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Reading Experience May Change the Brains of Dyslexic Students

June 11, 2014 in News

Among the many challenges faced by children with dyslexia (and by their parents and teachers) is the nagging fear that their motherlode-books-tmagArticledifficulties with reading are entirely hard-wired: predetermined by their genes and impossible to change. Recent research offers a balm for that fear. It suggests that experience plays a big role in dyslexia, both in exacerbating reading problems and, potentially, in easing them.

Dyslexia is the most common learning disability in the United States, affecting more than 10 percent of the population. Its cause has remained a mystery, however, and over the years scientists have advanced many theories about the biological mechanism leading to dyslexic people’s struggles with reading. Recent research has moved us closer to an understanding of where dyslexia starts and how it develops, illuminating the nature of reading itself along the way.

One longstanding hypothesis about the origin of dyslexia, for example, proposes that the disability stems from deficits in the visual system. Problems with vision might explain why dyslexics sometimes confuse d’s with b’s, or why they substitute one word for another. And indeed, brain scans show less activity in the visual regions of dyslexics’ brains than in the brains of normal readers.

Research led by Guinevere Eden, director of the Center for the Study of Learning at Georgetown University Medical Center, has recently cast serious doubt on this theory. Dyslexia is not a problem of seeing, she contends, but a problem of processing language, of assembling individual sounds into words. Ms. Eden maintains that we should not be focusing on the visual system as we diagnose or treat dyslexia.

But what about those visual deficits, consistently found in dyslexics? Researchers like Ms. Eden have advanced a fascinating explanation for them, one that helps reveal the workings not only of dyslexia, but of normal reading as well.

One of Ms. Eden’s colleagues at Georgetown, Olumide Olulade,notes that reading is a “culturally imposed skill.” That is: Human beings did not evolve to read, as we evolved to naturally and easily understand and produce spoken language. Every one of us who has become literate has had to change our brain significantly to turn the black squiggles on this screen into meaningful symbols. The more we read, the more our brains change.

But in children who have dyslexia, the initial stages of this brain change do not proceed as in other children’s brains.

Recent research led by Bart Boets, of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, indicates that the brains of dyslexics do form accurate neurological representations of language sounds. (This would explain why dyslexics have no trouble understanding spoken language.) When dyslexics go to put together these sounds into words, however, communication between the auditory and language centers of their brains seems to break down. Dyslexia, Mr. Boets and his colleagues say, is a “disconnection syndrome.”

This disconnection makes reading difficult for dyslexic children from the very beginning. Because reading is so hard, they do it less. And because they read less, their brains change less. Visual deficits, according to the latest thinking, are not the cause of dyslexia. They are a result of less reading, of experience. And experience of the right kind — intensive tutoring in phonological and orthographic skills — can undo these visual deficits, the research of Ms. Eden shows, as well as significantly improve children’s reading skills.

Read More http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/15/reading-experience-may-change-the-brains-of-dyslexic-students/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

 
Online Dyslexia Courses For Parents & Teachers

Nonprofit Spotlight: Michigan Dyslexia Institute, Inc.

June 10, 2014 in News

The Michigan Dyslexia Institute, Inc. (MDI) provides testing, remedial instruction and financial assistance to those persons unable to bildesurvive scholastically, financially and functionally as self-supporting citizens due to their dyslexia. MDI was established in 1982 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization serving children and adults with dyslexia.

How the community benefits: Many Michigan children are not learning to read and write. The majority of these young people are dyslexic. Nationwide estimates of dyslexia run as high as 20 percent. Using much more conservative assumptions, it is estimated there are in Michigan approximately one-half million dyslexic persons with over 100,000 of these being school-age children with moderate to severe dyslexia. Experts at the National Institute of Health estimate that less than 10 percent of elementary school teachers trained to successfully work with dyslexic students.

Some big news: MDI and the Lansing School District (LSD) initiated a new program and partnership in June 2013 designed to provide LSD special education teachers with special knowledge and instructional skills for use with students who have reading and related language processing problems of the sort associated with dyslexia. It promises immediate benefits for teachers and students, and its potential for the long-run is great. A jointly endorsed grant request for the training provided by MDI and LSD special education teachers was submitted and a good Samaritan award of $25,000 for one year was received by MDI in June, 2013. While still in its initial phase, everyone associated with this program is very positive and excited. A final report and evaluation of the project will be submitted to the good Samaritan on June 30 with the possibility of additional funding.

