June 20, 2007
Dyslexia and crime

Grits notes my post about the failure to treat dyslexia in the schools, and observes that I didn't comment on the connection between dyslexia and crime. That would be because it wasn't in the article, and I didn't know any better. Fortunately, Grits is there to fill in the gap. That post of his points to this Comptroller's report on the subject, which contains this eye-opening statistic:

The [Dyslexia Research Foundation of Texas'] first challenge is to determine exactly what the disorder costs the Texas economy. The numbers could be staggering, since a disproportionate number of people with dyslexia wind up incarcerated or on welfare, according to an April 2004 report by JFA Institute of Washington D.C. and Austin.

[Foundation chair Bill] Hilgers said the incidence level is 10 percent or higher in Texas schools and about 30 percent or higher in prisons. The students either fall behind or get put in special education classes, Hilgers said.

"They drop out or get into other problems," he said. "Some end up in the criminal justice system. It creates a psychological problem. They feel stupid because they can't read. It's psychologically deadening--children and parents are very affected by that."

So an inmate in Texas is three times as likely to be dyslexic as someone who is not in prison. You think some of those folks never got a proper diagnosis and treatment regimen when they were kids? I remember a TV ad slogan by a car maintenance outfit that went "You can pay me now, or you can pay me later". That's pretty much what this comes down do. We can spend a modest amount of money now to identify and help kids who are struggling with dyslexia, or we can spend a buttload of money later to lock 'em up. Seems a pretty easy choice to me.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 20, 2007 to Crime and Punishment

I agree with identification and intervention of those who need help to be successful in society as a way to reduce crime. There are many indicators of future crime (such as poverty) that might also be addressed
but the educational system does seem to be the place to start.

The dyslexia to crime link could be considered propaganda as in my opinion it is misleading and used to promote an agenda rather than the facts.

If you look at the prison population as being composed of people with limited abilities to succeed in society, then it is easier to see that it is the high school dropout that is actually being represented and not just the dyslexic.

The other factors that increase the risk of being a high school dropout also increase the risk of being in prison.

Being able to read normally is a large factor in finishing high school. This is true for everyone not just dyslexics. Dyslexics do need extra resources for reading instruction but let's not forget that there seems to be a general failure to do what is necessary to have everyone at least graduate from high school.

Posted by: John Hayes on June 20, 2007 9:12 AM

Hi there, Kuff.

The author of the piece, Jennifer Radcliffe, also wrote a multi-part series on dyslexia in Texas, published in the Star-Telegram January 2005. It's not available online any more, but is available through Nexis. I summarized the series here:


You may also want to investigate the website Children of the Code


The videos are here


The program does not draw a line between dyslexia and other forms of reading failure. The connection between reading failure and social pathology is outlined in this video


The point is, there are children with dyslexia who require specific, targeted instruction in order to master reading, and there is also a larger cadre of children who suffer not from dyslexia but dysteachia.

Our schools of education are churning out teachers who haven't a clue about the psychology of reading or how to effectively teach reading.

Posted by: Liz on June 20, 2007 2:27 PM