The Turkish Ministry of Education (MEB) mainly uses the term “Specific Learning Difficulties” rather than “dyslexia”. The most widely adopted definition of “specific learning difficulties” in Turkey is currently the following:

Specific learning disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.

(English translation from The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 2004)

The first written regulation for people with disabilities appeared in 1997. In 2005, a comprehensive Disability Act was approved to protect the rights of people with disabilities. However, the term “dyslexia” was not specifically mentioned in this law. It aims to ensure equal opportunities for people with disabilities and protects their civil rights in all aspects of employment, education, daily living, transportation, etc. There have been numerous calls for legislation to be updated in line with current thinking.

Even though the term “dyslexia” is not mentioned explicitly in any piece of legislation, there are more detailed legal regulations (kararname), prepared by a board of specialists on behalf of the government, that specify that students with dyslexia have the right to special measures in class. These regulations, which provide clear statements as to how students with dyslexia should be accommodated in schools, protect the child’s right to education.

Diagnosis is carried out by state hospitals or university hospitals. No other hospitals are allowed to carry it out. When a classroom teacher feels that a child needs to be assessed for dyslexia, the school will contact, on the child’s behalf, one of the rehabilitation centres run by the government. These centres use tests like WISC-R or Stanford-Binet, both adapted for Turkish.

There are a few associations related to dyslexia. The most well-known association was actually founded by the parents of students with ADHD. This association focuses on both ADHD and learning disabilities (LD). Although this association provides information, raises awareness, and develops resources on LD as well, it mainly focuses on ADHD and acts as a resource for parents and educators. None of the associations currently present in Turkey are powerful enough to make an impact in the society with regard to issues concerning dyslexia and the training of teachers with respect to this specific learning difficulty.

head of Turkey’s Dyslexia Association, Atıf Tokar

The number of people officially diagnosed with dyslexia in Turkey stands at 41,600, according to the head of Turkey’s Dyslexia Association, Atıf Tokar, who said people should see dyslexia as a “difference in learning,” not “a disorder.”

This compares with the overall population of Turkey, which currently stands at around 82 million.

Source: Eurostat

This translates into an astonishingly low 0.05% of the population of Turkey who are officially recognised as having dyslexia.

Tokar told Anadolu Agency that many children with dyslexia could compensate for their reading struggle with other abilities such as their strong photographic memory.

“Such abilities of dyslexic individuals have not yet attracted attention in Turkey. But, in the United States, Israel and Iran, if the individual has been diagnosed, [the countries] will immediately take them into special training,” he said.  “It is especially the letters ‘b’ and ‘d’ that children [with dyslexia] reverse while writing”.

Depending on the results of dyslexia tests typically administered to children, the child faces admission to child psychiatry clinics within university or state hospitals. In such clinics, psychologists administer IQ and neurological tests. Based on results from these tests, the Child Psychiatrist will formulate the final diagnosis for the child.

The instruments normally used for diagnosis are the following:

🔘 For IQ, attention system, memory system: WISC-R and Stanford-Binet
🔘 For reading, writing and calculation abilities: tests have been developed recently in Turkish to assess word reading, phonological processing skills, and processing speed.

Reliability and validity studies for these specific tests have been completed, though they have not yet been shared with other professionals. Certain neurological tests are also used at university and state hospitals. Studies have also shown a significant increase in misreading similar words in Turkish among dyslexic participants, with up to 30% more reading errors in dyslexic subjects than non-dyslexic subjects.

There is no diagnosis differentiation for different groups. Currently the diagnostic tools are not comprehensive enough to allow for this. In addition, there aren’t enough tools to assess cognitive abilities and school achievement.

The Turkish education system has separate schools or classes for children with cognitive impairment disability, vision or hearing impairments, but there is no separate provision for children with specific learning difficulties. Inclusive classrooms are becoming more common in regular schools. The rule is to have only one or two students with disabilities per classroom.

In general, during exams, students who have been diagnosed with dyslexia are allowed to have some extra time, and may use a dictionary to check for spelling. Also, they can apply to be examined orally instead of taking a written exam. They can use a computer for written assignments and can be exempted from reading aloud in class. In higher education, the situation varies significantly, with some universities having clear measures and others not even recognising dyslexia.

There are no specialised centres for diagnosis of dyslexia in immigrants/multilingual individuals. State hospitals have no adaptation of tests for dyslexia, although some private counselling centres may have such adapted assessment tools. Information about this is not easy to access.

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