Making a difference: Seven-year-old Luke came to MDI feeling frustrated because he did not think he could learn to read. After many hours of instruction using the internationally recognized Orton-Gillingham approach known for instruction in language skills, Luke did learn to read. Luke gained confidence in his new skills and his ability to learn. He is now reading above grade level and enjoying the learning process. Now Luke likes reading and he is able to keep up with his classmates. He has made the honor roll twice in seventh grade. This is quite amazing for a severely dyslexic individual who is no longer frustrated, but has become an independent learner.

Read More http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/article/20140531/NEWS01/305310028/Nonprofit-Spotlight-Michigan-Dyslexia-Institute-Inc-

Dyslexic people and their carers left out in the cold

June 9, 2014 in News

llustration: Jo Gay

 

Take any classroom in the ACT and you are likely to find at least one child with dyslexia – a neurological condition that adversely affects a person’s ability to read, write, spell and sometimes speak. Unfortunately for them, many dyslexic children are not 1402151662190.jpg-620x349 diagnosed and, even when they are, obtaining appropriate help can be difficult and stressful, both for the child and their family.

The stress experienced by carers stems partly from the fact that dyslexic children often have problems with self-esteem and anxiety. Lagging behind their classmates in the acquisition of essential learning skills such as reading and writing, they too often wrongly judge themselves to be stupid. Behavioural problems, and withdrawal from school and social situations, sometimes follow.

In addition to these pressures, many schools and teachers do not understand dyslexia and the particular needs of dyslexic students. This forces carers to become researchers and advocates. They scramble to find out more about dyslexia and the sorts of interventions that are going to help the child. Next, they try to persuade the child’s school to adopt them – a task that can be time consuming and exasperating. Improving outcomes for dyslexic students and their carers requires the implementation of a three-pronged strategy.

First, there needs to be system-wide changes to the way literacy is taught in the ACT. Improved literacy teaching can help all students and in particular those with learning difficulties such as dyslexia. Second, the government needs to invest in additional high quality teacher training to ensure teachers are able to identify and respond to the needs of dyslexic students. Third, there needs to be a professional body independent of government that can advocate on behalf of dyslexic students and liaise with schools about effective evidence-based interventions.

This three-pronged approach is consistent with the recommendations of the ACT Taskforce on Students with Learning Difficulties, which handed its final report to the government a year ago. The government agreed to all of the taskforce’s recommendations, raising hopes it would move swiftly to improve processes and teaching practices. But to date, the government’s response has been underwhelming. It has focused on the easy-to-implement recommendations and bypassed those requiring substantive reform to literacy instruction and learning assistance. To make matters worse, in April, the ACT government informed Dyslexia SPELD ACT (DSA) that it will not fund their advocacy, referral and training services.

DSA launched in September last year with the express purpose of helping dyslexic people of all ages and their families. Since its establishment, the charity has fielded an average of 70 phone calls a month predominantly from parents of children struggling with learning difficulties, established a low-cost dyslexia screener with the University of Canberra, and held several professional-development training sessions for teachers and parents. In addition, it has attracted renowned international and domestic experts in the field of learning difficulties to come and speak to educators in Canberra.

There are sister SPELD (specific learning difficulties) organisations in all Australian states, and all state governments fund their advocacy, support and training services. The state governments recognise the essential role SPELDs can play in improving the education system and assisting families.

Read more: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/dyslexic-people-and-their-carers-left-out-in-the-cold-20140607-zrxig.html#ixzz349gqE7EF

2Dual: Technology that helps dyslexics

May 27, 2014 in News

Dyslexia is a cognitive condition that makes it challenging for afflicted people to learn how to read, spell, comprehend text and learn how to pronounce words. Dyslexia is the world’s most

995f159c83fe12902e6be28ff64c9020common developmental reading disorder. It affects 42 million people in the United States alone and the condition can have devastating impacts on the lives of those who cope with it. In fact, the John Corcoran Foundation, a literary advocacy group, estimates that the healthcare industry currently spends approximately $73 billion a year of unnecessary costs due to some people simply being unable to read properly and, therefore, help themselves in times of injury or crisis! Luckily, advances in technology are being made that focus on helping dyslexics overcome their condition.

