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'Dyslexia and anorexia aren't real': educator

Published: 28 Oct 2009 16:27 GMT+01:00
Updated: 28 Oct 2009 16:27 GMT+01:00

A school principal from southern Sweden has infuriated health workers and disabilities rights advocates after claiming in a newspaper article that dyslexia and anorexia are made-up diseases.

In a column published in the local Spegeln newspaper from the Malmö suburb of Staffanstorp in southern Sweden, Gert Åkesson, principal of the Sundsgymnasiet high school in nearby Vellinge, opines about the way in which Sweden seems to create public agencies in response to media coverage of perceived problems in society.

In making his case, the principal makes fun of a number of illnesses and handicaps by comparing them to made-up diseases featured in television comedy sketches.

“Sometimes it’s a mix of state, regional, and self-appointed agencies. Examples of the latter are associations and councils created for all of the handicaps and diseases invented after the 80s like allergies, Asperger’s, DAMP, ADHD, anorexia, dyslexia, dyscalculia, oral galvanism, anal magnetism… the limits can only be found in one’s imagination,” writes Åkesson.

Anal magnetism is a made-up disease from a wildly popular Swedish television programme from the 1980s called Nöjesmassakern (‘Fun Massacre’), featuring comedians Gösta Engström and Sven Melander.

Oral galvanism refers to a condition which received a great deal of attention in Sweden as far back as the 1970s. However, questions about whether or not the condition actually existed were never fully resolved.

“Concern over the harmful effects of oral galvanism (electrical currents in the mouth resulting from the presence of metal), said to cause discomfort, has been great in Sweden, a country where excitement is, perhaps, hard to find,” reads the abstract from a 1990 article detailing questions about condition published in the Journal of the American Dental Association.

“The alleged recovery of oral galvanism victims when their fillings are removed has not been verified by scientific study. Most symptoms reported by these patients could be caused by psychosocial factors, such as disturbance due to the loss of a father in early childhood.”

Åkesson’s implied allegations that diseases such as dyslexia and anorexia were invented rather than clinical diagnoses prompted a storm of criticism from advocates for those who suffer from the conditions.

“If you know what dyslexia is, you would never express yourself like he does,” Sven Eklöf, chair of the 6,000-member Swedish Dyslexia Association (FMLS), told the Sydsvenskan newspaper.

Eklöf was particularly incensed that an education professional such as Åkesson would refer to dyslexia in a way which implied the condition wasn’t real.

“It seems completely inappropriate that a principal would speak about dyslexia in such a careless way. It hurts all of his students who are fighting with difficulties in reading and writing, as well as their parents.”

A researcher from Capio healthcare company, which operates eating disorder treatment centres in several locations around the country, called Åkesson’s article “one of the most dangerous things I’ve ever heard”.

“Anorexia has the highest mortality among psychiatric diseases. Such statements are inflammatory to both patients and an entire science,” Lauri Nevonen, from Capio Anorexicenter, told the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

The chair of the schools’ committee in Vellinge, Carina Larsson, told newspaper Sydvenskan that Åkesson’s formulation was “unfortunate” but refrained from commenting further on the article before having a chance to discuss it with the principal to learn more about what he was trying to say.

Åkesson himself was unavailable for comment.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

16:59 October 28, 2009 by foxpur
Well, I suppose if you have Dyslexia he might be safe from attack because they won't be able to read his drivel. However, he really doesn't understand the idea of progressive knowledge over time, basically things are learned and gained knowledge of over time and new things discovered.... The learned professor apparently stopped learning in the 80's.
17:05 October 28, 2009 by Rick Methven
Just like my sons Primary School head in the U.K.

"Dyslexia does not exist . He is just a slow learner". It took 3 years of fighting her to get him confirmed as being dyslexic. These people should engage their brain before opening their big mouths, and consider the long term damage that their fatuous statements can cause
17:22 October 28, 2009 by foxpur
Ah, my mistake, he was a learned eduction professional, not a professor...

Must be my dyslexia. (I have mild dyslexia).
17:32 October 28, 2009 by Finding Melissa
Well down Åkesson - you've just negated an illness that is all about self negation.

Perhaps you'd like to read a made up account of living with a made up illness. With anorexia on the rise amongst young people, these comments are totally irresponsible.
17:40 October 28, 2009 by KamiZ
well said finding melissa. i knew someone back in school who was dyslexic. this guy is totally nuts, this akesson
18:05 October 28, 2009 by Suzie F
Rubbish!

Dyslexia is real and a pain in the butt. As an adult, mine doesn't trouble me so much. I can use a computer to type, (and spell check) and I can read, albeit slower than most.

I have to say, I wonder at this chap's suitability for a position in educating our young people.

I say again - Rubbish!
18:05 October 28, 2009 by Soft Boiled
Gret Åeksno cna fc*k fof
18:54 October 28, 2009 by voiceofreason
I agree that he goofed by counting dyslexia along with the others but don't let's miss the point.

Eating disorder, drinking disorder and "a lot" of all these disorders fall under one heading "lack of self-control".

