Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Looking at Dyslexia, Part 1

No doubt, you’ve heard the word dyslexia many times. It’s possible you have a clear understanding of what dyslexia means and how it affects  reading. It’s more likely, though, that you are not clear at all. In today’s post I want to start talking about dyslexia and give you some resources.

As I’ve said in previous Parent Posts, I’m a big fan of the Reading Rockets website ( It’s a huge site that’s filled with lots of information about reading. Today I’ll use information from both Reading Rockets and the International Dyslexia Association ( Please visit both sites for more information.
What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia may also experience difficulties with spelling, writing, and pronouncing words.
Dyslexia affects individuals throughout their lives. However, its impact can change at different stages in a person's life. It's considered a learning disability because dyslexia can make it very difficult for a student to succeed in the typical classrom. In its more severe forms, it will qualify a student for special education, special accommodations, or extra support services.
What causes dyslexia?
The exact causes of dyslexia are still not completely clear, but studies show differences in the way a dyslexic person's brain develops and functions. Most people with dyslexia have problems with identifying the separate speech sounds within a word and/or learning how letters represent those sounds. These are key skills in learning to read.
Dyslexia is not due to either lack of intelligence or desire to learn; with appropriate teaching methods, dyslexics can learn successfully.
Who has dyslexia?
Dyslexia occurs in people of all backgrounds and intellectual levels. People who are very bright can be dyslexic. They are often capable or even gifted in areas that do not require strong language skills - skills such as art, computer science, design, drama, electronics, math, mechanics, music, physics, sales, and sports.
In addition, dyslexia runs in families; dyslexic parents are more likely to have children who are dyslexic. Some people are identified as dyslexic early in their lives, but for others, their dyslexia goes unidentified until they get older.
Reading and the Brain
I found a wonderful video, Reading and the Brain (, hosted by Henry Winkler, the actor and kids’ author. It gives some outstanding information about dyslexia research. It’s presented in short segments, covering:
Rewiring the brain At the University of Texas-Houston, Dr. Papanicolau uses technology to show eight-year-old Peter Oathout how his difficulties with reading are rooted in his brain.
Biomapping the brain In Evanston, Illinois Dr. Nina Kraus thinks that Jenna's reading problems may be related to the way her brain processes sound. To find out, Dr. Kraus uses some well-known technology in a new way.
Baby's first reading skills Drs. Victoria and Dennis Molfese are studying speech perception in day old babies like Santana Hamond — something that may be a key factor in determining a child's later reading skills.
The poet and the painter In Harlem, writer Nikki Giovanni and illustrator Bryan Collier discuss their award-winning book, Rosa, and what it took to write about the influential Rosa Parks.
From emotion to comprehension In Toronto, six-year-old Arik is reading through his books with lightning speed — but is he understanding it all? Using a technique developed for children with autism like Arik, Drs. Greenspan and Shanker believe that they can help Arik's comprehension by expanding his emotional connection to the words.
I'll offer more information on dyslexia over the next few weeks. Do you have specific questions that you'd like me to find answers to? Please write them in the Comments box.

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