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Common Misconceptions about the Phonological Deficit Theory of Dyslexia

Department of Learning Disabilities, Edmond J. Safra Brain Research Center for the Study of Learning Disabilities, University of Haifa, Haifa 3498838, Israel
Academic Editor: John F. Stein
Brain Sci. 2021, 11(11), 1510;
Received: 30 September 2021 / Revised: 31 October 2021 / Accepted: 2 November 2021 / Published: 14 November 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Neurobiological Basis of Developmental Dyslexia)
In this discussion paper, I review a number of common misconceptions about the phonological deficit theory (PDH) of dyslexia. These include the common but mistaken idea that the PDH is simply about phonemic awareness (PA), and, consequently, is a circular “pseudo”-explanation or epiphenomenon of reading difficulties. I argue that PA is only the “tip of the phonological iceberg” and that “deeper” spoken-language phonological impairments among dyslexics appear well before the onset of reading and even at birth. Furthermore, not even reading-specific expressions of phonological deficits—PA or pseudoword naming, can be considered circular if we clearly distinguish between reading proper—real meaning-bearing words, or real text, and the mechanisms (subskills) of reading development (such as phonological recoding). I also explain why an understanding of what constitutes an efficient writing system explains why phonology is necessarily a major source of variability in reading ability and hence a core deficit (or at least one core deficit) among struggling readers whether dyslexic or non-dyslexic. I also address the misguided notion that the PDH has now fallen out of favor because most dyslexia researchers have (largely) ceased studying phonological processing. I emphasize that acceptance of the PDH does not imply repudiation of other non-phonological hypotheses because the PDH does not claim to account for all the variance in reading ability/disability. Finally, I ask where neurobiology enters the picture and suggest that researchers need to exercise more caution in drawing their conclusions. View Full-Text
Keywords: dyslexia; reading; phonological; neurobiology dyslexia; reading; phonological; neurobiology
MDPI and ACS Style

Share, D.L. Common Misconceptions about the Phonological Deficit Theory of Dyslexia. Brain Sci. 2021, 11, 1510.

AMA Style

Share DL. Common Misconceptions about the Phonological Deficit Theory of Dyslexia. Brain Sciences. 2021; 11(11):1510.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Share, David L. 2021. "Common Misconceptions about the Phonological Deficit Theory of Dyslexia" Brain Sciences 11, no. 11: 1510.

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