A Question and Survey About Dyslexia

Do “dyslexic” children who leave conventional schooling learn to read? How?

By Peter Gray Ph.D. Freedom to Learn

In previous posts on this blog (here and here), I’ve written about how children in unschooling families or attending schools for self-directed education learn to read on their own, when they are not pressured and are growing up in a literary environment. Likewise, and with more data, Harriet Pattison, in the U.K., has written a great book on how homeschoolers learn to read with little or no teaching, with conclusions very similar to mine. But now I have a question.

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Frequently when I speak about children’s self-initiated, self-directed learning to read, I’m asked, “What about children diagnosed with dyslexia?” That question has also been asked by a number of people on a forum offered by the Alliance for Self-Directed Education. I haven’t been able to answer that question to my own satisfaction, and so I’m curious.

That’s why I’m conducting here a little informal, preliminary survey. In previous research I’ve found two people who were diagnosed with dyslexia who learned to read quite quickly when they were removed from school as teenagers and the pressure was taken off.  But that’s just an N of two. So I’m conducting this little survey with the hope of learning more.

Do you have a child or know a child who was failing to read in a conventional school, was given a diagnosis of dyslexia, and who was subsequently removed from the conventional school for homeschooling or unschooling, or for enrollment in a school designed for self-directed education, such as a Sudbury model school or an Agile Learning Center? If you do, please tell me the story of what happened. Did the child eventually learn to read? If so, how did that learning occur to the best of your (or the child’s) ability to explain it?  Or did that person grow up never learning to read?

The story you share may be very helpful to others who are struggling with the question of what to do about a child with this diagnosis. As far as I can tell, there has been no formal research at all, to date, on this question. A common assumption, in the dyslexia research literature, is that people with this diagnosis will learn to read only if given special training by experts, but this assumption has apparently never been tested by seeing what would happen if we just took the pressure off and allowed the young person to learn to read in their own way, on their own time course. Does that work, or not?

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