Who are Dyslexia Action?

Dyslexia Action are the single largest dyslexia related organisation in the UK and actively lobby the government about dyslexia and educational issues.

So what you may ask?

Dyslexia Action are strongly in favour of phonetic approaches to dyslexia and many of the most vocal critics of Dore Achievement Centres either work for them or play a significant role in the organisation. For example, this criticism on Dore’s latest result [ MS Word Doc ] that was published in the journal Dyslexia, was written by Dr John Rack, the
Head of Assessment and Evaluation at Dyslexia Action, and Professor Snowling , the only Honorary Fellow of the Dyslexia Guild (run by Dyslexia Action) along with Professor Hulme, who has done much work with Professor Snowling. The MS Word document I’ve linked to above is hosted by Dyslexia Action.

Dyslexia Action proudly proclaim to be a charity on their website but they also have a commercial side. They sell dyslexia coaching (based on phonetics) and through a wholly owned company called Dyslexia Institute Limited, many related products. What is not made obvious on the web site is how large the commercial aspect is. As their 2006 annual report [ PDF ] reveals £1.3 million was received in donations compared to £6.3 million through the sale of services plus almost £500,000 in sales from its limited company.

With its income from commercial activities over five times larger than what it receives in donations, it is hard to see Dyslexia Action as a charity in the commonly accepted sense. There is no suggestion of impropriety here. The charity’s board of trustees receive no payment or benefit for work, either directly or indirectly. To gain any benefit is illegal for a trustee. However popular perception of a charity is one that raises most of its money from donations and uses the money to provide services either for free or at a discounted rate.

The commercial nature of the charity is further reinforced by the fact it files exactly the same annual report to the Charities Commission as it does for its accounts to Company’s House (legal requirements for UK charities and companies respectively). The highly commercial nature of Dyslexia Action make it a major player in the business of education. Few companies providing out of school education come near the £8.3 million turnover of the chariety.

To my mind, the Dyslexia Action fails the duck test. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then its a duck. Dyslexia Action looks like, sounds like and acts like a commercial company.

Why is this important? Because Dyslexia Action portray themselves as an independent body whose advice concerned parents can rely on. When in fact they are effectively a business with a natural desire to protect their own interests. This makes the criticism of Dore from those highly connected with the charity an attack by one company on the product of a competitor.

The debate and battle between phonetics and cerebellum treatments is a vital one to the future of dyslexia. But it is a battle that must be held in open, with everyone knowing who the sides are and who is genuinely independent. Without all parties being clear about what they represent, parents cannot make informed choices about their children’s future.


  • emmajones says:

    many experts who advice parents on the tribunal process and diagnos conditions ,many solicitors barristers who advice on the law make a very nice living out of the misery of families who are suffering through the tribunal process .many of these professionals are trustees of charities and governors of schools and shareholders of companies !who are we really to trust?

  • emma jones says:

    could i bring to the publics attention that many trustees on such charities are those who may not recieve any financial gain from said charity directly but whose income is recieved from the advice they give to paying customers,ie parents and dyslexics and other dysabilites

  • Skidaddle says:

    The point is that DA is a charity, and therefore legally has to provide public benefit and a level of transparency. You are correct in saying that it has to be cautious with its money, but is that a bad thing?

    As for political campaigning, organisations such as Amnesty manage this by having two separate entities, one of which is a registered charity and carries out all the things that charities are allowed to do. The other exists to do the things that a charity can’t, but the set-up is entirely open and honest.

    What I’m trying to say is that I personally can’t see any reason Dore did not to set up as a charity other than to avoid the transarency that that would necessiatate and to lose personal control.

    This is just my opinion.

  • vstclair says:

    One major problem with these competing hypotheses about causes of dyslexia is that the scientists involved are apparently incapable of understanding that there may be various and even overlapping causes that result in similar outcomes. So often in the scientific world there are these groups fighting their corners for their pet hypotheses. Many of them become incapable of objectivity, and clearly egos are heavily involved. This is often revealed during the process of peer review for applications to charities etc for research funding. Inevitably sometimes the reviewers are from an ‘enemy’ group – in which case the ‘objective’ review may well take the form of quite vicious personal abuse. Sadly, grant making organisations base their decisions on whether or not to fund the hapless applicant on these reviews.

    The other point to make is that Dr Snowling and colleagues confine themselves to the problem of dyslexia – as defined in the narrow, classic sense. There are thousands of people with ‘dyslexia’ and with other learning difficulties, sometimes overlapping problems and sometimes not. Even people with dyslexia can have very different ‘symptoms’. I know of one person who gets bright flashes of light when trying to read text (similar to when the retina is in danger of detaching?), another two who get dizzy and nauseous when trying to read, one who gets ‘jumping’ letters, and one who cannot read at the same time as understanding the content (or write while spelling – cannot automate the reading or writing). Of these, one also improved in reading words with phonics lessons, but still could not read words and deal with the meaning simultaneously.
    While dyslexia (narrow definition) does get more recognition now, for all the others with varied learning difficulties there is no-one qualified or available on the NHS to diagnose or assess them, and no real help is available.

  • myomancy says:

    There is no problem with Dore keeping his accounts well hidden. Its is a private company and is perfectly entitled to do so.

    DA, as a charity, has to published details accounts. I wonder how open they would be if they didn’t have to?

    On the wider issue of charities, one problem is that charities are limited as to what they can do. From memory, they cannot undertake political campaigns and be very cautious with money.

    WD has claimed that these restrictions are the reason he set up Dore as a company and not as a charity.

    I have no reason to doubt him on this but I suspect other people do.


What are your personal experiences with ADD / ADHD, autism or dyslexia?