Dyslexia Without Severe Literacy Problems

We had already divided the severe underachievers into groups A, B and C according to the extent to which they showed indicators of dyslexia on the supplementary items.

We now decided to extend this A, B and C classification to the cohort as a whole, again excluding the low-ability children. We had already become interested in variants of dyslexia (see Chapter 21), since there seemed to be individuals who showed indicators of dyslexia despite the absence any major literacy problems. As far as the present study was concerned we needed to look among those normal achievers who nevertheless showed significant indicators of dyslexia on the supplementary items.

We therefore made a 3 X 3 table, showing three categories of achievement and three categories of dyslexic indicators. The numbers in each group (with the 'achievement' categories placed horizontally) are set out in Table 20.6.

Table 20.6. Numbers in each group classified in terms of achievement and indicators of dyslexia

Group I 4998

Group II 1159

Group III 417

Group IV 918

Group V 327

Group VI 221

Group VII 422

Group VIII 217

Group IX 269

Low-ability children 3200

Unclassifiable 7571

Total 12 905

1These were children who could not be assigned to any of the groups because of insufficient data.

Adapted from Miles et al. (2003)

1These were children who could not be assigned to any of the groups because of insufficient data.

Adapted from Miles et al. (2003)

It will be seen from this table that there were 422 children in Group VII, that is apparently normal achievers at word recognition and spelling who nevertheless came out with two or more positive indicators of dyslexia or three or more zeros on the supplementary items. At first glance it seemed that these 422 children were cases of false positives - dyslexia-positive according to the supplementary items but falsely so since they appeared to have no literacy problems. If, however, as we now supposed, there could be variants of dyslexia where the literacy problems were minimal, this was the group in which they would be found - seemingly normal achievers who nevertheless seemed to be showing indicators of dyslexia.

The most appropriate comparison group was, of course, Group I - those normal achievers who showed few or no indicators of dyslexia on the supplementary items.

We in fact found that there were available within our data six tests that might be expected to have associations with dyslexia - lower scores on word recognition, spelling, non-word reading, non-word spelling, the Edinburgh Reading Test and the Friendly Maths Test. This number, however, was reduced to five, as we decided not to use the non-word spelling data because there sometimes appeared to be persevera-tion between the spelling of one non-word and the spelling of the next. This left us with six measures in all, the sixth being gender ratio: if the boy : girl ratio was higher in Group VII than in Group I, this would be evidence that in this group there were more dyslexics.

We therefore compared Groups I and VII in respect of these six criteria. If we were wrong in our hypothesis that some of those in Group VII were dyslexia variants, no differences between Group I and Group VII on any of these measures would be found. Table 20.7 gives the figures. (The term 'residual' indicates a measure of the discrepancy between the observed score and the score predicted on the basis of the subject's intelligence.) Overall, therefore, one would expect the average residual to be somewhere near zero.

Table 20.7. Comparisons between Group I and Group VII

Measure of dyslexia

Group I

Group VII

Word recognition residual

5.38

1.96

Spelling residual

4.74

0.14

Non-word reading

6.62

6.18

Edinburgh Reading

108.07

104.94

Friendly Maths

107.34

102.00

Male : female ratio

43.6% boys

72.3% boys

Total

4998

422

Adapted from Miles et al. (2003)

Adapted from Miles et al. (2003)

It will be seen that in the case of both word recognition and spelling, Group I were obtaining higher scores in relation to their intelligence than were Group VII. As there were eight non-words to be read, with one point for each one correct, the maximum possible score for non-word reading was eight. With the large numbers of children involved the difference between 6.62 for Group I and 6.18 for Group VII was highly significant. In the case of the Friendly Maths Test it seemed more informative to present standardised scores rather than the raw scores, which we presented in Table 20.5.

Our hypothesis was therefore confirmed: on all six measures Group VII differed from Group I in the expected direction at a high level of confidence (note 20.4).

It seemed to us that the best way of making sense of the results was to suppose that Group VII contained some mild cases of dyslexia - dyslexia variants, if you will -whose literacy problems at age 10 were not a major handicap.

It was these results, too, which led me to question an assumption that I had made from the start of the research - that either you were dyslexic or you were not. It was possible, I supposed, for a person to have a mild form of influenza or to be mildly neurotic; on the other hand it was not possible to be mildly pregnant. I had always assumed that in this respect dyslexia was like pregnancy - either one was dyslexic or one was not, but I now realise that there is a serious possibility that this view may be mistaken.

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