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Reading Disability in Children

Gerald S. Coles, PhD
JAMA. 1991;265(6):725-726. doi:10.1001/jama.1991.03460060055023.
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To the Editor. —  The finding that reading disabilities, "among the most common neurobehavioral childhood disorders," are equally prevalent in girls and boys1 continues a century-long line of quasi-scientific research on "learning disabilities" that has done children more harm than good.As I demonstrate in my book, The Learning Mystique: A Critical Look at 'Learning Disabilities,'2 the claim that millions of children with reading problems are afflicted with a neurological disorder is more belief than fact. A review of the research reveals that every proposed neurological explanation either has been disproved by replication studies or has been based on spurious investigations. Unfortunately, this fruitless pursuit has not kept youngsters from being branded with a diagnosis that obfuscates any genuine understanding of their problems. The study by Shaywitz et al1 illustrates the nature of most research on learning disabilities.Although the researchers assert that reading disability is a


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