Correcting misrepresentations of LD

Liz Ditz, about whose blog we’ve commented previously, posted about misrepresentations of dyslexia 29 August. Ms. Ditz expressed well-founded concern about a San Fransisco journalist who fell for fascile characterizations of dyslexia.

Nanette Asimov, the Chronicle education writer (who otherwise has good chops–she investigated Scientology’s worming its way into the SF school district) made two serious errors in a recent news article on special education:

In 2001, Juleus Chapman was a Fremont 8th-grader with “scotopic sensitivity syndrome” — a condition that makes words seem to swim across the page — and dyslexia, which causes letters to appear in reverse order.

In other words,

  1. She accepted a quack definition. “Scotopic sensitivity syndrome” exists only in the mind of the people who provide an expensive and useless fix
  2. She perpetuated two destructive myths about dyslexia: that it has to do with visual perception, and it has something to do with reversal of letters.

Ms. Ditz has got it right here. Learning Disabilities such as dyslexia are too often characterized in ways that are probably well-intentioned but are simply wrong. Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome (SSS), reversals, learning styles, and many other misrepresentations of LD are perpetuated by journalists and even educators. Peggy and I opined about a whole host of them in a recent editorial for TeachingLD.org.

I’m very glad Ms. Ditz devoted time to refuting these misrepresentations. Getting the general public and even some professionals concerned with individuals with LD to a attend to and employ effective practices is complicated by the perpetuation of myths such as SSS (and Irlen lenses, colored overlays, etc.) and strephosymbolia (reversals). I’m sending Ms. Ditz a note of thanks for her work.

Link to Ms. Ditz’s entry aptly entitled “Educating Education Writers,” a self-referential link to our previous post about Ms. Ditz’s blog, a link to our editorial on TLD, and a link to a page developed by some students in my class on characteristics of LD in the mid 1990s.

1 Response to “Correcting misrepresentations of LD”


  • Sad but true that the scientific community agrees with G. Reid Lyon that we “read through our ears” (the phonological processing hypothesis of reading) and ignores visual processing problems. Also sad but true that credible doctors and scientists agree that visual processing problems exist, but couldn’t possibly be related to reading problems. Ummm, excuse me? Phonological processing problems can cause reading difficulty but visual processing problems can’t? American parents, it’s time to get angry with the research community. They are totally and completely illogical. “Scotopic sensitivity syndrome” is poorly understood by scientists because they haven’t taken the time to investigate it properly. Whose fault is that? Helen Irlen’s (the American psychologist commonly associated with the discovery)? Or a boorish and lazy scientific community?

    Sincerely,
    Rhonda Stone
    Author, The Light Barrier
    Parent advocate, children’s light-based health and learning issues

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