Biological Issues Position Essay On Dyslexia

1030 words | 4 page(s)

Dyslexia is a condition in which the person has difficulty in reading and interpreting words, letters and other symbols. However, despite this difficulty they also have normal intelligence. In general there are two different types of dyslexia: developmental and acquired. Developmental dyslexia is a learning disorder whereby children with normal intelligence show problems in learning to read. In contrast acquired dyslexia is a problem with reading that occurs as the result of a brain injury, such as a stroke or severe head injury (Baddeley, Ellis, Miles, & Lewis, 1982). While the cause of acquired dyslexia is known, the exact cause of developmental dyslexia is still being debated among scientists.

Developmental dyslexia is thought to be derived from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. However, recently there has been discussion in the literature that dyslexia should not be labeled as a medical disorder. This has been claimed because often people who are poor readers can be misdiagnosed as having dyslexia (Elliott & Gibbs, 2008). However, even though there can be difficulties diagnosis dyslexia there is research that shows that there is a difference between people with dyslexia and people who are poor readers. Because of this, despite claims that dyslexia should not be labeled as a medical disorder, I believe that dyslexia is a medical condition and should continue to be treated that way.

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Since 2005, there have been several researchers who have published research stating that dyslexia should not be classified as a medical condition. In 2005, a documentary entitled “The dyslexia Myth” aired. This documentary looked only at the reading difficulties that people with dyslexia have and stated that there was no scientific research to prove that it was a separate condition from people who are poor readers (Howard-Jones & Fenton, 2012). As well, in a paper published in 2008, the authors argued that dyslexia should not be categorized as a separate condition, and in fact by categorizing people as dyslexic this is causing them to experience social stigma (Elliott & Gibbs, 2008).

However, other scientists have disputed these claims. They argue that these views only take into account one aspect of dyslexia, poor reading (Howard-Jones & Fenton, 2012). In a study published in 2007, the authors suggest that dyslexia is in fact its own separate condition. Their study looked at 40 control children and 83 children with different special education needs. They found that the children who were identified as dyslexic had low reading achievement, but higher scores on creativity and spatial reasoning and memory. As well in comparison to other students who were reading impaired but not dyslexic they found that dyslexic children had higher scores on vocabulary and listening comprehension. Therefore they concluded that dyslexia was in fact a separate condition from poor reading (Everatt, Weeks, & Brooks, 2008). Therefore this evidence shows that dyslexia is in fact a medical condition and should be treated as such.

Studies in which cognitive function was investigated, have clearly shown that there is a difference in the brain patterns of children with dyslexia. In these studies it was found that children with dyslexia display a different activation pattern than children who do not have dyslexia (Arns, Peters, Breteler, & Verhoeven, 2007). Furthermore, there has been a large amount of research done to look at the genetics behind dyslexia (Galaburda, LoTurco, Ramus, Fitch, & Rosen, 2006). Early research in twins and families in which dyslexia occurs over multiple generations has suggested that there is a strong link between the genetics of a person and the development of dyslexia. In fact in families where one parent has dyslexia there is a risk of 40 to 60% that the child will also have dyslexia. As well if one child has dyslexia there is a 3 to 10 times increase the possibility that another sibling will also have dyslexia (Schumacher, Hoffmann, Schmäl, Schulte-Körne, & Nöthen, 2007). This data provides strong evidence that dyslexia is in fact a medical condition and should be treated as such.

Although the literature has shown that dyslexia is a genetic disease, the exact genes responsible have not be yet been discovered, but there are some potential candidate genes which have been identified. In total there are four candidate genes which have specifically been linked to the development of developmental dyslexia. These four genes are DYX1C1, KIAA0319, DCDC2 AND ROBO (Galaburda et al., 2006). Mutations in each of these genes have been linked to the development of dyslexia in humans. For example KIAA0319 is a gene which encodes an integral membrane protein with a large extracellular domain. Its function is not completely known, but in studies where it was decreased if was found to play a role in migration of neurons. It is possible that this loss of migration in neurons, could be a reason for the development of dyslexia (Galaburda et al., 2006).

Even though several researchers have argued for the removal of dyslexia as a medical condition, there is a large body of research which has shown that this should not occur. As seen here, individuals with dyslexia are different than individuals with reading difficulties. As well the risk of dyslexia is increased if there is a family history of the disease. Taken together, I believe that it is important that dyslexia remain as a medical condition. As well, further research in this area is necessary in order to determine the exact genes responsible for causing dyslexia in humans.

  • Arns, M., Peters, S., Breteler, R., & Verhoeven, L. (2007). Different brain activation patterns in dyslexic children: evidence from EEG power and coherence patterns for the double-deficit theory of dyslexia. Journal of integrative neuroscience, 6(01), 175-190.
  • Baddeley, A. D., Ellis, N., Miles, T., & Lewis, V. J. (1982). Developmental and acquired dyslexia: A comparison. Cognition, 11(2), 185-199.
  • Elliott, J. G., & Gibbs, S. (2008). Does dyslexia exist? Journal of Philosophy of Education, 42(3‐4), 475-491.
  • Everatt, J., Weeks, S., & Brooks, P. (2008). Profiles of strengths and weaknesses in dyslexia and other learning difficulties. Dyslexia, 14(1), 16-41.
  • Galaburda, A. M., LoTurco, J., Ramus, F., Fitch, R. H., & Rosen, G. D. (2006). From genes to behavior in developmental dyslexia. Nature neuroscience, 9(10), 1213-1217.
  • Howard-Jones, P. A., & Fenton, K. D. (2012). The need for interdisciplinary dialogue in developing ethical approaches to neuroeducational research. Neuroethics, 5(2), 119-134.
  • Schumacher, J., Hoffmann, P., Schmäl, C., Schulte-Körne, G., & Nöthen, M. M. (2007). Genetics of dyslexia: the evolving landscape. Journal of medical genetics, 44(5), 289-297.

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