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It’s Time to Be Scientific About Dyslexia

Elliott, J.

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The author argues that despite the vast proliferation of scientific research, our understanding of dyslexia is marked by serious weaknesses of conceptualization, definition, and operationalization that are not only unscientific but also result in impoverished practice in schools, social inequity in both understanding and provision for many struggling readers, and ultimately, reduced life chances for millions of students worldwide. Key to this problem is the inconsistency of the use of the term dyslexia in both scientific research and clinical and educational practice. Four different, common conceptions of dyslexia are outlined, and the implications that each of these have for work with struggling readers are discussed. Whereas it is often claimed that scientific understandings, derived from genetics, neuroscience, and cognitive science, enable clinicians to validly identify, from within a larger group of poor readers, those individuals with dyslexia, the author shows this to be not only misleading but also potentially deleterious to broader inclusive practice. The author argues that the seemingly scientifically based construction of the dyslexic individual, often buoyed by vested interests, typically favors more socially privileged students and often undermines attempts to identify and help all of those who struggle to learn to read. Common responses by proponents to challenges to the dyslexia construct are outlined and discussed. In conclusion, the author argues that scientists, researchers, clinicians, and educators have a responsibility to address and confront the real‐world consequences of much science but little wisdom in the field of reading disability.


Elliott, J. (2020). It’s Time to Be Scientific About Dyslexia. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(51), 561-575.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 11, 2020
Online Publication Date Sep 4, 2020
Publication Date 2020-09
Deposit Date Sep 7, 2020
Publicly Available Date Sep 8, 2020
Journal Reading Research Quarterly
Print ISSN 0034-0553
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 55
Issue 51
Pages 561-575


Published Journal Article (230 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
© 2020 The Authors. Reading Research Quarterly published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of International Literacy Association. <br /> This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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