Much solace for some

That’s the Way I Think: Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, ADHD and Dyscalculia Explained (3rd edn) by David Grant (Routledge; Pb £19.99), reviewed by Monica Shaw.

David Grant is on a mission to help those dealing with specific learning difficulties gain more self-awareness and also more understanding and support at school and in the workplace. Readers in this position will love this book, and the many positive reviews on Amazon testify to its author’s success. The book emphasises the lack of understanding and underachievement these individuals have had to face, and how this could be different if we were made more aware of differences in learning style and particular specific difficulties. The consequent deleterious  effects on self-esteem and self-confidence could then be tackled. That being the case, how could it not be  popular?

To educationalists this may come as something of a nasty surprise. Current practice is very much in line with providing relevant support for literacy or behaviour difficulties as they present themselves, labelled  or not. Yes, the thorny subject of allocation of specialist, expensive support needs to be taken into consideration, but one would hope these are the right of all children dealing with learning or behaviour difficulties. If we are in a position where children's difficulties are  unsupported until a formal ‘diagnosis’ is made, then that would be a sad day for education.

One of the main pieces of evidence for illustrating how difficult some people find learning, is to use general ability assessments to give a  neurocognitive profile. Grant uses a variety of case studies to illustrate the problems for those who have a spiky versus a flat (or neurotypical) profile. Much discussion then follows regarding weaknesses in working memory and processing speed (and a variety of other sub-skills) and how the curriculum must be tailored to the individual. We are asked not to judge a person’s ability by artificially deflated ability scores.

However, the use of a medical within-child model does not sit easily within current educational thinking. Today we aim to look at context, curriculum, relationships, educational materials, school ethos, etc. rather than solely looking at within-child factors.

The book will give much solace to certain individuals, but I am not sure experienced professionals need to be told how to assess for specific difficulties.

- Reviewed by Monica Shaw, who is an independent psychologist

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