The following comment, left on an education forum, perfectly expresses the official position of the Education Establishment on dyslexia:
“What causes dyslexia is a scientifically proved neurological condition (see "Overcoming Dyslexia," by Dr. Sally Shaywitz of Yale University). It is not the result of ‘sight words’ or anything other than a brain difference.....Students with dyslexia account for 15-20% of our classroom population, so it is imperative that teachers understand what it is and how to ensure that their teaching is effective. There is excellent information online at the International Dyslexia Association, www.interdys.org (see “Just the Facts”) and Reading Rockets, www.readingrockets.org (see “All Dyslexia Articles” and “Findings of the National Reading Panel”)." Understanding dyslexia is vitally important to the future of 1/5 of your classroom population.”
This is the Party Line. Dyslexia has no connection with how reading is taught. Sight-words are not a factor. Dyslexia is entirely a matter of inborn genetic tendencies. It is very common.
This Party Line, please note, is articulated by the same people who forced Whole Word (then known as Look-say and later as sight-words) into the schools circa 1930, resulting in more than 40 million functional illiterates and, many say, 1,000,000 dyslexics.
This Party Line, please note, says that the Education Establishment is blameless for all of this damage. The real culprit is kids and their defective genes. How convenient.
Phonics experts tell a different story. They claim that dyslexia is extremely rare, found in well under 1% of children. These experts agree that most dyslexia is caused by sight-words. Phonics experts usually report that when children with dyslexia-type symptoms are switched to a phonics approach, the so-called dyslexia fades away.
Phonics experts usually suggest there is no need for even one sight-word. The best policy is to remove them from public schools. Then if educators encounter dyslexia, they will know for sure that it is indeed a genetic problem.
The problem is that sight-words are as common as termites, and more insidious. The propaganda promoting sight-words is pervasive. You would probably be hard-pressed to find a (public school) K or first-grade classroom where sight-words have never been introduced.
Many parents with a supposedly dyslexic child might sincerely believe that their child was taught entirely with phonics. How do they know? Education schools and hundreds of websites insist that children must learn to read by first memorizing 100 high-frequency words. That’s the Party Line.
Children with good visual memories may be initially comfortable with the graphic approach. So they memorize several dozen words the same way all of us recognize art, monuments, faces, or anything entirely visual. The problem is that the English language is vast. The student is faced with hundreds and then thousands of sight-words. Soon the child is no longer successful at learning sight-words, and shows signs of dyslexia. Remediation is ordered. Drugs might be prescribed. (Remediation and drugs are big industries.)
The reason that Rudolf Flesch wrote his famous book in 1955, “Why Johnny Can’t Read,” is that sight-words had devastated literacy in the United States during the period 1935-1955. His book explained why a non-phonetic approach can’t work. This was almost 60 years ago; but still the Education Establishment pushes the cause of the devastation.
An average person may be able to memorize a few hundred graphic designs, with close to instant recall. Think about 200 UN flags, for example. Imagine you have to memorize them to the point where you could see a page of little flags and name the countries at reading speed. Only people with excellent memories can do this. But 200 designs is only a mere beginning for a reader.
However, in learning even this small number of sight-words, many students are permanently crippled. The brain becomes confused about how to process words.
The Education Establishment, instead of accepting responsibility for promoting failed pedagogy, continues to embrace a Party Line that exonerates them. How convenient.
More about phonics on Examiner: "Reading Wars Still Damage Many Children"
Article in UK paper: "Dyslexia--just a middle class way to hide stupidity"