Learning Problems…Dyslexia and Learning Disabled
Someone you know or love has been labeled “Dyslexia”, “Dysgraphia”, "learning disabled" and other learning problems. What does this mean? What are you to do now? The first and most important thing you can do is try to find out and understand exactly what does this label mean. It absolutely does not mean that someone has a disease. It does not have anything to do with how intelligent a person is. And it does not mean you have to accept it and live a life learning how to 'cope' with this problem. You need to try and find out what exactly the underlying inefficiencies are and then start eliminating them.
Eliminate it?? Yes, ALL learning problems can be eliminated. But in order to do that you must identify the causes, and create a plan of attack to address each of them. The reason that more learning disabilities are not eliminated has to do with how they are perceived.
Often they are viewed as static-meaning they do not have the ability to change- they are what they are and nothing you can do will impact them. This is an incorrect view.
Other times, professionals become microscopic in their assessment of learning problems, meaning that each professional sees only within a very small, narrow scope the width of their profession and expertise. If 15 clients with reading problems came to be assessed, it is likely that such a professional would find somewhere between one to three reasons why the person was having a problem. And the worst part is that after you have paid for an assessment, often the professional identifies a problem or two and sends you on your way without the most important piece of information that you need. THE SOLUTION!
Before we discuss the solution let’s learn more about why you and/or your child is struggling so much. IT’S NOT YOUR/THEIR FAULT!!
After identifying the major underlying problems it is then necessary to develop an individualized plan for addressing each area of inefficiency. Identifying and addressing each inefficiency is the key to eliminating the learning problems.
What does ‘Dyslexia’ and ‘Learning Disability’ mean?
According to the International Dsylexia Association: Dyslexia is a neurologically-based, often familial, disorder which interferes with the acquisition and processing of language. Varying in degrees of severity, it is manifested by difficulties in receptive and expressive language, including phonological processing, in reading, writing, spelling, handwriting, and sometimes in arithmetic.
Dyslexia is not the result of lack of motivation, sensory impairment, inadequate instructional or environmental opportunities, or other limiting conditions, but may occur together with these conditions.
Although dyslexia is lifelong, individuals with dyslexia frequently respond successfully to timely and appropriate intervention.
Also the definition of “learning disabilities” is: “Learning Disability” is not a specific term; it is a category containing many specific disabilities, all of which cause learning to be difficult. The following definition of “learning disability” is used for legislative, financial, and educational purposes only. It is not a definition of dyslexia, which is one specific learning disability.
The term “learning disability” means a disorder in one or more of the basic processes involved in understanding spoken or written language. It may show up as a problem in listening, thinking, speaking, reading, writing, or spelling or in a person's ability to do math, despite at least average intelligence.
The term does not include children who have learning problems which are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or physical handicaps, or mental retardation, or emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the International Dyslexia Association in-depth research shows:
- No two people with dyslexia are exactly alike because dyslexia ranges from mild to moderate to severe to profound. Some people with dyslexia also have ADD/ADHD.
- Dyslexia affects at least 1 out of every 5 (20%) children in the United States.
- Dyslexia represents the most common and prevalent of all known learning disabilities and affects as many boys as girls.
- Dyslexia is the leading cause of reading failure and school dropouts in our nation.
- Reading failure is the most commonly shared characteristic of juvenile justice offenders.
- Dyslexia is primarily due to linguistic deficits. We now know dyslexia is due to a difficulty processing language. It is not due to visual problems, and people with dyslexia do not see words or letters backwards.
- Reading failure caused by dyslexia is highly preventable through direct, explicit instruction in phonemic awareness.
- Children do not outgrow reading failure or dyslexia. Of children who display reading problems in the first grade, 74% will be poor readers in the ninth grade and into adulthood unless they receive informed and explicit instruction on phonemic awareness. Children do not mature out of their reading difficulties.
- Research evidence does not support the use of “whole language” reading approaches to teach dyslexic children.
- Dyslexia and ADD/ADHD are two separate and identifiable entities.
- Dyslexia and ADD/ADHD so frequently coexist within the same child that it is always best to test for both.
