As has already been pointed out in this book there appears to be less systematic research on the social and emotional consequences of dyslexia despite the indications from personal accounts that some children and adults with dyslexia do experience such difficulties. One reason for this may be that social and emotional difficulties are more difficult to quantify and much might depend on the sensitivity of the measures used. Another reason which applies to many areas of special needs is that the majority of research is carried out by academics and educationalists. It can be argued that inevitably their own role and perspective influences the kinds of questions they choose to ask and the kind of research they carry out. From the perspective of school and cognitive psychology it is the difficulty in learning to read, write and spell that is probably most striking. In contrast children and parents are not generally in a position to carry out or inform academic research so issues of particular concern to them may not be adequately researched. Oliver (1981) criticised much academic research on disability on these grounds and argued for the voices of disabled people to be heard so they could set their own agenda in terms of the research that needed to be carried out. Disability studies has made a powerful contribution to how disabilities/differences are conceptualised and has challenged mainstream culture to make changes which reduce the barriers for disabled people and respond to their particular needs (Shakespeare 2006, Barnes and Mercer 2007). This ideology has in turn had some influence on the culture of education and the development of inclusive practices (Barton 2007). In recent research children with a diverse range of disabilities and special needs and their families have been consulted (Lewis et al. 2007, Woolfon et al. 2007) about their experiences of learning. This research based on an inclusive ideology has been helpful in mapping out the commonalities between children with differing and overlapping SENs and informing the principles of inclusive practice. On the other hand, because it has reported on the perspectives of very mixed groups of children without distinguishing between them, the aspects of need that tend to be related to a specific difficulty such as dyslexia, autism or deafness are not well delineated. Radical critics would also argue that, however sensitively done, the researchers are still setting the agenda and deciding the kinds of questions that should be asked. In response to this sort of criticism case studies have been gathered in which individuals have been allowed to speak for themselves and no set questions have
been imposed upon them (Campling 1981). With increased use of information technology individuals with dyslexia have made their voices heard through internet discussion groups and blogs and it could be argued that this has democratised the process. Despite these developments there are concerns that the views of a vocal minority might dominate the landscape and may not represent the wide range of views of individuals with dyslexia. The issue of whose voice gets heard and how to moderate this process is one that applies to all attempts to encapsulate or represent the ‘voice’ of a specific group of individuals. Informal case studies such as those on dyslexia by Osmond (1993) and Van der Stoel (1990), although valuable, did not employ a systematic sampling policy and were thus open to the criticism that the views of an unrepresentative sample were being heard. In the case of dyslexia in the past it was often suggested that the views of middle-class parents and their children predominated although recent studies (Ingesson 2007, MacDonald 2006, Singer 2005, Pollak 2005) including the one in this book have been careful to draw on more representative samples or to redress the balance by focusing on ‘non-traditional’ students or students from poorer socio-economic backgrounds. Similarly the welter of evidence from clinical case studies, parents’ letters and so on on the social and emotional consequences of dyslexia is all open to the charge of unrepresentativeness. Another difficulty is that, because some local authorities do not recognise dyslexia, it is only by parents taking the initiative to have their children assessed outside the formal educational system that their children are identified. But again critics would claim that such parents are ‘pushy, neurotic and overambitious’ and their views are not representative of parents as a whole. The problem has been that, in quite rightly criticising the lack of representativeness, some critics have dismissed the evidence completely rather than seeing it as a starting point for more systematic research. As Riddell, Brown and Duffield (1994) found in their Scottish-based survey of special needs, obtaining a representative sample of children with dyslexia was easier said than done. They found that because many local authorities were critical of the term ‘dyslexia’, children had not been identified on this basis and it was therefore difficult to obtain a representative sample of such children. Only in a case where a local authority has a clear and comprehensive policy for identifying and supporting children with dyslexia is it possible to obtain a representative sample of children. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the currently more commonplace situation of children who are identified and supported either partly or entirely outside the local authority system.