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Contrary to popular misconception, dyslexia is not characterized by letter or word reversal. In fact, dyslexia is a language-processing difficulty caused by the inability to break words into phonemes, also known as decoding (see below). Experts estimate that dyslexia, the most common reading difficulty, affects as many as 15 to 20 percent of all Americans.
Decoding is the process by which a word is broken into individual phonemes and recognized based on those phonemes. For instance, proficient decoders separate the sounds "buh," "aah," and "guh" in the word "bag." Someone who has difficulty decoding, and thus difficulty reading easily, may not hear and differentiate these phonemes. "Buh," "aah," and "guh" might be meaningless to them in relation to the word "bag" on the page.
Experts have no one explanation for this phenomenon. In some cases, it may reflect that some people simply require more time to separate sounds -- time that isn't there.
Signs of decoding difficulty:
trouble sounding out words and recognizing words out of context
confusion between letters and the sounds they represent
slow oral reading rate (reading word-by-word)
reading without expression
ignoring punctuation while reading
Recent studies show a neurobiological basis for dyslexia, suggesting the potential for early diagnosis and new forms of treatment. This research describes a biological cause of the disorder; evidence that dyslexia does not reflect lack of intelligence, or attention, or effort. In addition, this reasearch may reveal better ways of diagnosing and treating reading problems.
In one experiment, for example, scientists presented a group of dyslexics and people who read easily with an increasingly difficult series of reading tasks. The researchers used brain-imaging equipment to monitor the level of activity (as indicated by the flow of oxygenated blood) in each subject's brain during the tasks. In proficient readers, as the tasks grew more difficult, new regions of the brain were recruited. This recruitment traveled generally from the rear of the brain toward the front. In contrast, activity in poor readers occurred less in rear portions of the brain and much more in front portions of the brain than in proficient readers.
This pattern is now believed to be the "neural signature" of dyslexia. As more is learned about the meaning of this "signature," more strategies for improving reading will be developed.
Dyslexic Brains "Look" Different
Dr. Sally Shaywitz, a researcher at the Yale University of Medicine showed in 1998 that areas in the back of the brain that are usually activated when readers sounded out words are significantly less activated in dyslexics' brains. Moreover, areas in the front of the brain displayed more activity in dyslexics' brains than in the brains of normal readers. More recently, researchers at the University of Washington have shown that dyslexics' brains work up to five times harder than non-dyslexic brains.
Dyslexia is a common reading disorder that affects nearly 5-20% of school-aged children.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that more than $2 billion is spent each year on students who repeat a grade because of reading problems.
Dyslexia is a lifelong disorder that can be treated but not cured.
Dyslexia is not caused by brain damage, and dyslexics can learn to compensate for their weaknesses in language.
Fifty percent of adults in the US are unable to read at an 8th grade level (Illiterate America by Jonathon Kozol).
Dyslexics may have tremendous talent and can be successful people: scientists Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison and humorist Erma Bombeck had dyslexia; athletes Greg Louganis and Bruce Jenner, entertainers Tom Cruise and Cher have dyslexia
What We Do
Most children are not diagnosed with dyslexia until the third grade. If a diagnosis could be made earlier, students could be given extra help before they start to have difficulties in their schoolwork. Once a child has been identified as dyslexic through psychological testing, parents can work with the school to make sure their child receives the help needed. Federal legislation in place since 1975 requires that special funding be available to provide learning disabled children equal opportunities in the educational system.
Given that accurate and early diagnosis are the keys to providing necessary intervention to children with dyslexia, our staff have developed a testing process specifically designed for children experiencing reading difficulties. This assessment can also be tailored to address the needs of adults who have a history of reading problems.
This Process Involves
Collecting background information from the client and/or parent(s) (if the client is under 18 years old) to determine if there are other factors contributing to learning difficulty (this includes a clinical interview and behavior rating scales)
Reviewing any previous evaluations performed by other professionals (e.g. an evaluation conducted by a school psychologist)
Evaluation of the client’s cognitive functioning relative to performance on reading tasks and academic achievement
Evaluation of the client’s phonological processing skills
Additional evaluation of language skills when necessary
Gathering information from other sources (e.g. teachers) when necessary
Once sufficient data have been gathered, a report summarizing the findings will be written. Copies of this report will be shared with the client and/or parent(s) during a session explaining the results. Recommendations tailored to the client’s specific needs will also be discussed in this session and contained in the report.
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