- Children with both dyslexia and ADD/ADHD are at dramatically increased risk for substance abuse and felony convictions if they do not receive appropriate interventions.
- The current “discrepancy model” testing utilized by our nation's public schools to establish eligibility for special education services is not a valid diagnostic marker for dyslexia.
* People with dyslexia use 5 times the energy to function (speak, read, write, spell, and more) and the right side of their brain is larger than non-dyslexic people.That may be one reason people with dyslexia often have significant strengths in areas controlled by the right side of the brain,
- People with dyslexia do not make random reading errors. They make very specific types of errors and become visibly tired after reading for only a short time.
- In addition to unique brain architecture, people with dyslexia have unusual “wiring.” Neurons are found in unusual places in the brain, and they are not as neatly ordered as in non-dyslexic brains. In addition to unique brain architecture and unusual wiring, f/MRI studies have shown that people with dyslexia do not use the same part of their brain when reading as other people. Regular readers consistently use the same part of their brain when they read. People with dyslexia do not use that part of their brain, and there appears to be no consistent part used among dyslexic readers.
- The brain has ‘rewired’ itself long before entering school and beginning to read. It is therefore assumed that people with dyslexia are not using the most efficient part of their brain when they read. A different part of their brain has taken over that function.
- Dyslexia exists in every country, even countries in which the written language is not phonetic.
According to the information processing theory, there are two components necessary for learning. One is the brains ability to Receive, Process, Store and Utilize information taken in by the sensory system. The second is the frequency, intensity and duration of the input. Depending on how efficiently the sensory system received, processed, stored is a direct reflection on how efficiently the brain can utilize that information. If there are any problems with the information coming in to our brain, it will stop or decrease our ability to learn.
Our brains learn from Frequency, Intensity and Duration. Frequency is providing many, many exposures or ‘input’ to concepts. Most curricula give a few exposures or ‘inputs’ to information rather than many, many. Input IS NOT testing. Once you ask the question…can you, show me, how, when, where, why, pick the correct one, you are testing the child for information. When a child learns anything new they gladly tell you, repeatedly! Intensity is the magnitude of force or energy per saturation of the input. It’s the how big, bright, fast or exciting of the input. Duration is the length of time of the input. Research shows the brain is only able to hold its attention/focus for 20-30 minutes; so our lessons are short and repeated throughout the day.
The SMART/neurodevelopment theory aims to mature sensory pathways of vision auditory and tactile/kinesthetic and we ‘measure’ the maturation through the motor pathways of fine and gross motor and language skills. It works like this; you receive stimulus or input through the sensory pathways. The brain processes the information and then you have motor responses or output through the motor pathways.
Due to readiness skills deficits, the input into some children is not clear and/or consistent and there appear to be ‘gaps’ in learning. Therefore, the output is the same and the same ‘gaps’ appear. These children cannot perform at their natural intelligence, even though they are trying as hard as they can.
Now, here is where we take education to a cellular level. A brain cell is called a neuron and we all have 10 billion+ neurons. Neurons are unique in that they communicate with each other. Neurons are messengers. Each neuron has an axon that transmits an electrical/chemical charge. The electrical charge, once it has developed sufficient potency, jumps the synaptic cleft/gap by way of chemicals called neurotransmitters. Then the electrical charge is received by the dendrites of a second neuron. Our hope as educators is to help the messages to travel quickly and efficiently. We want to accelerate both the speed and efficiency of the neurons messages!
That happens in two ways, first by increasing the paths by which the message can travel and second by increasing the speed at which the message travels. Novel stimulation causes the neurons to grow branches called dendrites and connect to other cells. Each dendrite can connect between 2 and 200,000 other dendrites. Now that's a lot of options for the brain to take when sending a message!
Myelin is a fatty layer tissue that sheathes the axon of each neuron. This sheath around the axon acts like a conduit in an electrical system, ensuring that messages sent by axons move quickly and are not lost in route. Picture a regular extension cord versus the thick, heavy-duty orange extension cord. The thicker the insulation on the cord, the higher the rating and capability it has. The thicker the myelin on the axon, the faster the message can be transmitted. Many layers allow for efficient conduction of the electrical impulse down the axon. The more positive stimulation the brain receives; the more myelin is produced.
