Dyslexia and the brain
The Dyslexic Brain
While home environment, access to books and socio-economic factors all play a part in literacy development, brain differences also play a critical role.
Dyslexic brains differ especially in the left hemisphere. Left brain activity is often under-developed in struggling readers. This part of the brain helps readers make connections between letters and sounds or “phonemes”. Other critical differences are show in:
1. The Occipital Lobe
This is the part of the brain that helps us understand what we see. While struggling readers may not have vision problems, differences in the occipital lobe can prevent them from understanding individual letters or words when they see them.
2. Wernickes Area
This area acts as a giant warehouse for words and sounds. In dyslexic people, this area typically shows little or no activity. For them, even common words may occur as if they are reading them for the first time.
3. Broca’s Area
This area is associated with speaking words out loud. Dyslexic people often show less activity in this area of the brain. Speech, listening and reading are all inter-connected.
4. Auditory Processing
Difficulties in auditory processing also lead to reading issues. When something interrupts the brains ability to process sounds, it can be difficult to distinguish between similar words such as rock, rocks and rocked for example.
The Good News: The brain is plastic!
New research is demonstrating the plasticity of the brain and its ability for it to change, especially in the early years. Learning can have a big impact on brain physiology. We can help children rewire their brains for reading
1. Check for discrimination of similar sounds, such as pig, peg and peck
Kids must first identify differences in sounds (e.g. b/d) before being able to learn which sound goes with each letter. Studies show that the ability to make these small distinctions is strongly linked to success in reading.
2. Provide instruction that is intense, motivating and frequent
Brain change happens when a task is done frequently, is motivating and allows for repeated practice.
3. Work on vocabulary from an early age
Research show that students who are exposed to more words as toddlers and young children have greater pre-reading skills when they get to school.
4. Have kids work on listening accuracy, auditory sequencing and phonological memory
A Cornell University Study demonstrated that dyslexic students who use Fast ForWord, a program that emphasizes these skills, achieved significant improvements in oral language and reading.
Can I really end dyslexia for my child?
Yes you can. Advances in our understanding of how the brain works have demonstrated that our brain has the ability to change itself, even well beyond early stages of development.
To end dyslexia the brain needs to be rewired and the critical neuronal pathways in the left side strengthened. Numerous research studies have shown that targeted, intensive, and systematic intervention with Fast ForWord and Reading Assistant programs which are based on neuro-science and evidence-based best practices for reading instruction have consistently helped students achieve and maintain their reading grade level in school.
These programs improve not just reading, but overall learning and brain function improving core skills like memory, attention, processing speed and sequencing.