What’s in a word? Australian experts’ knowledge, views and experiences using the term dyslexia

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties




School of Education




Serry, T. A., & Hammond, L. (2015). What’s in a word? Australian experts’ knowledge, views and experiences using the term dyslexia. Australian Journal of Learning Difficulties, 20(2), 143-161. Available here


The purpose of this study was to examine Australian learning difficulties specialists’ knowledge about, and the use of, the term dyslexia. An online survey was constructed based on a current definition of, and evidence about, dyslexia and distributed to members of relevant professional associations. A total of 179 participants responded to the survey. Statistical tests were used to identify significant differences in questionnaire scores between a number of demographic subgroups which included special professional interest group, professional discipline, years of experience and engagement in reading-related university study. Results indicated that these Australian professionals all possess a similar and generally high level of accurate research-based knowledge about dyslexia and how to support individuals with significant reading issues. However, while affirming the relevancy of the term dyslexia in their professional work, most participants preferred another term and favoured a combination of words including reading, learning and the less pejorative term difficulty as opposed to disability. As the term dyslexia is commonly used by Australian educators, policy-makers, support organisation and parents to make decisions about the support individuals receive, an understanding of what is currently understood by this label is critical.



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