Dyslexia and the Brain
Dyslexia is the most common learning disability in the US, affecting somewhere between 5 and 17 percent of the population.
That means millions of school children around the country struggle with it. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), schools are required to provide special services to help these students. These services can be expensive and many schools simply do not have the resources to provide these accommodations for struggling students.
Dyslexia used to be referred to as “word blindness” because people with dyslexia don’t naturally process the written word. They cannot easily break it into smaller units that can be turned into sounds and stitched together. This makes reading a laborious and often exhausting process.
According to a new study from MIT neuroscientists, a distinctive neural signature found in the brains of people with dyslexia may explain why these individuals have difficulty learning to read. The researchers discovered that in people with dyslexia the brain has a diminished ability to acclimate to a repeated input. This trait is known as neural adaptation. For example, when dyslexic students see the same word repeatedly, brain regions involved in reading do not show the same adaptation seen in typical readers. This suggests that the brain’s plasticity, which underlies its ability to learn new things, is reduced. When presented with new information that was shown in a previous trial, individuals viewed and processed the information as if it was completely new.
Experts and parents say there are key things that can help.
The sooner you intervene, the better.
Research suggests early and intensive reading help is most effective. By the time many children are formally diagnosed with dyslexia, often valuable time has passed. Early literacy screening programs, beyond those standardized tests administered, can be pivotal in helping identify at risk children. Starting specific reading programs at a young age has proven successful.
Find something else your child excels at.
Experts say that children with dyslexia are at a higher risk for depression. Cultivating another passion – where there is a more direct link between effort and success – is helpful. Whether it’s sports, computers, music, art, or baking, help your child find something they enjoy doing that takes skill and builds confidence and pride.
Make a financial plan.
Ideally schools are supposed to help children with dyslexia, but many don’t have the resources to do so. That means parents who can afford it often bear the cost of outside testing, specialized treatment. Often this forces families to have to dip into or even deplete college savings funds to pay for the more immediate need for services. Having a long term financial plan can help guide these difficult decisions.
Carolina Brain Center.
We are equipped to test and treat children and adults with dyslexia. Treatment results in improved ability to read and comprehend material, improved performance in math, and an overall feeling of empowerment because learning becomes easier.