Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 29 Jan 2009

My son is quite disorganised. Could I get him labelled as dyslexic, and get him extra time in exams?

Hillary's Advice

This parent thinks she might agree with Graham Stringer, the Labour MP, who says dyslexia is “a cruel fiction”. Her children have friends who have been labelled dyslexic, she says, and she can’t see anything different about them.

Could she join the bandwagon? Yes, she probably could, if she toured enough private educational psychologists – many parents do exactly that, seeking to prove that the reason their child is not shining at school is because a learning disability.

And this sort of behaviour can spread like wildfire. Why, parents think, should my child be at a disadvantage against all those others who are getting extra time in exams because of dyslexia? And, of they go on their own quest for a diagnosis. This is at least part of the reason why requests for extra time have leapt up by a third recently.

Dyslexia is very real. Anyone who knows a child who really struggles with aspects of reading writing, memory and processing information will know that. Whether it is one in 10 of the population, as the charity Dyslexia Action claims, is impossible to know.

My hunch, after watching successive waves of children go through school, is that it is all a continuum. Many normal children, especially boys, show a few dyslexic-type symptoms, while the other end of the scale are those who barely function. Where you draw the line between dyslexics and non-dyslexics will never be an exact science.