Dyslexia Series on NPR News: Part 1


A new NPR radio series, “Unlocking Dyslexia”, sheds some light on the most common learning disability in America that is still a mystery to most. Gabrielle Emanuel, nprEd writer, and correspondent, is dyslexic herself. In her series, she goes through explaining the difficulties of dyslexia, the science behind it and the necessary steps to overcome it. This is part 1 of our 2 part review. Read part 2 here.

Dyslexia is a learning disability. When most people hear “learning disability” they equate it with “low intelligence”. Emanuel says “In fact, that’s an often-misunderstood part of dyslexia: It’s not about lacking comprehension, having a low IQ or being deprived of a good education” (“Millions Have Dyslexia”). Dyslexics often have average or above average intelligence and excel in other areas whether it be in math, sports, the arts, etc.

A dyslexic’s brain works differently than a “normal” brain does. “Learning to read requires co-operating parts of the brain and training them to recognize letters, clump those letters together into small units, relate those units to sounds and eventually, blend those sounds together into a word” (Emanuel, “How Science”). This does not come easily to a dyslexic’s brain.

scientist looking at scanGuinevere Eden of Georgetown University’s Center for the Study of Learning is studying the differences between the dyslexic brain and a “normal” brain. Specifically, she is studying brain scans or the left temporoparietal cortex and occipitotemporal cortex, the parts of the brain used for processing spoken language and visually recognizing objects. Eden says “‘both areas are under-activated in dyslexia’” (Emanuel, “How Science”).

Eden’s studies among countless others have ruled out dyslexia as a vision problem. It is the way the brain is processing that causes these difficulties. For example, when we recognize or recall a chair:

the brain naturally sees it from many different angles — left, right, up, down — and, regardless of the perspective, the brain knows it is a chair. But that doesn’t work for letters…[b and d] are the same basic shape and, yet, two totally different letters. But, as it does with a chair, the brain wants to recognize them as the same object. (Emanuel, “How Science”)

approach5So, can a dyslexic’s brain start making these connections and learn how to read, write and spell effectively? Of course! The National Center for Learning Disabilities, American Academy of Pediatrics and International Dyslexia Association all recommend a specific method to teach a child with dyslexia, Structured Literacy. What happens to a dyslexic brain after Structured Literacy intervention? The two cortices responsible for reading in the left hemisphere become more active. Furthermore, Eden explains “‘Other areas become more active, and they’re not areas you think as of being involved in reading: They [are] in the right hemisphere’” (Emanuel, “How Science”).

Your child can immediately receive Lexercise Structured Literacy therapy and start seeing results. Call us at 1-919-747-4557 to learn more or take our free dyslexia screener here.

Works Cited:

Emanuel, Gabrielle. “How Science Is Rewiring The Dyslexic Brain.” Morning Edition. NPR. 29 Nov. 2016. Radio.

Emanuel, Gabrielle. “Millions Have Dyslexia, Few Understand It.” All Things Considered. NPR. 28 Nov. 2016. Radio.

Photo Credits: NPR, Brain Scans, Child Writing

Alternatives to Independent Reading

Alternatives to Independent Reading

Reading is essential for all students to grow academically, but is especially important to dyslexics. However, dyslexics’ difficulties often discourage them to pick up a book in the first place. Thankfully, independent reading is not the only way to expose your child to new vocabulary, ideas and continue to strengthen their literacy skills.

Reading aloud/recorded books:

Listening to books allow children to take in new content and vocabulary without getting frustrated by the speed at which they read. This method also allows children to form a positive relationship with literature, instead of only seeing it as a hurdle needed to be overcome or a source of embarrassment they will learn the entertainment and story connected with reading.

Including children in adult conversations:

Because dyslexics have trouble with written language, they often develop exceptional listening skills. By including them in sophisticated conversations, you can improve on those skills even further. Asking their opinion on the topics you might be discussing will also improve their critical thinking skills.

young studiing boy isolated on white backgroungRadio/podcasts:

According to the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, dyslexics love being experts on content. Listening to radio shows or podcasts will provide them with a wide variety of knowledge in the topics of their choice, which will help their confidence in the classroom.

Drawing/acting out words:

Visualizing new words will help your child associate a meaning with a fresh vocabulary word. Memorizing the spelling of words does not do that, a child can “fake” that they know the word but they can’t “fake” a picture. Connecting a picture next to the definition is helpful because the word will now be in two different parts of the memory bank.

Though these methods will help your child in their academic journey, there is no substitute for reading. Many children need to be taught to read using a different method. For more information on professional reading intervention click here.