Home Mind & Brain Dyslexia Is a Global Phenomenon: The Need for a Coordinated Strategy in the UK

Dyslexia Is a Global Phenomenon: The Need for a Coordinated Strategy in the UK

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If evidence were needed that dyslexia is a global phenomenon, then recent research sends a clear message. The report evidences the negative mental and physical health impacts on the undiagnosed or unsupported dyslexic child. The number of dyslexic people globally is conservatively estimated to be eight hundred million. Here in the UK, the number is circa seven million.

So, we know it’s a natural part of the human make-up, and that it affects many people. It would be sensible to assume that the organisers of our health and education infrastructure would be aware of these statistics, and plan the suitable resources needed to positively support these dyslexic individuals. Things like: funding for dyslexia training for teachers; classroom Teaching Assistants and SENCOs; free screenings and assessments (for all ages and delivered by the NHS); one-to-one coaching for the dyslexic child or adult; clear guidance to effective educational and workplace reasonable adjustments, and access to support software. However, the BDA (British Dyslexia Association) has found that 80% of primary-aged dyslexics transition to secondary school without a diagnosis, and that half the prison population is dyslexic. The UK’s dyslexia strategy is best expressed by a comment from one of my school reports: “must try harder and is lazy”.

Why are we behind other countries in addressing dyslexia? Providing quality educational interventions comes at a cost, and there is a massive lack of understanding of the depth and complexity of dyslexia throughout education and the workplace. This is exacerbated by a similar lack of knowledge at the governmental level. Combine this with a lack of appetite to pay for the required changes, and we have today’s lack of a national strategy.

What this means for our young dyslexic people in school is that they receive three negative comments every hour. By the time they are ten years old, they will have received twenty thousand negative emotional impacts. It is no wonder that dyslexic pupils start to resent school, teachers, and authority figures. This leads to costly behavioural patterns. Costly both for the individual and for the wider community. This pathway, fuelled by feelings of pain and inadequacy, has been walked by millions of dyslexics: disruptive, truancy, expelled, sent to the alternative provision school, no qualifications, drug and alcohol use, trouble with the police, prison, unemployment, and poor health.

We can see that there is an enormous cost to the dyslexic person, but what I think is not recognised is the broader cost to our community. There is a waste of un-nurtured talent and therefore a lack of positive contributions to society. Then there is the extra drain on the NHS’s limited resources. We need a coordinated strategy that has the time and resources to improve the situation. This needs a determined long-term plan that will make real change and improve the life opportunities for so many people, young and old.


An earlier version of this article was publioshed on SEN Magazine.

Roger Broadbent is the director of both the Dyslexia Institute UK and the Empowerment Passport.

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