Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Case for Labeling

Although 1 in 5 children is dyslexic, less than 30% of these children are ever identified. Why is this? In fact, most schools won’t even use the word dyslexia. There is a philosophy in education today that society shouldn’t “label” these children dyslexic. This philosophy not only discourages children from being “labeled” dyslexic but it also discourages schools from identifying children with learning disabilities. Society sees “labeling” as a bad practice. I disagree with this philosophy. I believe it does a disservice to the dyslexic child and to their families. Today, a dyslexic student is only identified as having a learning disability after the child has fallen significantly behind their peers. Schools are then able to “label” the child as having a Specific Learning Disability. The label Specific Learning Disability includes many different types of disabilities, including brain injury. Dyslexia accounts for 80% of those identified as having a Specific Learning Disability. Dyslexia requires a specific type of intervention so that the student is able to actually close the gap. Without the label of “dyslexia,” most students only receive interventions that are appropriate for a group of disabilities, but never receive interventions that are specific for dyslexia. To me, that’s like identifying a group of people as having cancer and assuming that the same type of treatment will work for each individual regardless of the type of cancer.
If dyslexic students aren’t identified as “dyslexic”, they are often informally identified by their teachers as being lazy or slow. The other kids in the classroom are also labeling these kids as “dumb”. These kids are often picked on and bullied. Everyone seems to have a label for them whether or not the school formally “labels” them.  I can remember teachers telling me that I wasn’t trying hard enough. My second grade teacher told my mom that I was capable of reading but I just didn’t want to do it. She would send home papers that I had trouble reading and wrote in big red letters, “Joshua refused to do this.”    

I think having a “label” of dyslexia will help students get the right help and provide them with the appropriate accommodations for their weaknesses. It also helps families to have a term to research to better understand the learning difficulties. I knew I learned differently and was frustrated because I couldn’t learn the same way as my peers. The word “dyslexia” gave me confidence that I could achieve success.


  1. Very well put! I teach dyslexic children and you, sir, are a part of an elite group of very intelligent people. Celebrate your dyslexia! You have much to give to this world! Never forget that!
    This will possibly help a lot of people. Great job!

  2. Thank you for speaking on behalf of dyslexic children! Excellent post! :)

  3. Hi Josh,

    I found your blog via Dyslexia Warrior Mom...and I am happy I did! My nine-year-old son is dyslexic and quite bright...I homeschool him.

    BUT, I know if he was in public school, most likely he would (at some time) experience something like you did in Second Grade.

    I look forward to reading more of your blog -- keep it up!


  4. That was great to hear from the mouth of a child with Dyslexia! My son is now 14 and I have struggled sometimes with the label, because I know how kids are too and how they bully kids who are different. Thank you Joshua soo much you made this mom feel better about what we are doing for him!

  5. Ditto what J. Stone said. Josh, I am a language arts teacher and words are easy for me. Words fail me, though, when I try to explain the wonders that the world of dyslexia has taught me through my children. In second grade I told my son that I thought he might be dyslexic, and when we researched it and he realized that he was not alone he was so proud! He said he felt good knowing that he had something "famous" -- dyslexia!

  6. Well done Josh, well said! This is exactly why I started my petition to help children in the UK get dyslexia diagnosis easier. Thank you for putting it so well. It helped my eleven year old son to finally be told he is actually dyslexic. The teachers telling him for years that he had specific learning difficulties in literacy still made him question himself, leaving him to feel stupid. Once he knew for sure he was dyslexic this boosted his confidence and now instead of avoiding reading he's actually going to an after school book club! It is so important to get this message across that the dyslexic label is needed. Thank you again for sharing. I will be following your blog :-)

  7. Well said! For the past year I have offered a free screening test for any child going into K or 1st grade to see if they are at-risk for dyslexia. To date only ONE person has taken me up on this offer...