Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Dyslexia Misunderstood and Why

I have been reading some blogs that try to explain dyslexia in a few paragraphs and it is just impossible. By pointing out some common short cuts that are taken when writing about dyslexia I hope to promote a more careful reading of the material about dyslexia.

Dyslexia is very difficult to write about because having individualistic symptoms everything needs to be qualified. I thought I would make a couple of comments about what I have read lately. One recent study is being promoted as" Dyslexia Unraveled ". It repeates some generalized meaningless statements.

"In fact, most people who have this disability have average to above average intelligence." This is a nice feel good statement that everyone makes but is often taken to mean that people with below average intelligence never have dyslexia.

Here is the truth. Because dyslexia is easier to detect in people with higher IQ's , diagnosed dyslexics generally have a average or higher IQ.

Many definitions of dyslexia also have a cut off on the low end of the IQ scale where reading difficulties can't be attributed to dyslexia or low IQ because reading standards for low IQ individual don't exist. If you remove low IQ people from consideration as dyslexics of course the remaing dyslexics will tend to have average or higher IQ's

While the feel good statement is important to help dyslexics know that their reading problems are not generally caused by being stupid or slow it does direct the effort to identify dyslexics away from people with lower IQ's. Those unidentified lower IQ dyslexics would also benefit from help so the feel good statement also does quite a bit of harm also.

Consider that the following 2 statements are both true and add nothing of value to understanding of what a person is. Note: the reason both statements can be true is that average people are included and counted in both groups.

1) People generally have average or HIGHER than average IQ's.

2) People generally have average or LOWER than average IQ'.

Here is a statement that is true for both dyslexics and people .

Dyslexics , in common with people , may have lower,higher or average IQ's and as far as science has been able to determine dyslexics do not differ from people in respect to IQ.

I submit that the statement "In fact, most people who have this disability have average to above average intelligence." is true but also misleading and has the potential to divert attention away from dyslexics of lower IQ causing them to be under represented and ignored. This harm very well offsets the advantage of being a feel good statement.

My niche is visual dyslexia so I have to make another comment about another common statement used to define define as being "often exemplified by reversing letters and the order of letters in a word.". Another true statement but not really helpful in understanding dyslexia and reversing letters only adds confusion because so many people with and without dyslexia reverse letters when writing is first encountered and beginning to be mastered.

Early on in school people often reverse letters. This behavior in dyslexics continues longer than it does in people without dyslexia. Early on , because people without dyslexia outnumber those that do, indeed the group of those who reverse letters can have fewer dyslexics than non dyslexics.

There are standards of ranges of how many reversals are common at different ages with the behavior being extinguished in those without dyslexia usually by the second grade.

Without the qualification of age and rate of occurrence, reversing letters as a description of dyslexia is useless and I suspect causes many parents to worry that they have dyslexic children when they do not. Again a counter productive description of dyslexia because it is not qualified.

There are other visual problems , such as seeing vibrating text as an example, that are useful in identifying visual dyslexia because they are not common in the non dyslexic population. Adult visual dyslexics can usually describe their visual problems . Children will often be able to describe their visual problems if how they see the page is discussed. More information about visual dyslexia can be found at .

About 10% of dyslexics have visual dyslexia as a primary and sole cause of reading difficulties. Most dyslexics have no visual problems and a poorly defined % have both visual and language processing problems.

Which brings us to .
"Once a child is diagnosed, studies have shown that multi sensory learning techniques have helped children with dyslexia a great deal"

All dyslexia intervention techniques have non responders. Because multi sensory instruction does address the most common dyslexia problems it has been proven to be effective for a majority of dyslexics. If no specifics are known except that a person is dyslexic, then in a statistical way it can make sense to use multi sensory instruction. It would be better to try to identify a dyslexic's individual problems and focus the intervention on his or her specific problems.

Visual dyslexics are not going to be have their visual problems addressed by multi sensory instruction. There are also some additional dyslexia related problems that are not addressed that may require different techniques.

We have found the cause of dyslexia or not ! There are 2 major sources of the " cause of dyslexia found". There have been many fMRI studies that have imaged many different areas of the brain to compare dyslexics and non dyslexics. Most have been reported to have identified the cause of dyslexia from a single area of the brain. To date all the studies have had the same result of seeing differences between groups of dyslexics and non dyslexics but with enough overlap of results that individuals can not be identified as dyslexic or not.

If you take the time to read all the fMRI studies and treat them as a single study you would have a much clearer understanding of what the present fMRI research data is telling us.

The following statements seem to be true.

In general every dyslexic will not show positive results in every area of the brain studied.

Ever area of the brain studied will show that some of the dyslexics have problems related to that area.

Every area of the brain studied will show that some of the dyslexics do not have problems related to that area.

The conclusion that seems reasonable is

Different dyslexics have different problems and those problems are related to different areas of the brain. It seems likely that individual dyslexics can have an assortment of problems that are individualistic. It also seems likely that the severity of a dyslexic's reading difficulty will be reflected by differences in severity in the individual areas of the brain wher his or her problems exists.

Another common source of " the cause of dyslexia is found" is from personal accounts that basically say " I am dyslexic , this is my problem, so this is what dyslexia is. ". This personal account often results in an intervention based on that belief and you would expect that intervention to be successful for the % of dyslexics that do indeed have that particular problem and a failure for those dyslexics without that problem.

Ron Davis, "Dyslexia is a Gift" and believes dyslexia problems are caused by the fact that dyslexics think in pictures is one example. The Dore method that promotes a physical exercise program as a cure for dyslexia is another example. Both of these examples claim that their method will help all dyslexics.

Until techniques are developed to identify an individual dyslexic's weaknesses and also identify the best interventions matched to each of them so that the most effective individual plan can be developed, much time and money is going to be wasted .

As I said , my niche is helping visual dyslexics that can describe visual problems that make reading difficult. More information can be found at the visual dyslexia solution where I sell See Right Dyslexia Glasses.