Did you know that 80% of students with language-based learning disabilities have dyslexia? I heard this statistic at a workshop in Cambridge again recently and I was just struck dumb, not only by the implications, but by the statement itself. Of course, I do not remain mute for long, so I began to try to figure out why this statistic leaves me feeling cold. Dyslexia is a diagnosis that is specific to reading and impacts both reading and writing. It is a language based learning disorder. The range of problems students with language based learning disorders have with reading is not limited to sound letter correspondence. Many children with language-based learning disorders have difficulty with sound letter correspondence, but the diagnosis of dyslexia means that the reading disorder is primary. For the majority of children with language-based learning disorder the primary deficit is language, and difficulty with sound letter correspondence is only one of many deficits. These children do have reading problems that impact, but are not limited to difficulty with visualization, grammar, sound letter correspondence, and semantics to name a few other areas.

One of my problems is that the statement says that almost everyone with a language-based learning disorder is dyslexic. How can that be when there are so many contributing factors that impact struggling readers? Is there another way to state this statistic that makes it more useful? Well an alternative statement might be “80% of students with language-based learning disorders also have sound sequencing deficits that impact reading and writing.” Even after rephrasing, this statistics seems questionable. On the other hand, if the statistic says 80% of people with language-based learning disorders have dyslexia, and that means all schools have to provide students identified as having a language based learning disorder with a phonics-based reading program, well then let that inaccurate statistic stand so it can do some good. What do you think?

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