Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Dyslexia---It's NOT What You Thought

Reading problems are often lumped together under the category or diagnosis "dyslexia".  A completely UNscientific poll of my acquaintances (all of whom had college degrees) revealed that many reasonably intelligent and informed folks (who also happen to all be parents) believe dyslexia is where your eyes jumble up the words and letters, making it difficult to read.  Of course the popular t-shirts and Facebook memes contribute to the proliferation of this myth:

As clever as they are, they misrepresent what people with reading difficulties really experience.  Dr. David Sousa, in his book "How the Brain Learns to Read", identified one of the key components of reading difficulties (p. 46) "How well a child comprehends a written text is determined by how well that child comprehends the same text when it is spoken."  Yes, it is true and has been proven time and time again. (Aside:  For those of you who thinking "reading" and "comprehending" are different, I disagree.  There is no purpose in reading if you can't understand what you are reading.  It will not inform you in any way and will have no pleasurable value.  It is my position that you can't read any better than you comprehend what you read.  Saying a word is speaking, NOT reading---even if you saw it on a piece of paper before you said it.) Dr. Sousa's book (published in 2005) explains the important role of understanding in reading.  

Now we have a new study from Georgetown University Medical Center and funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Institute (it is always important to know WHO FUNDED studies) gives additional insights.  And they are important insights into understanding how the brain functions---not limited to dyslexia or reading.  Senior author, Guinevere Eden, PhD, explains:
 “In fact our results confirm that differences do exist in the visual system of children with dyslexia, but these differences are the end-product of less reading, when compared with typical readers, and are not the cause of their struggles with reading.”
Yes, there are differences in the visual processing of children with reading difficulties, but they are the RESULT of the reading difficulties, NOT the CAUSE.  The research went onto show how intense phonological training caused the children to improve in their reading AND also their brain imaging then closely matched that of skilled readers.

What does this mean for parents whose children are struggling with reading?  There are MANY things which could be underlying this difficult.  The first place to look, in my opinion and experience, is auditory processing.

If my child had reading difficulties, I would do this:
1.  Have their hearing tested
2.  Upon receipt of a "clean" hearing test, I would pursue issues regarding auditory processing.  A neurodevelopmental evaluation can show parents at what level of the brain there is difficulty AND give parents the tools to stimulate auditory processing in that area.

I said "IF" my child had reading difficulties---which isn't entirely truthful.  "WHEN" my daughter had "dyslexia" and couldn't read beyond the primer level at the beginning of second grade, I did just what I recommended.  And I followed a program for her that would stimulate this function.  And by the end of second grade, she was reading on a 5th grade level with a 100% comprehension level.  Her teacher had not, in 18 years of teaching, ever seen a child progress this quickly.  And the reasons are clear----we addressed the ROOT CAUSE of her strugggles.  And at age 17, she now reads for pleasure and is in Honors classes.

Once you understand HOW the brain processes information, culminating in reading, dyslexia is no mystery.  The question that remains is, "What are you going to do to help your child who is struggling?"

Contact Parents With Purpose for a free consultation---we'll explain how we can help you help your child.

You can read about the Georgetown University Medical Center research here:  http://parentswithpurpose.com/contact-us.html#sthash.vRF4FVUr.dpbs