2Dual Inc., a non-profit software developer, has recently created an app called “2Heads” that aims to build a social community and provide instant reading assistance for individuals affected by dyslexia. Created and developed in San Diego, California, the 2Heads app enables the user to take a picture and instantly get a translation in which they can comprehend the text directly from their smartphone or mobile device. By providing visual and audio cues, the app helps people with dyslexia understand what they are reading.

Dusten Pecor, the founder of 2Dual and the 2Heads Dyslexia App, has worked for GE and Disney on technical projects. He is also a dyslexic. Dusten got the idea to create his app after becoming frustrated by the lack of resources available to people with dyslexia. Dusten also created his app with certain gamification elements—such as the ability to earn points and advance in levels the more one uses the app—to engage users in the social aspect of the technology and encourage them to contribute more to its database.

Read More At http://www.examiner.com/article/2dual-technology-that-helps-dyslexics?cid=rss 

The Kickstarter campaign can be viewed here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1337860315/2heads-dyslexia-app

Class of 2014 inducted into Greater Savannah Athletic Hall of Fame

May 21, 2014 in News

2014 ATHLETES

Jerry Templeton – Templeton was a three-sport star and five-tool baseball player at Benedictine Military School from 1957-59 who made his true mark as part of an iconic baseball team at the University of Georgia. He lettered in baseball, basketball and football at BC but showcased his abilities on the baseball diamond. He batted .422 and led the region in batting during his senior year in 1959, and he was selected as a South All Star by the Atlanta Journal Constitution. He earned a baseball scholarship to the University of Georgia and lettered for UGA from 1961-63, serving as team captain in 1963 and leading the Bulldogs in runs scored and home runs in 1962. While playing for UGA, Templeton also competed in the summer months for the Barrett Oil club in the Savannah River League and played in the Amateur World Series in Michigan three times. While at Georgia, Templeton became memorialized twice during the 1963 season: first by being the third baseman when teammate Don Woeltjen (inducted into the GSAHOF in 2012) pitched a perfect game against Georgia Tech in 1963 and second by turning a triple play with teammates Carol Minick, Tom Reid and Tommy Perdue.

Billy Phillips – Phillips was a two-sport star at Commercial High School from 1954-57 who earned a football scholarship to the University of Georgia. He began his college career in grand fashion with a crucial reception that helped Georgia’s freshman team defeat Georgia Tech in 1957, but his playing career was interrupted by dyslexia after only one season alongside Fran Tarkenton and Pat Dye in Athens. Phillips had a high school career to remember at Commercial High, winning the Sears Trophy for being the city’s best high school athlete in 1956 and being named to the Georgia All State Team. Phillips caught 10 touchdown passes during his senior year and was named the Savannah News Press lineman of the year, and Commercial High’s football team won the Savannah City Championship. As a basketball player, Phillips was second in the city in scoring and first in rebounding during his senior season and was named an all-region performer during his junior and senior seasons. Although his athletic career ended too soon, his accomplishments on the field and on the court make him one of the finest high school athletes in Savannah’s history.

Sam Stewart – Stewart is often referred to at the Jackie Robinson of Savannah for the role he played in desegregating the Oglethorpe Baseball League in the 1960s. A Tompkins High School graduate, Stewart was a standout on the diamond good enough to be scouted by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He chose to play for the Savannah Kilowatts and was an all-star who broke through the color barrier. He was the first black player in the Oglethorpe league, and he was good enough to win five MVP trophies and five batting championships. As a pitcher, he was overpowering and brought the heat for several teams in different area leagues. Stewart played for several teams in the Savannah area in the 1960s and 1970s and his talent on the field was matched by his influence off the field. As a pitcher, Stewart was a strike out artist, averaging more than 10 strikeouts per game. As unhittable as he was on the mound, he was equally effective at the plate, and he finished his MVP season in 1964 with a .462 average. After concluding his baseball career, Stewart turned his attention to softball and was inducted into the Savannah Softball Hall of Fame. In a different era, Stewart might have ended up in Major League Baseball, but he had an unforgettable impact in Savannah’s baseball and sports community as a sublime talent and courageous leader.

Read More http://wjcl.com/2014/05/06/class-of-2014-inducted-into-greater-savannah-athletic-hall-of-fame/