology, University of Colorado, Boulder,CO 80309, USA
Dr Valerie Muter, Department of Psychology, University of York, Heslington,YorkYO1 5DD,UK
Susan J. Pickering, University of Bristol, Department of ExperimentalPsychology, Bristol, BS8 1TN, UK
Dr John Rack, The Dyslexia Institute, The Henry Wellcome Building forPsychology, The University of York, Heslington, York YO10 5DD, UK
Jacky Ridsdale, The Dyslexia Institute, Broom Hall, 8-10 Broomhall Road,Sheffield S10 2DR, UK
Professor Margaret J. Snowling, Department of Psychology, University of York,Heslington, York YO1 5DD, UK
Martin Turner, Chartered Educational Psychologist, Brocksett Cottage, KennelLane, Windlesham, Surrey GU20 6AA, UK
Joyce Watson, School of Psychology, University of St Andrews, St AndrewsKY16 9JU, UK
PrefaceIn long-ago 1999, the Dyslexia Institute and Plenum Press conceiveda plan for two books which would gather the best of current knowledgeand practice in dyslexia studies. This would benefit thosebut not onlythosemany individuals who train with us, acquiring a postgraduatecertificate and diploma with our higher education partner, the Universityof York.
Since then, the century changed, the hinge of history creaked andPlenum was taken over by Kluwer Academic Publishers, but the first of thepair, Dyslexia in Practice, emerged quickly and on schedule (Townendand Turner, 2000). Written by staff and close associates of the Institute, itschapters were produced under close scrutiny and with the expedition of acommand economy. To our delight, the book has seen a success whichwent beyond the dreams of its editors: it has been adopted by other coursessimilar to our own and is widely referred to.
The same was never likely to be true of The Study of Dyslexia, whichwas envisaged as a theoretical companion volume written by authors andresearchers of international repute. Nearly five years after the idea firsttook shape, this second volume now arrives to complete the enterprise, butit has been a very different project. The evolution of specialist dyslexiatuitionthe so-called multisensory, cumulative methodproceeds withgraceful but gradual elaboration, contingent neither upon fundamentalresearch nor upon direct evaluation (but see Chapter 8 by Rack, thisvolume); more like a craft skills tradition, or apostolic transmission, thisteaching is informed to a greater extent by the grain of the language itself,by close-up familiarity with the idiosyncratic bywaysthe lanes andhedgerowsof written English.
Research into dyslexia, by contrast, proceeds at an exciting pace,marked not, as in former times, by the dignified appearance of soberlyconsidered books, but by e-papers and press conferences. Each researchbreakthrough that makes the front page of the New York Times sets thefaxes whirring this side of the Atlantic and arms with timely questionstrainees in the front row of next days training course. While this maintainsa high level of intellectual excitement, what scope does it afford reviewerswho wish to capture, within the confines of a book, a stable synopsis thatwill not too quickly date or fade?
We may have been too ambitious for our own good. There is now toomuch material, as Maggie Snowling says, to be contained within a singlebook (though her own seems the most satisfying single volume survey of
essentials; Snowling, 2000). New facets emerge or re-emerge into promi-nence (naming speed deficit, magnocellular theory, self-esteem) as olderones cease to interest researchers (laterality, motor skills). The mainscientific consensus of the 1980sthe phonological deficit hypothesiscontinues to survive vigorous challenges from visual and rapid process-ing theories, but is, in turn, stimulated to greater explanatory productivity.
This is perhaps the most scientifically attractive state for any field tobe in: settled enough to provide students with coherence, lively enough toallow change and even upsets. In the last decade, we have seen dualroute theories of reading accommodate the rise of phonological process-ing by defining the direct lexical (visual word recognition) route in moreand more morphological terms. Challenged by Seymours format distor-tion experiments, Ehris and (independently) Stuarts findings of alpha-betic advantage in whole-word-taught infants, non-phonological routeshave ceded ground that was once their sole preserve; simultaneously, inBritish schools, phonic teaching methods have been reintroduced offi-cially and promoted by inspection, while the defense of Whole Languagehas been reduced to whole words (analytic phonics) and somethingcalled reading-by-analogy (onset and rime). But even here, Morag StuartsEast London and Rhona Johnstons Clackmannanshire studies have showna truly striking advantage for children taught by means of syntheticphonics (see Chapter 7 by Johnstons, this volume).
During this decade, too, we have seen the rise of behavioural genetics.In the Preface to Dyslexia in Practice, I quoted the March 1996 DyslexiaInstitute definition of dyslexia. In July 2002, this was revised once more,as follows:
Dyslexia is a developmental disorder which results in difficulties in learning to read,write and spell. Short-term memory, mathematics, concentration, personal organisationand sequencing may also be affected.
Dyslexia usually arises from a weakness in the processing of language-based informa-tion. Biological in origin, it tends to run in families, but environmental factors alsocontribute.
Dyslexia can occur at any level of intellectual ability. It is not the result of poor motiva-tion, emotional disturbance, sensory impairment or lack of opportunities, but mayoccur alongside any of these.
The effects of dyslexia can be largely overcome by skilled specialist teaching and theuse of compensatory strategies.
Though spurred by the desire to be more accessible, this furthersimplification casually embodied a new assumptionthat of biologicalcausation. This has long been accepted as a truism in the researchcommunity but is a relative novelty in education. Since Rack, Hulme, andSnowling (1993) first welcomed the appearance of a cross-disciplinarysynthesis in research studies, the integration of molecular genetics,
behavioral genetics, neurobiology, cognitive psychology, and behavioralteaching has continued rapidly; though many of these levels are nowwrapped up in the term neuroscience, it is perhaps the neurology thatstill seems the least mature area, with new theories taking little account ofprevious ones (see Chapter 3 by Beaton, this volume).
Where a straight test of phonological, magnocellular and cerebellartheories has been attempted, the phonological core deficit emerges thevictor (Ramus et al., 2003), but clearly a broad rather than a narrow ver-sion is needed to accommodate the abundance of diagnostic phenomenathat are not easily explained by memory. By contrast, phonological theorycan probably accommodate an enhanced sense of the importance of execu-tive processes (Pickering, 2003).
This volume cannot contain, and does not attempt to encapsulate, allthese strands of developing argument. Nevertheless most of the progress incurrent theory is reflected in some detail in its chapters, either by mainplayers or others closely involved. This gives the collection a specialauthority, even while it aims to achieve, above the mle of current contro-versies, a stable perspective that a student can rely on.
Snowlings chapter sets the scene, with a historical approach to theprevailing language disorder view of dyslexia. Hypothetical, internalphonological representationsconfirmed by early developmental cross-language studiesare strong in some, weak in other individuals. The purityof this explanation is defended against the common clinical observation ofcomorbidities. Implications for practice are helpfully spelled out.
Muter provides much of the detail for this developmental, linguisticview of the matter with an accomplished and very full review of theresearch on phonemic awareness, phonological skill and verbal memory.Like Snowling, she wishes to broaden this emphasis in further linguisticdirections (grammar, semantics). In order to round out an emphasis ondyslexia, this survey then focuses on the deficits identified and the instruc-tional remedies to be applied.
Pickering seeks a theoretical rapp