There’s no commonly agreed definition of dyslexia in Latvia. However, according to the Latvijas Disleksijas Biedrība:
The International Dyslexia Association defines dyslexia as follows:
Dyslexia is a specific learning disorder of neurobiological origin.It is characterized by difficulty reading words accurately and / or fluently and poor spelling skills.These difficulties are usually due to a lack of phonological skills.Reading difficulties are often unexpected when compared to other human cognitive abilities and good age-appropriate training.Secondary effects of dyslexia may include difficulty in understanding reading and reduced reading experience, which in turn affects vocabulary development and general knowledge.
The association however then goes to to add:
Although this definition of dyslexia is used by most Western countries, it is still ignored in Latvia, linking dyslexia, following the example of Soviet pedagogy and psychology, to pupil / person low or reduced total ability (IQ). Soviet pedagogy (like all other post-Soviet countries) linked dyslexia to mental retardation only, so nothing was taught to mass education teachers, because dyslexia and mass education were mutually exclusive. That is why dyslexia in Latvia is still ignored by students of average, good and, above all, very high ability. In Latvia, there are no more students with dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities in secondary education, not to mention higher education.
And, equally damningly,
Experts in the field in Latvia have still not been able or willing to determine which components of reading constitute phonological dyslexia in Latvian and to determine the age norms of these criteria; dyslexia in Latvia is still what every specialist chooses to believe. There is no data on the number of students with dyslexia in Latvia. The 106 cases identified by the Pedagogical Medical Commissions in the VISC have been unlikely since 2008 because the commissions do not make diagnoses at all, but the specialist-defined diagnosis is hidden […] and inaccurate, since phonological dyslexia is the most common specific learning disorder in the world, 5-10% of the total population. Thus, the 106 cases reported by the VISC, or 0.00053%, only demonstrate the extent to which the definition and detection of dyslexia in Latvia is falsified and manipulated. The lack of data in any industry proves that the system wants to ignore this data / reality. In Latvia, the vast majority of pupils with dyslexia do not have it at all, not even mentioning any systemic pedagogical and ICT support throughout the education process.
Some practitioners continue to impose medical determinations of dyslexia, even though this is unscientific and thus impossible (dyslexia does not have any medical symptoms!). Such identification is not required by existing legal frameworks.
MK Regulation No. 709 (Appendix 1) indicates that dyslexia is determined by an educational or clinical psychologist or speech therapist. For some years, some Latvian specialists have been forcing parents to take their children to doctors (neurologists, psychiatrists) who are unable to diagnose dyslexia or provide research-proven pedagogical recommendations on how to improve school education and compensation.
Although the VISC has publicly stated that dyslexia in Latvia is determined by DIBELS and LMST tests, in reality, practitioners primarily use IQ tests – if they score well, the pupil’s reading and writing problems are ignored.
VISC does not provide parents and school staff with information on free DIBELS and LMST tests, as most professionals, including the test developers themselves, have privatized them and offer parents a fee (100-140 euros) in their private practices. All this despite the fact that both tests are publicly funded – within the framework of the ESF project administered by VISC – and should be available free of charge.
The General Education Law does not make it mandatory for schools provide special education services to all students with special needs. Literacy rates however remain high in Latvia.
One Erasmus+ survey found that:
➼ Still many teachers believe that dyslexia means to see letters backwards;
➼ More than half of the interviewed (from all target groups) believe that dyslexia should be diagnosed by a doctor:
➼ All groups are sure that dyslexia doesn’t mean lower IQ:
➼ Most of teachers and parents interviewed believe that dyslexia is not an obstacle to get a high school or university degree, while many students think that having dyslexia will prevent them from getting higher education;
➼ Most of the survey responders think students with dyslexia need and deserve classroom and testing accommodation.
Other reading disorders, including phonological dyslexia, account for about 20% of the population, both internationally and in Latvia. This is regularly confirmed by OECD SSNP data, where 17-21% of Latvia’s 15-year-olds lack functional reading.
See for instance: