Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Educational Neuroscience Dyslexia and Special Educational Needs

Too many people think that researchers have already found all the answers to why people are dyslexic by studying the brain. The following article is much broader than my usual focus on visual dyslexia. For those that really want to understand what has and has not been discovered in the field of neuroscience as pertains to dyslexia and special educational needs I think this states the information as well as anything I have read on the web.

It also inplies support for what I have long believed , that the individual educational problems that need to be worked on for the individual are not going to be identified anytime in the near future by imaging techniques. Pen and pencil and verbal type testing is much more likely to produce indications of specific skill deficiencies that need to be addressed for educational success.

While being able to describe visual problems that make reading difficult is a start in being able to define visual dyslexia, I am finding that some dyslexia evaluations are starting to include visual testing also and finding co-existing visual and non-visual problems with much success in removing the visual dyslexia problems with See Right Dyslexia Glasses. >

Are advances in brain sciences useful to the field of education? Dr Jodi Tommerdahl looks at whether breakthroughs in our knowledge of how the human brain works can provide insight into how children learn, particularly in the area of SEN, and, if so, what’s taking so long?

The rise of educational neuroscience

Monday, October 13, 2008

Misleading Dyslexia Headlines

Research Finds Genetic Causes Behind Dyslexia

That's the headline . It doesn't really say that in the article. Dyslexia reporting is often of this poor quality. I was put off by their calling dyslexia a disease but I did some research and did find that some sources include genetic defect as a definition of disease. That isn't the most common use in English but I can't say it is wrong just that many will not be familiar with how they are using the term disease.

This isn't a shout it out from the rooftops moment but I like the direction of the research. It is new, fresh and based on a different way of developing what may be a cost effective dyslexia identification method for a majority of dyslexics.

This is what the article says that relates to the headline. My analysis of the value of the research follows.

"We are trying to find out which genes cause the disease. A predisposition to dyslexia could be detected by a genetic test to support affected children appropriately at a very early age," says Arndt Wilcke, scientist at the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology (IZI) in Leipzig.

The research focus is based on the structural differences in the dyslexic brain and is trying to determine the genes that cause the structural differences. To date the genetic research has looked at families with a high incidence of dyslexia and found "dyslexia genes " related to those families but have not been successful finding " dyslexia genes" that are universal.

These scientists hope to find the gene responsible for the structural differences in the brain which is likely to be more universal to populations of dyslexics. The identification of the particular genes is still years away but their investigation is in a direction that I believe could be successful. By the time they identify the gene ( or genes) the cost of genetic testing should be relatively inexpensive. The cost of genetic testing continues to drop as new techniques are
developed and more labs have the capability to run the tests.

One down side of medical testing for dyslexia is that if 10% of the population is dyslexic then 10 people need to be tested to identify 1 dyslexic and the effective cost is 10 times the cost of the test. That is why even if fMRI testing finally becomes able to identify individual dyslexics it will never be used as a screening method.

It must be recognized that all dyslexics that take part in dyslexia studies have been identified as dyslexic by pen and paper tests and personal evaluations. As much of the testing can be done in stages eliminating many as not dyslexic early on at little cost , it may be that what is missing from dyslexia screening is not a new method but rather the failure to use the screening methods available on all our children.

Perhaps the best headline we could hope for is not a new medical breakthrough in medical testing but

Federal Government Mandates and Pays for Dyslexia Screening for All Children!!!!!!!!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

When Should Dyslexics Try Visual Intervention

Visual dyslexia only affects about 10% of dyslexics as the primary cause of their reading problems and so it is seldom the first thought about what intervention is needed. While that is as it should be , I don't think that it should only be considered after spending much time and money on interventions and concluding that the final results fall below what could be reasonably expected from those interventions.

To muddle things up more, there are perhaps another 20% of dyslexics who co-mingle visual and more prevalent language and auditory processing problems. As these dyslexics show the typical early speech and communication problems so common to dyslexia they are likely to be enrolled in whatever the local community has deemed the answer to dyslexia without visual problems ever being considered.

People tend to believe their own senses and assume whatever they experience is normal. This is particularly true in children. Depending on the age of the child, visual problems can sometimes be determined by discussions about their vision. Being extremely near sighted all my life my Ah-ha moment came when I went to school with my first pair of glasses. I found that my teacher was not doing her usual arm waving dance up front while explaining things by the black board but was actually writing on the black board. I had no idea . It occurred to me later that if someone had asked how well I could read the blackboard I would have answered " read what?". I also remember my first eye exam and the first question . What direction is the E pointing? my answer " what E ?". My mother almost screamed THAT E ON THE WALL , "what E? I said.

My point being that , at least for me , as a child I thought my vision was normal . My fuzzy little world where only things closer than my outstretched arm were clear was normal. Later in life I realized that any discussion about my vision would have revealed its flaws.

My criteria for whether the See Right Dyslexia Glasses will help visual dyslexics is: can the visual dyslexic describe specific visual problems that make reading difficult. That works well for adults. Children can often answer questions about how they see the page that indicate problems that to them seems normal. Are all the words clear ,sharp , in focus , stable or in motion, and look uniform?

I am going to add another indication of visual dyslexia for children that parents can check. It is not universal but often can be used as an indication of visual dyslexia. If by changing font size on the computer the child's fluency improves with increasing size then a visual problem may be indicated.

As some visual dyslexics experience problems even with the large print in first grade books it may be impossible to both increase the size and have enough words to read for a fair test for all.
It is a better test for those visual dyslexics that only started to have their problems about third grade when print size in their school books gets smaller. It might also be helpful to stop near a billboard with very large print and ask if the print looks the same as that in their books.

A careful observer can often listen to a child's speech and determine if any language or auditory processing problems are likely to lead to reading problems and need to be addressed. In an ideal world discussions about vision and how a child see the written word would also be included. As visual dyslexia is unlikely to produce any noticeable problems before school age it is important to at least have a discussion about their vision if reading problems occur.

Visual intervention should be tried when there is an indication that visual problems with seeing the printed page are present. As See Right Dyslexia Glasses have a money back guarantee they are a low financial risk and are very effective in removing visual dyslexia associated visual problems.