Struggling Readers: Brain Science & Technology

I recently wrote an article on some of the challenges of learning to read, write and spell. Here are some excerpts from that longer article:

Almost 40 percent of fourth-grade students in the United States read below grade level; many more struggle with subtle reading, writing, and spelling roadblocks. How do you make sure your child does not become part of that statistic? In addition to the right materials and a good attitude, it’s also a matter of understanding your child’s brain!

graphic art symbolizing a childs brainModern brain science shows that in the first three years of formal education, specialized circuits in the child’s left brain develop lightning-fast interconnections that link speech sounds, letter symbols, and meaning. Neuroscience also reveals what is different about the brains of people who struggle with reading, writing, and spelling and pinpoints instructional routines that establish more efficient brain patterns.

By the time a child is in early elementary school, parents may observe that their child’s reading and/or writing skills are not developing as expected. Those who struggle with reading, writing, and spelling fall into two main groups:

  1. Those with good listening comprehension but weaknesses in aspects of the writing code (word reading, spelling and/or writing).
  2. Those with weak listening comprehension, with or without difficulty with the writing coding.

The first is described broadly as dyslexia and is far more common than the second, known as specific language impairment. (See more on dyslexia symptoms here.)

The treatments for dyslexia and specific language impairment are very different. The first critical step is a professional language processing evaluation. This is unlike a psycho-educational evaluation and, since it is focused, can be a fraction of the cost. (See more about diagnosing dyslexia here.)

Can I wait for my child to catch up with peers?

Dyslexia is not outgrown, but it improves with structured practice. The “gold standard” for dyslexia treatment is the Orton-Gillingham approach, which has been used, tested, researched, and validated for more than 70 years. Successful use of Orton-Gillingham treatment is not just a matter of having the right materials and step-by-step instructions. No two dyslexics have exactly the same processing problems, so even good, off-the-shelf programs can be difficult for parents to apply without professional guidance.

How to help your child if they struggle with reading, writing, and spelling

Lexercise solves this problem by using web-conferencing technology to bring an experienced professional into the home to perform a language processing evaluation and then guide you in weekly, online Orton-Gillingham therapy sessions. It is private, secure, interactive, and highly motivating.

To get answers to your questions and to schedule a consultation with a clinician, please contact us at or 1-919-747-4557.

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Sandie Barrie Blackley, MA/CCC

MA/CCC - Cofounder and CKO

Sandie is a speech-language pathologist with more than 30 years of experience in the private practice sector. She is Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at University of North Carolina Greensboro, and founder/owner of the Language & Learning Clinic, PLLC, a private practice in Elkin, NC, and Greensboro, NC, specializing in communication disorders, including disorders of reading and written language.