Wednesday, March 26, 2008

UK web activism on dyslexia includes focus on prisons

Having written previously about Texas' failure to target the link between illiteracy and crime, particularly for children with dyslexia, I was especially pleased to find the Dyslexia Online Magazine, a British site whose contents made me think this issue has taken hold more strongly on the political front in the UK than in America.

Dyslexia Online contained several interesting items including a December 2007 petition from dyslexics demanding that the British Prime Minister tackle the problem of their over-representation in prison. Another mentioned Scottish efforts beginning in 2001 to reduce recidivism by diagnosing and treating dyslexic prisoners:
Future inspections of Scottish prisons will report on efforts to screen inmates and offer help, pledged Clive Fairweather HM Chief Inspector of Prisons. An estimated 4-10 per cent of Scots are dyslexic, but a study at Edinburgh University by Jane Kirk, a dyslexia adviser, and Gavin Reid, a senior lecturer, found that in a random sample of 50 young offenders at Polmont Institute, half were affected. ...

Mr Fairweather pledged to "mention" how the issue of dyslexia was handled in prison inspection reports in a bid to put the problem more firmly on the agenda. Faced with challenges from suicides and drugs, education was far down the prisons needs list.
Mr Fairweather said, "and dyslexia is even further down."

But Mrs Kirk responded "Of all the problems and disadvantages facing offenders, dyslexia is one of the easiest to deal with."
According to a recent article, Dyslexia within the prison service, "Half of all [British] prisoners are at or below the level expected of an 11 year old in reading, two-thirds in numeracy and four-fifths in writing. Another piece focuses on Albert Einstein's dyslexia and his long-suffering mother's years spent helping him overcome it, wondering if "the path to Albert Einstein's Nobel Prize [was] paved with the stones of his mother's worry."

Like a lot of other preventive measures, identification and special training for dyslexic kids is more effective if it's done early on through the schools, without the stigma of resulting from punishment for behavioral problems. But inevitably the criminal justice system winds up with many such kids, and just like the schools, many juvenile justice programs failing to identify and treat dyslexia.

From dyslexics imprisoned to those, like Einstein, reaching the heights of intellectual achievement - this site provides a lot of fodder for thought on what can be done to prevent dyslexics and others with reading problems from winding up in prison for lack of better options.


Anonymous said...

Thank you again for bringing important issues to forefront. I am going to be a broken record until this is addressed by our country as a whole. I have spent a very long time working with kids with various disabilities. I have spent many years in school programs. Early intervention is the only answer to the exanding problem of a generation of people with inadequate skills to compete in the "real world". Prisons and juvie detention are the "mental health " solutions of the 21st century. That is not acceptable.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget about D.A.M. Mothers Against Dyslexia

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