Johnny cringes when his teacher calls on him to read out loud in class. Most of the time he can’t recognize the words and when he does, he can’t pronounce them correctly. He always gets poor grades in spelling and writing and no matter how hard he tries, he still struggles. School is a very unpleasant place to be and deep down he feels he can’t measure up to his peers.
Johnny has dyslexia. But what promises to be good news for children struggling with dyslexia may make a world of difference for Johnny and other children like him. Scientists are beginning to decipher what is actually going on in the brain of a person with the disorder, and consequently ways to make things better. What was once scattered puzzle pieces in the minds of academics now are fitting together, thanks to the latest research.
Dyslexia is a disorder in which the brain doesn’t properly recognize symbols such as letters and numbers. It can be incredibly frustrating for developing readers, as it thwarts their ability to interpret the written language. Not only does their academic performance often suffer, their self-esteem takes a blow as well. Approximately 5-20 percent of the population has this condition.
Overcoming the restraints of dyslexia.
However, dyslexics are noted for their ability to overcome the restraints the disorder places on them. Many famous celebrities such as Cher, Whoopi Goldberg, and Henry Winkler have discussed their dyslexia and how they blasted through the barriers they faced. People with dyslexia often have enhanced spatial abilities and use that to open doors where others have closed. The problem has been determining who is likely to improve in reading ability and how much remediation they will need.
The latest research suggests a brain scan my help reveal if reading ability will improve with time. A study led by Fumiko Hoeft of Stanford University School of Medicine followed 25 children with dyslexia and 20 children without for a little over two years. What they found using MRI technology is that in dyslexic children showing improved reading skills there is more activity in the brain’s right hemisphere. Though the left hemisphere is responsible for language processing and comprehension, the right hemisphere plays a part as well. The new study suggests dyslexics that go on to read without as much hindrance are utilizing the right hemisphere more so than average readers do.
This kind of brain scan could be a huge help in assessing and diagnosing dyslexia. Critics point out that other environmental factors that contribute to reading problems must be accounted for as well. Some students have a higher quality of reading instruction in the classroom than others, and some benefit from additional tutoring. Other students have to struggle along on their own.
Experts agree that one of the most important tools for intervention is sound and explicit phonics instruction. The sooner dyslexia can be detected and then addressed, the better. It’s not uncommon for a breakthrough moment to occur where a child becomes a voracious reader and reads well above their grade level. But it often takes tutors, plenty of parental support, as well as enough self-confidence to forge ahead.