Until the third year, children learn to read; after that, they read to learn. But if children don’t learn to read properly, they struggle to acquire the information they need to progress. One of the main causes of a troubled reader is dyslexia. In Arizona, where 1 in 5 people have dyslexia, that would be about 325,000 students.
“Dyslexia really affects how the brain processes written materials,” explained Maggie Velazquez, dyslexia and literacy specialist for the Arizona Department of Education, “making it much more difficult to recognition, spelling and decoding of words Dyslexia is a learning disability of neurological origin and results from a deficit in the phonological component of language.
“Dyslexia can be unrelated to other cognitive abilities,” Velazquez added, “so if you have dyslexia, it doesn’t mean you have low cognition, medium cognition, or high cognition. You can be gifted. and being dyslexic. It could affect anyone.
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Albert Einstein suffered from dyslexia, as did Alexander Graham Bell, Agatha Christie and Kobe Bryant. Princess Beatrice Elizabeth Mary of York (niece of King Charles III), diagnosed with dyslexia aged 7, described the dyslexic brain as “magical” and processing things differently.
Although the brain has a region considered integral to reading – the visual word form area (VWFA) located in the left lower occipitotemporal cortex – reading, like speaking, does not happen naturally; it can be learnt. A fully formed alphabet did not appear until the 8th century BCE, and the first printing press was not built until the 15th century. Reading is therefore a relatively recent activity.
The VWFA, which acts as a general processing center, appears to be linked to other brain areas associated with language that together group the letters of words into visual units so that we don’t have to scan each letter individually. Science tends to link an underactive VWFA to dyslexia.
Young people with dyslexia may struggle with simple nursery rhymes or rhyming skills. As they get older, these multisyllabic words will trip them up. They will have difficulty remembering what they have read. Dyslexics have difficulty decoding words, which means they read less. This, in turn, stifles vocabulary growth and basic knowledge.
“The University of Washington found that people with dyslexia used nearly five times the brain area of non-dyslexics,” Velazquez said. “So it’s very difficult for them to do simple literacy tasks. I think it’s heartbreaking because often people with dyslexia, before you realize they have the disorder, are seen as lazy or expected to try harder. But they are already trying harder than their peers.
“The biggest travesty with people with dyslexia is that people find it so hard to read that they may not find the love of reading and all the learning that comes with reading,” added Velazquez. “It’s heartbreaking.”
When it comes to dyslexia, the whole family suffers. Not only do parents have to work harder with their child to keep them on par, but they can also suffer from dyslexia.
“We know dyslexia runs in families,” Velazquez said. “So families may find it difficult to help because they also have dyslexia.”
But not everyone sees dyslexia as a disability. Some, like the princess, think it’s a gift.
Cinda Osterman, M.Ed., Educational Consultant/Davis Corrections Facilitator and Owner of Training Gifted Minds in Flagstaff, began her career working with dyslexics while doing fieldwork for her Masters of Education at Northern Arizona University.
“My undergraduate and NAU degree was in education with a focus on reading and math strategies,” Osterman said. “I participated in a special program that we worked in Flagstaff school systems implementing reading strategies.”
Osterman praised the methods used by her and program director Dr. Sandra Stone, but she noticed that some children were not gaining ground in their reading and discussed with Stone the possibility of seeking training in the different methods. dyslexia. After looking at the Orton-Gillingham approach, the Barton system, and other methods, Osterman settled with the Davis Dyslexia Correction program.
“I chose Davis because he addressed the issue of dyslexia – disorientation,” Osterman explained. “Also, it was treated as a gift, not a learning problem.”
The gift, explains the Davis method, comes from thinking in pictures. Left-brain oriented people think mainly in words and right-brain oriented people in pictures. Since the right brain excels at creativity and can see 3D figures from different angles, the problems start when words become 3D and begin to twist and turn. The Davis Method teaches children to control disorientation.
Regardless of the brain differences underlying dyslexia and how it is treated, early detection and treatment is always best. Screening can help identify children as early as preschool. Generally, all schools in Arizona are required to assess reading skills three times a year. Starting this year, the State of Arizona has allocated more than $1.8 million to Arizona schools to add dyslexia screening.
“With Arizona legislation,” Velazquez said, “all students in kindergarten through first grade will be screened for characteristics consistent with dyslexia. It’s important to know that the screening tool is not intended to diagnose.The filter is only for the purpose of trying to catch children earlier and not waiting until they are in third or fourth grade.
Both Osterman and Velazquez have witnessed the power of successful dyslexic intervention. Osterman, whose oldest client was 81, has seen reading levels rise and goals come true.
“With the strategies I learned in my education classes,” Osterman said, “I was able to get one to four level increases in reading throughout the year. However, with Davis, I could achieve increases of two to nine grades in reading by the end of the week.
Velazquez, who taught kindergarten through second grade, saw the power of early intervention with effective teaching.
“I want everyone to know there is hope,” Velazquez said. “And I hope anyone who struggles with reading receives the right intervention to become successful readers.”