Here is a guest blog By David Morgan.
It is estimated that up to 10% of the general population struggles with dyslexia. Some studies call that a conservative estimate, with many more people struggling to read and spell.
Many parents of dyslexic children or dyslexic adults find themselves in this situation, armed with a label but no real solution. Some feel it means that their child will never come to love reading. With the right help that is almost certainly not the case!
A Neurological Process
Reading is a neurological process that the brain undertakes every time it is presented with text on the page. In order to target the primary cause of reading difficulty to find a solution, we have to look at different areas where that process can break down.
There are seven main causes of reading and spelling difficulty that we have found to date. If you or someone you know is dyslexic, see if any of them match up with what you experience.
1. Optilexia - The main sign of Optilexia is guessing when reading, particularly with the short words. Sometimes the longer words seem easier and the reader will read a word without a problem on one page, but not the next. Spelling in free writing is atrocious, but the Optilexic can usually perform well on a spelling test. Unfamiliar words and place names will feel very difficult. The underlying cause of Optilexia can be found in how the learner is processing the text visually rather than aurally. Once that has been switched, a steady rate of progress can be gained.
2. Eye-Tracking Weakness - Does your child skip words and lines? Do single words seem easier than sentences and paragraphs of text? Normally a reader's eyes perform a refined jump from word cluster to word cluster left to right, called a saccade. Some struggling readers have weakness in the neural feedback loops controlling the eye muscles that control this movement. That makes focusing accurately on a word in a sentence very hard. The right simple eye-tracking exercises usually fix this neural weakness in just days.
3. Irlen Syndrome - Has your child ever complained about the words moving around on the page? The human eye has a great visual sensitivity to changes in color and brightness in order to identify patterns. However, some struggling readers have an over-sensitivity to black text on white background, which causes the words to shimmer or move around on the page. This can be alleviated with colored films to soften the level of contrast.
4. Memory Difficulties - Memory plays a big part in the reading process. Not only does the person have to remember each sound when decoding a word, but then multiple words need to be remembered for a sentence, then sentences remembered to comprehend a paragraph. People with short-term memory challenges have great difficulty retaining all this information when reading. Short-term memory difficulties have very distinct symptoms. In reading this can show up as poor comprehension, stilted reading flow and difficulty remember phonemes when sounding out a long word. In life this can show up as inability to remember multi-step directions, inability to remember lists of items and being generally forgetful of recent events.
5. Attention Deficit - Have you seen your child struggling to focus on the task of reading? Fidgeting? Easily distracted? I am sure you know why reading is harder than it should be. However, I am also sure you have seen your child happily focusing for long periods on some tasks; ones that seem enjoyable! That is the key to fixing this issue. Make reading fun with games.
6. Fluency Block - Does your child decode words competently, but struggle to read fluently? A conventional reader uses a part of their brain called the letterbox cortex to recognise common letter groupings. Amazgainly you aer able to raed scarblmed txet quite flnuetly, due to this function. Some struggling readers bypass their letterbox cortex when reading, instead using visual memory to store letter groupings. This causes the reader to be able to decode quickly but never really develop any fluency or smoothness. To fix this tricky problem means engaging this very specialist bit of cortex in the decoding process. We do that with anagrams.
7. Stress Spirals - Reading is a higher brain function and is therefore controlled by the frontal cortex. When the brain is under stress, 70% of the frontal cortex energy is diverted to the fight or flight center (amygdala) and the brain loses its capacity to think clearly. A child who struggles with reading is in a state of stress when trying. This sets the child up for inadequate mental resources when attempting to read. The pattern of being under stress and getting more stressed when trying creates a downward stress spiral which often results in meltdowns, tears and finally giving up.
Cheers, Dr. Erica Warren
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator, and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning. She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Learning Specialist Courses.
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