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  • Writer's pictureCavendish Education

Dyslexia in girls

“I have often asked myself why it is in this dyslexia-aware age that girls tend to be brought to see me, on average, three to four years later than boys. And I believe the answer lies in our understanding of how dyslexia presents itself in our children.

In her landmark longitudinal study in Connecticut schools, Dr Sally Shaywitz, Professor of Paediatric Neurology at Yale University and the founder of The Yale Centre for Dyslexia and Creativity, found that while testing revealed no significant difference in the prevalence of reading difficulties between sexes, there was a clear pattern of schools referring many more boys for assessment.

A startling example of this referral bias was illustrated in the difference between the numbers of children identified by researchers as having a diagnosable reading difficulty and those identified by schools. Shaywitz analysed this trend throughout the study, and found one clear issue consistently arose: within schools behavioural difficulties were a primary reason for referral. Many girls were slipping by as they were literally not making enough noise to be noticed. Further to this point, a recent Georgetown University study exploring dyslexia in male and female brain anatomy, asks if methods of testing may be gender skewed as ‘models on the brain basis of dyslexia, primarily developed through the study of males, may not be appropriate for females, and suggest a need for more sex-specific investigations.’

Similarly, in recent years under diagnosis of girls has jumped to the top of the Autism agenda. It is now accepted that gender biased expectations allow many Autism spectrum girls to go undetected due to their drive to mirror socially acceptable behaviours while, in truth, feeling completely isolated. As a society, we hold to the idea that girls mature more quickly than boys, are more likely to adapt themselves to conventional behavioural expectations; are less likely to demonstrate disruptive behaviours when angry or frustrated. In essence, what studies have shown time and again is not necessarily a higher incidence of dyslexia in boys, but that dyslexia is far more likely to be detected and identified in boys. The unfortunate consequence of this is that girls with dyslexia are more likely to struggle with depression and/or anxiety which can result in more serious mental health issues.”

This is an excerpt of an article which originally appeared in School House Magazine. Read the full article, here.



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