Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Overcoming Dyslexia

Dyslexia is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed but seems to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds. I have witnessed countless instances wherein someone reads something, like a phone number, and reverses the order of the digits and declares “Oh, I’m so dyslexic”. This popular misconception rests on the theory that dyslexics see letters and words backward. It is actually developmentally appropriate for all children to make letter reversals as part of the writing process. We all do it at times.

Historically, deficits in visual acuity were explored as the genesis for an “unexpected difficulty in learning to read” (Overcoming Dyslexia, Shaywitz, 2003). However, modern technology in the form of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and magnetic source imaging which measure blood supply and electrical activity respectively as a person reads, has allowed us to effectively unravel some of the mysteries of the human brain. These tools have provided information about how both dyslexic and non-impaired readers utilize neural pathways and have localized specific brain regions targeted in the reading task. The image on the left highlights these areas.

Currently the most compelling body of evidence supports the theory that dyslexia is predominately an issue involving phonological processing. This means that it takes a dyslexic individual longer to decode written text than for those who are not dyslexic. When so much effort is focused on decoding it affects fluency and comprehension resulting in reading that is slow and labored. By the time the sentence is read you no longer remember how it started.

Dyslexia can affect all areas of an individuals life.

The great news is that through remedial instruction, dyslexic students can actually ‘rewire’ their brains. With direct, explicit and systematic training in phonological awareness partnered with instruction to improve motivation, automaticity and fluency via repeated readings, dyslexics can learn to successfully cope with this chronic condition and overcome dyslexia!

I have a lot to say on this topic. Such as providing a list of early signs of dyslexia and the many positive attributes and strengths these individuals possess. I will write more on this topic in future entries but for now recommend a wonderful documentary entitled Ennis’ Gift: A film about learning differences. It was put out by the Hello Friend: Ennis William Cosby Foundation which also supports the certificate program in teaching young readers at risk at Fordham University.


Joy said...

I know this is specifically about dyslexia, but I think it is significant that there is medical (scientific) proof that we can rewire our brains. If we can rewire the ability to read, it seems to me that is proof we can rewire our brains to 'fix' other issue as well. Like Depression for instance. It's pretty damned exciting to think that anything is possible, isn't it? Please write more on this topic!

hayesatlbch said...

Something to consider about FMRI research that is focused on any one part of the brain is that it only sees differences between groups of dyslexics and non-dyslexics and can not identify an individual as dyslexic. The reasonable conclusion is that there is no single place in the brain that is the cause of dyslexia.

From looking at the raw data that is occassionally published I would saw that the indications are that a majority of dyslexics exihibit differences in the phonological areas.

Unfortunatly this gives an impression that is not true and that is that all dyslexics have phonological problems. The same type of FMRI studies have seen the same results when the visual centers of the brain are investigated. Groups of dyslexics and non dyslexics could also be distinguished from the visual center results and yet could not identify an individual as dyslexic either.

I believe that the data supports a conclusion that dyslexia in an individual is most likely the result of one or two different factors or maybe more and that the list of what those factors are is not yet complete.

A minority of dyslexics can describe visual problems that make reading difficult. Just because their visual problems were historically incorrectly described as seeing words and letters backwards does not mean some dyslexia is not caused by visual factors. Dyslexia glasses are sold at that remove the visual problems for those dyslexics.

There are many assumptions about dyslexia that are wrong and yet self fulfilling. Diagnosed dyslexics are generally of average or above average intelligence not because dyslexics are but rather because dyslexics are assumed to be. Diagnosed dyslexics also generally have above average income parents.

Liz said...

Hi, it is Liz from I Speak of Dreams.

I also recommend Susan Barton's web-based videos for further understanding of dyslexia, early symptoms, effective testing, and effective remediation.

They can be accessed through Bright Solutions for Dyslexia.

Gary said...

Liz, thanks for the information.

carjug said...

I am the Author of
It features a color-code for the vowel sounds of English.
Works for Slow Decoders.
Don't work for dyslexia.
Has user's manual. Use it.
Shaywitz could have predicted this, dyslexic people lack visual speech, their preoccipital region just ain't connected up with the Broca's region. There are dyslexic people in China, and they use the world's easiest-to-read writing.
I would like to know, has anyone combined gene research with MRI studies yet? Does chromosome six damage cause developmental dyslexia, what about genes 15 and 18?
Is there a gene for comprehension?
And why haven't people besides Ann Turner in New Jersey, , been using color for the last twenty years?

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