To explain readiness, it is important to understand the functions of two areas of the brain. The first is the lowest level of the brain known as the Brain Stem. The Brain Stem consists of the Pons, Medulla, Mid-Brain and Cerebellum, which controls the coordination of all unconscious motor activity. It is the area in charge of automatic function and is the foundation for readiness skills. Examples are:
* the eyes moving smoothly together across a page
* A sense of balance that allows a child to sit upright in a chair
* Ability to differentiate between similar sounds
It is crucial that these skills are automatic or unconscious when we are learning. If they are not automatic, then the Cortex must think about each step needed to complete a 'request''. Like walking; if the person hasn't established a cross-pattern, automatic, walk then the brain must think about each muscle and movement to simply walk. You ever hear the phrase "Can't walk and chew gum?" the person really can't!
This is important, because if the skills are done consciously, then the Cortex can be involved. The Cortex can only do one thing at a time. If the Brain Stem is doing its work automatically, then the Cortex can concentrate to make the eyes move smoothly across a page of print and the student may appear to read. But, the ROLE of the Cortex in reading is to do the comprehension. If the Cortex is involved or 'taken up' with the eye movements, then it is no longer available for the comprehension because it can only do one job. The result or results are things educators see every day when teaching children. Children who:
* Only seem to be able to follow one step in a list of directions
* Seem to have learned a skill in isolation, but cannot transfer it
* Can read a text but cannot remember what they just read
With the S.M.A.R.T. program we aim to have the foundation skills in place, so the BRAIN STEM can do its automatic function and the CORTEX is free to do its job!
Finally, we come to training. In the S.M.A.R.T. program children do many activities which TRAIN or encourage the brain to use both hemispheres at the same time. Despite the split, the two hemispheres of the brain communicate with each other through a thick tract of white nerve fibers call the Corpus Callosum. It connects the two hemispheres and transfers important information from one side to the other.
We want to train the two hemispheres to communicate because using both sides of the brain is very important when learning how to read and when expressing feelings and thoughts...
* Right hemisphere controls feelings and thoughts
* Left hemisphere controls language
* We use both sides when we talk about how we feel
Training is also using all of these principles together; Stimulation, Maturity, Acceleration and Readiness to Train the brain. We do this through a series of specific activities, which integrate into existing curriculum, to make the brains and bodies of your children ready so they can learn!
Each of the above areas is extremely important to the ability to learn easily. I often find that it is the combination of inefficiencies that make each person’s learning problems unique, and this is the reason ‘packaged programs’ don’t work well for the majority of people.
Students at Can Learn Christian Academy participate daily in the S.M.A.R.T. program addressing the areas underlying inefficiency as well as the Hemisphere Specific Auditory Stimulation (HSAS) auditory processing program.
Language Arts curriculum
The Orton Gillingham method uses multisensory teaching to teach reading to kids with dyslexia. Multisensory instruction is a specific way of teaching children with learning disabilities, and particularly for overcoming dyslexia.
The Orton Gillingham method was created through the joint efforts of Samuel T. Orton (Neurologist in the early 1900’s) and Anna Gillingham (educator & physiologist). Specifically, Orton-Gillingham reading programs incorporate specific, sequential, direct, multisensory instruction.
The multi-sensory, Orton Gillingham method of teaching may include tracing letters with their finger in sand as they say the sound (not the letter), or tracing the letter on the carpet with their bare feet as they say the sound, making the letters out of clay, or pipe cleaners, or using any other medium that allows them to hear, see, feel, and move while learning their sound/letter combinations.
These methods also eliminate struggles in math, problem solving and logic.
The real tragedy is many individuals are attempting to cope with unidentified neurological dysfunction that does not need to exist.
Toni Hager Can Learn Christian Academy ©2015 509-362-3418 www.canlearnacademy.org firstname.lastname@example.org
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