For decades dyslexia, a language-oriented learning disability, was understood and described as a “different way of seeing words and letters.”Afterschool specials and primetime family shows highlighted little Johnny or Jane’s reading problems and struggles in school. Explanations like “he reads words backwards” or “she sees letters flipped around,” were commonly written into the script.It turns out, those explanations don’t stand up to current research.All that “flipped and backwards” business is really a myth.
It’s true that dyslexia negatively affects specific skills, like word identification, reading, spelling, and writing.
However, what dyslexic kids see isn’t really the issue.
It’s what they do and don’t process that stirs up trouble.
The cause of dyslexia isn’t visual. It’s neurological.
Something’s going on in the brain.
Imagery Provides More Accurate Information: What a look inside indicates.
Advances in brain imagery reveal differences in dyslexic brain functioning.
Magnetic resonance imagery (MRI) was first used in 1996 to study dyslexia. It is currently used to help determine how sound, among other language components, affects reading.
Research indicates that dyslexia affects the left hemisphere of the brain.
This region is the language center. It is where reading, sound and symbol interpretation, and speech are ironed out.
Processing Problems: The keys to the cause of dyslexia.
1. Problematic Phonological Processing. There is an increasing amount of scientific evidence to support the phonological deficit hypothesis. The basic idea is that dyslexia is rooted in a person’s decreased ability to sort out and employ the basic and distinctive units of sound.
These sound units are the building blocks for words. They are called phonemes.
Just 44 phonemes make up the whole English language.
The manipulation of these individual sounds is crucial for hearing and understanding speech and learning to read accurately.
Dyslexics appear to have difficulty clearly identifying phonemes and how they combine words. The separate speech sounds become confused and indistinct. Decoding is impaired and word identification hindered.
Therefore, mapping that usually occurs from a sound onto the correct letter doesn’t happen appropriately for dyslexic individuals.
As a result, typical methods used to teach reading (rhyming, syllable counting, rote memorization of unfamiliar words) may be frustrating, as they all depend on the core ability to process phonologically.
2. Deficient Auditory Processing. Research also points toward issues of sound interpretation for dyslexic individuals. Normally sounds can be distinguished and processed without confusion. Background noise can easily be filtered from primary conversations. Not so for dyslexics who have a deficiency in this area. Instead, they struggle to interpret auditory input.
This appears to be due to an inability to process sounds entering the nervous system at high speeds. Language and reading are affected because understanding of the audible phonemes is insufficient. Consequently, the problem trickles down, and the inadequate phonemes are applied to the words when learning to read here as well.
Managing Dyslexia: Treatments starts with brain training.
Fortunately, research shows that the human brain is capable of being remolded through adulthood. This is called brain plasticity.
Intensive brain training programs have been shown to assist the brain’s natural ability to adapt. These programs use tools that enable corrective measures which compensate for the “faulty wiring” in the left hemisphere associated with dyslexia.
Research by Dr. Elise Temple, Assistant Professor in the Department of Education, Dartmouth College, discovered as much. Her work indicates that specifically, the language remediation program, Fast For Word Language, helps create changes in brain function in dyslexic children that coincide with improved reading skills.
Dyslexia is not a problem of the eyes, motivation, or intelligence.
It’s a problem of processing.
And thankfully, one that can be changed for the better.