What is Dyslexia?
Could your child be at risk for dyslexia?
About half of all struggling readers are dyslexic while the other half are reading delayed. Let’s look at dyslexia first. Dyslexia should be seen not as a learning disability, but as a specific reading disorder. Dyslexics can learn many things very well. In fact, they can be exceptionally good learners of skills and tasks that involve the right side of the brain. Unfortunately, they struggle with reading and learning from text or print and therefore are often left behind in our school system.
It is fortunate that, the stigma and the mystery behind dyslexia is starting to lift thanks in part to the research by neurobiologists Dr Sally Shaywitz at Yale and Dr. Maryanne Wolf of Tufts University. Their research has shown that reading is a largely left brain activity. Dyslexia is neurobiological in origin. Dyslexics have difficulty accessing the reading centres in the left side of the brain. Dr Shaywitz states: “There is a glitch in the neurological wiring in the brain of dyslexics which prevents them from linking letters with the sounds they make.”
The following diagram explains the difference between a non-impaired and dyslexic brain. (Shaywitz S., 2003, Overcoming Dyslexia, A New and Complete Program for Reading Problems at Any Level , page 83, Knopf, New York)
Often reading disabled students in my learning strategies classes would move their lips as if reading out loud to themselves. This suggests they are over using the frontal lobe, and under utilizing the reading centres in the back of the left side of the brain. All of my students were identified through their IEP as Learning Disabled ~ Communication. I suspect that most of them were dyslexic. I had great success improving their reading fluency using Orton-Gillingham based software.
When students with a specific reading disability (dyslexia) receive training in the foundation skills of reading, namely phonemic awareness, sound symbol association (phonics), decoding, vocabulary and comprehension new neural connections are made to the reading centres on the left side of the brain.
”One year following effective reading intervention, dyslexic children have developed left-side reading systems ( shown in black) in both the front and back of the brain.” (Shaywitz S., 2003, Overcoming Dyslexia, A New and Complete Program for Reading Problems at Any Level , page 86, Knopf, New York)
Effective Literacy Interventions Lead to Wiring the Left Side of the Brain
In my learning strategies classes, the reading disabled students showed dramatic improvement in their reading comprehension after just 30 hours of training on our Orton-Gillingham based software.
The second group of struggling readers who make up another 20% of students are reading delayed. They do not have a specific reading disability or dyslexia. They simply have not read enough to become fluent, automatic readers. Dr Maryann Wolf of Tufts University has coined the term “digital brain”. Computer & video games, texting, Facebook, etc steal time away from reading. These students are slow decoders and therefore have compromised reading comprehension. They usually struggle in high school math .
Dr. Maryanne Wolf in the Proust and the Squid, The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, describes the challenges 40% of our students face. “Recent reports from the National Reading Panel and the “nations report cards” indicate that 30 to 40 percent of children in fourth grade do not become fluent readers with adequate comprehension. This is a devastating figure. One nearly invisible issue in education is the fate of young elementary students who read accurately but not fluently in grades 3 and 4. Unless their problems are dealt with, these students will be left in the dust. Some of these children become capable decoders, but they never read quite rapidly enough to comprehend what they read.”
Fortunately both dyslexic and struggling readers can be become fluent readers in as little as 30 hours of on-task training with Online Reading Tutor. The phonemic, sound symbol association (phonics) decoding and comprehension exercises are exactly what reading researchers Shaywitz and Wolf recommend.
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