We often find it easy to hide behind an excuse rather than face our own devils.
19:00 October 28, 2009 by Finding Melissa
Really? I have well and truly taken responsibility for my illness and, through my recovery from anorexia, have acquired a self awareness and a level of insight that will never let me avoid looking at myself in order to continue growing.

Excuse is the wrong word -
19:47 October 28, 2009 by spy
Soft Boiled

Ouy Beet em to ti.
19:49 October 28, 2009 by arnuxii
Another fallacy of the loony left is that if a condition does not have an etiology then you cannot say it exists.

What they don't understand is that it is useful to group patients with similar conditions so as to identify treatment options.

For example someone with social phobia responds to different treatments than somebody with aspergers. If you don't make the distinction then you get the treatment wrong.

If you don't identify somebody as having dyslexia then you might just say they are stupid which is not really useful.
19:49 October 28, 2009 by Nomark
He sounds mildly moronic but there is a little truth in what he says. While a clear and unambiguous dyslexia condition undoubtedly exists for many, its not altogether certain how to diagnose dyslexia. There are is no universally accepted method to do this, especially in the case of those who don't have a clear cut condition.

There is a legitimate argument that many who receive a dyslexia diagnosis should be just be regarded as occupying a normal part of the human ability spectrum, without being given a label, Indeed, many of the "treatments" for dyslexia are those given to poor readers. However, being called "dyslexic" seems to be preferable for many than being called a poor reader.

In the UK record numbers of people are being diagnosed as dyslexic. Many critics allege that they aren't naturally good readers and the teaching they received when they started school was rubbish. There is probably something in this.
19:56 October 28, 2009 by spy
He does sound like a moron however I think spelling is vastly overrated and fat people turn me off so I don't think his comments are worth getting excited about.
21:07 October 28, 2009 by Alex Coman
Sad story. The man just don t believe in what he don t understand. And he is an educator.
21:22 October 28, 2009 by wxman
Want another? Bipolarism. Just another excuse for poor performance and bad behavior brought to you by the "victim" generation.
22:03 October 28, 2009 by Dr. Dillner
*Normark*, above is exactly right. It is the over-diagnosis that is causing the problem. Example, a child is not doing well in school, the parent is convinced it is not that the child is not trying hard so the parent searches for something that will remove responsibility from the child to succeed. After all, if the child is dyslexic then poor academic performance is NOT their fault. The parent stops pushing the child to succeed, and the child does mediocre work and it is accepted/excused/overlooked.
08:58 October 29, 2009 by karex
Anorexia doesn't necessarily need to be caused by an "eating disorder".

Mine was caused by hormone imbalance post partum, along with post partum depression. My metabolism accelerated and though I ate like a pig, continued to loose weight. It took two years of "fattening" treatment to get up from my 38 kilograms to a more normal 49.

A slowing down in my metabolism at middle age has allowed me to gain a further 3 kg, which took 10 years to accomplish.

Anyone who calls my "eating disorder" an excuse, in my opinion is a moron.
10:14 October 29, 2009 by foxpur
Anorexia made it's debut when it affected Karen Carpenter, lead of the band "The Carpenters" in the early 70's. No one knew how to identify it and it eventually killed her. By definition it became a disorder, but not a disease. However, it is real, and it is dangerous.
20:05 October 29, 2009 by Nina_
That guy should be fired.
21:33 October 29, 2009 by fatehsingh
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04:16 October 30, 2009 by Greg in Canada
This guy should be sent back to school to get an education. He obviously doesn't know much.
18:33 October 30, 2009 by DamnImmigrant
Yah, like why is this IDIOT still in charge of a school?

You cannot help people if you do not believe they need help!
18:58 October 30, 2009 by spy
Maybe he was just having a bad day and decided to say something funny.
21:21 October 30, 2009 by KiriiAngel
There is so much harm that an incorrect diagnosis can cause. As a teenager, a massive and rare metabolic disorder caused me to become anorexic, then bulimic. The resulting physical effects were also accompanied by severe depression. I was misdiagnosed as being 'psychotic,' and underwent a horrific series of 'treatments.' I ultimately survived, but by the time the correct diagnosis was made, it had severely traumatised me. Looking back, I consider myself lucky to have made it out alive, from both the illness, as well as the 'cure.' Whatever the reasons for it, anorexia (and bulemia) is a very real disorder, and should be taken seriously.

Another example: On my daughter's first day of Montessori school, the teacher 'decided' that she not only was 'severely' ADHD, but she had 'seriously dangerous anger management issues' as well..she was FOUR. But despite the assurances of our pediatrican and some rather rigourous testing that proved that not only was my daughter even more gifted than we'd realised, with no 'issues,' anger or ADHD or otherwise, the teacher stood by her 'expert opinion'...she'd had a son with ADHD and it apparenty qualified her to diagnose everyone else's child. When she refused to accept that my daughter was perfectly normal and continued to treat her as though she had a learning disorder, we removed her before any more damage could be done, but my daughter still remembers the stigma attached to being treated like there was 'something wrong' with her.

The moral? Only those QUALIFED to diagnose these illnesses and disorders should be the ones to do so. And I'm completely convinced that THIS man is not.
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