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It is understandable that parents feel like they might get more support for their child if they have an ‘official’ label. It also makes sense that it might be easier for teachers and SENCOs to differentiate lessons and interventions if they know exactly what children’s difficulties are.

Yet isn’t this precisely the issue? Dyslexia is an umbrella term that doesn’t necessarily give teachers any explicit reasons for a student’s difficulties. Any teacher can tell you whether a child is struggling with reading – what we need is the neurologically-based expertise to help find a tailored solution. Needless to say, I completely agree with Dr Gibbs’ findings, which found that:

“[teachers felt] the label ‘dyslexia’ evoked responses that suggested it was seen as a fixed disability, and that the teachers believed their ability to help children with ‘dyslexia was unlikely to develop over time. By contrast, the teachers who had been asked about ‘reading difficulties’ were less likely to see the children’s problems as permanent; were also more likely to believe that they would be able to help them, and that their skills developed with experience.”

We had already moved to the term ‘struggling readers’ at my last school as it sits alongside psychologist Carol Dweck’s notion of growth mindset much more comfortably. All teachers want to believe that their students can achieve their full potential and more. What we need to make sure they feel able to do is apply growth mindset even with their struggling readers.

Surely by removing supposedly fixed labels, teachers can feel less daunted about their ability to change a child’s literacy trajectory, leaving room for the all-important question ‘how?’ to be the focus of attention. In many cases, the term ‘dyslexia’ feels somewhat more like a full stop rather than a question mark.

Sticking with precise identification of a student’s reading difficulties and then working on precise solutions is unquestionably the key. What is arguably even more important in ensuring this is skilling up our teachers – primary and secondary – making sure they are equipped with the level of expertise needed to tackle the causes of reading difficulty at their core.

rachel headshotRachel Wallace is a former English teacher and KS3/4 Leader, and current Literacy Specialist for the Easyread System. Easyread is an online intervention for children with reading difficulties, dyslexia, auditory processing problems and more.