Jump start for dyslexics

With specialized teaching, dyslexics can learn to read like normal readers, says a new study.

Dyslexic children can be “jump-started” with a three-week instructional course aimed at helping them use the same parts of their brains as normal readers, scientists said today.

Scans showed that the carefully-focused teaching method caused relatively inactive brain regions to “wake-up”.

As a result, the children began to display the same abilities as individuals who have no trouble reading.

Professor Virginia Berninger, who led the research at the University of Washington in Seattle, explained that the brain used sound, or phonology, to code the parts of words that signal meaning and grammar, and their visual or written form.

She said: “Most people think words are just words, but the human brain uses three neural circuits to code words in three forms, not just their meaning.

“The teaching that gave dyslexic brains the jump-start was unique in that it made every aspect of reading words explicit. It drew attention to the sound form, the meaning form, and the written form of words, and showed how to interrelate them.

This sounds promising.

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  1. Mike McKeown says:

    Similar work has been published in a collaboration between brain imaging specialists and reading experts, notably Barbara Foorman, one of the leaders of the NIH study on the relative effectiveness of whole language and direct instruction in phonemic awareness and phonics-based decoding.

    For this piece of work, the short summary is that systematic, explicit phonics not only helped dyslexics learn to read, when the did learn to read their brain activation patterns were like those of non-dyslexics.

    The paper reference and abstract (The paper is not available on line):

    Dev Neuropsychol. 2003;24(2-3):593-612.

    Brain mechanisms for reading in children with and without dyslexia: a review of studies of normal development and plasticity.

    Papanicolaou AC, Simos PG, Breier JI, Fletcher JM, Foorman BR, Francis D, Castillo EM, Davis RN.

    Department of Neurosurgery, Vivian L. Smith Center for Neurologic Research, University of Texas-Houston Medical School, 77030, USA. apapanic@uth.tmc.edu

    In this article we review our experience with the application of magnetic source imaging (MSI), the newest of the functional imaging methods, to the study of brain mechanisms for reading among children who read normally and among those with dyslexia. After giving a general description of MSI, we present evidence for reliable and valid maps of the brain mechanism for aural language comprehension as well as for reading. Next, we present data from 39 normal readers, 40 children with dyslexia, and 30 younger children at risk for developing a reading disability. These data show different brain activation maps for individual children with dyslexia and children at risk for dyslexia than for those of normal readers. Such differences most likely reflect aberrant brain organization underlying phonological decoding, rather than variables such as degree of effort. Finally, we present preliminary data demonstrating that the aberrant activation profiles of children with dyslexia may return to normative patterns as a result of a successful reading intervention that enables children to improve phonological decoding skills.

  2. I am naturally hyperlexic, and I am aware of the sounds of words as I read. At the same time, I also believe that one reason my reading speed is so high is that I originally learned to read to myself, not out loud, and so this is internal and not slowed by linking to speaking.

  3. Charlie (Colorado) says:

    What the hell is “hyperlexic” — oh, I understand the word, but what does it refer to?

    In any case, that all sounds like the way I learned to read in any case, in a country grammar school in the Colorado mountains.