Lynn Brunner, PhD Educational Therapist
Resident Provider at
JoyWheel Yoga & Wellness
Shares a spotlight article this week she wrote exploring Dyslexia, and how we can understand and help children and adolescents who may have it
For more information about Lynn’s practice, check out her page.
Understanding and Treating Dyslexia
I work with students who have dyslexia, and even though the term has been around for nearly a century, there is still great misunderstanding about what it is. I think part of the problem is that dyslexia can be so invisible. People with dyslexia can be highly intelligent. They just have a different way of processing language, especially written language, and this difference is physically rooted in the brain. Imaging studies have shown that the dyslexic brains “light up” in different areas than “normal” brains do when reading. I get asked often, “Dyslexia is when people see things backwards, right?” The answer to that is, “No.” But the connection between a word that they see and how their brain interprets that word to represent sound and meaning could get mixed up. A child may have trouble remembering the “name” of a word so that was gets “named” as saw (Shaywitz, 2002). Not everyone with dyslexia will do this, but since everyone with dyslexia has a similar language processing differences, there are some similarities in how the difference shows up. Such as:
- Trouble learning letters and their sounds
- Slow or inaccurate reading
- Poor spelling
- Poor handwriting
- Difficulty pronouncing words
- Difficulty learning a foreign language
Dyslexia can vary in severity, so that someone who appears to be “reading” may be memorizing words instead of decoding them. This works until a new word is encountered. I had an adult student who would read a word like “organization” as “orchestra”. You can see the words look similar, but substituting one for the other can make a mess of reading comprehension, which he struggled with. Intervention focuses on learning the sound of each letter and every part of the word. This requires systematic work with phonics and spelling so that the whole word, inside and out, beginning to end, can be decoded.
The most important thing to know is that people with dyslexia CAN learn to read! It is well-known that a phonics-based, multi-sensory program (not just sight and sound, but touch and motion as well) works in treating dyslexia to train the brain and build new circuits for language processing. Intervention can happen at any point in a person’s life, but the sooner dyslexia is caught and addressed, the better. Children who are identified early can get remediation and accommodation so that they can keep up in school. Early intervention may also prevent serious emotional issues that can develop from constant struggle in school and labels such as “lazy” or “slow” that dog people with dyslexia.
If you are concerned about someone with a potential reading problem, don’t hesitate to get help. Getting the right help can change a life. I have been trained in the Orton-Gillingham approach, which was one of the first phonics-based multisensory programs developed to treat dyslexia. The Gow School, which specializes in helping students with dyslexia, uses Reconstructive Language, which is based on the insights of Samuel Orton, the neurologist who lends his name to Orton-Gillingham. The approaches are similar in their emphasis on phonics and multi-sensory learning, and they work. I am happy to answer any questions and help you find the intervention you need.
Shawitz, S. (2003). Overcoming Dyslexia. New York: Vintage Books.