Tuesday, 21 January 2014

‘Why Dyslexia and not Visual Stress?’ by Dyslexia  © 2014

The strength of good literacy skills is built from firm foundations, early letter and sound association (phonics, phonemes)… we all remember our phonetic alphabet.  What is a phoneme?...  a phoneme is a basic unit of a language's phonology, which is combined with other phonemes to form a meaningful unit. We can change a word by simply changing the phoneme, like kill and kiss (ll), (ss).

DYSLEXIA  -  How can we tell if someone is Dyslexic?

They can have problems with constructing words, although they are generally ok with mono syllabic words.  They can also suffer with letter reversals (using the correct letters but in the wrong sequence) and logical reasoning (not being able to form pairs of letters into sounds like ‘ch’ or ‘ur’ as in ch-ur-ch or church). Short term memory is also a problem as they are not stimulated as they would be through the visual channel.

What causes Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is caused primarily by the part of our brain (brain is made up of several component parts) that decodes the written and sometimes the spoken word. Two strongly held beliefs about dyslexia are that children/adults with it are prone to seeing letters or words in a reversed format, and also that the problem is linked to intelligence. Both ideals are incorrect. The problem is actually a linguistic one, not a visual one, in dyslexia. And dyslexia in no way stems from any lack of intelligence. People with severe dyslexia can be brilliant… however due to being dyslexic we have a huge problem.

When someone writes something for us to copy or dictates words to copy, the information enters the left side of our brain via the audio or visual tract… most dyslexics would find great difficulty in processing information in this way due to poor or limited function of the left side of the brain (left lobe) that forms whole words and letter sounds.  There are three areas - the Broca’s  that works on articulation and word analyses… the Parietal/temporal that also helps to analyse words (includes sensory processing along with the cerebellum ) and the Occipital that helps to form our words. Dyslexics have an impaired Occipital and rely more on the Broca’s area when trying to structure whole words. This is not the last port of call, as we then search in our right side for a stored image of the given word.  This however shows a lack of reading fluency in the child or adult that has not had intervention. It is easy to see why so many children and adults with dyspraxia have problems with reading/spelling and they make up the greater proportion of dyslexics.

VISUAL STRESS  -  How can we tell if someone has Visual stress?  (we now have a great home test kit) @ http://dyslexiadublin.mygostore.co.uk/visual-stress-self-test-kit.html

Moving closer to or away from page.
Becoming fidgety whilst reading.
Using their finger to track words.
Missing out words and dropping down to another line (eye tracking) is also a possibility here.
Rubbing or rinsing eyes and neck, gulping (drawing in air) and yawning whilst reading and blinking excessively to re-focus.
Self-confidence and associated behaviour which can be hidden.

What causes Visual stress?

 It is a condition that will contribute unaided to reading and writing problems, eye strain and possibly headaches/migraine brought on by prolonged reading. It can affect and be more noticeable in those with light sensitivity, with the appearance of patterns in text and glare effect that can cause letter to appear bunched up and can lead to letter movement. There is a low tolerance to the amount of white light/glare compared to that of a person that doesn’t have visual stress.

The Wilkins Rate of Reading Test will help test for visual stress, it’s a simple test that does not check for dyslexia (cognitive ability) or IQ/intelligence, but that of fluency of reading, speed, etc.

How is this test conducted?  The test uses simple words, familiar to children/adults. The words appear in each line of a block of text but in a random order (we with old hill, etc.) as we are not assessing the child’s comprehension skills but purely the reading speed.

Dyslexia… Help is at hand

How can we help/intervene with dyslexia?  We can get teachers to use visual stimulus to help transfer information to the Occipital area of the brain, this will also strengthen the visual memory bank. The STEPS Programme used in our centre works on these key areas with a multi-sensory approach through structured reading exercises, sight vocabulary games, a word flash session and targeted reading practice( fluency). This can make huge improvements as it stimulates the brain with variety and is also very visual.

 Visual stress… Help is at hand

As visual stress is caused by intensity of light (white), we can reduce/defuse this by using filters. For the most part this can be extremely low cost, with the use of academic resources like a Reading Ruler or coloured Overlays and, in addition, the use of coloured Work Books.
You can if you wish get specialist lenses prescribed through an optician… however many will feel a little uncomfortable with, this especially older children. An inexpensive pack of filters can help with all academic study and can be supplied for under €12 or £10.

We can see from both visual stress and dyslexia that the two are not directly connected, although through pure averages, around 2-4% of dyslexics will also present with visual stress.

There are two more in depth articles written by us on both these areas, however I felt that many confuse the two so a short comparison was called for.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Reading Whole Words and Sentence Recognition (fluency of reading) by Dyslexia Toby © 2013

You may or may not have heard of a RAN test. This test checks how quickly an individual can name aloud various symbols, pictures and text.  With this we can recognise early problems with our phonological awareness and this may help in detecting factors that may hamper our reading fluency in later years.
It has long been thought that we cannot test for dyslexia until we have a reasonable word bank; usually around the age of seven years (third class), however by using the RAN (rapid automatized naming) we are able to get an early indication that an individual could possibly have dyslexia.  We can initially look for genetic links and then observe early patterns of behaviour… this would prompt many to consider having a RAN test as it would allow for the earliest point of intervention, when the brain is become highly receptive to learning.
Checkout our website at www.dublin-cetc.com
The test consists of naming an array of objects, colours, letters, or symbols as quickly as possible.  This can allow us to gain an understanding of potential positive or negative literacy problems at a later stage in our academic lives.
This is achieved through a later follow-up with the student and retesting them with particular word sounds.
This goes someway to explaining why some people can read to a much higher degree than their spelling ability would suggest.
We could also check possible attention span with this form of testing, as picture images tend to maintain attention for far longer than text will in dyslexic students… although they get the student to skim across several pictures in a frame, this requires the same rapid eye movement as with reading conventional text… we utilise a different area of the brain.  An interesting thought would be to do this in reverse for non-dyslexics to see if we get the reverse effect, as the linear left brained individual prefers to read text and not pictures, as these don’t offer the same type of stimuli.  The RAN technique uses categorization to place pictures and patterns to produce the verbal response and we will look at this later further in the article. 
Automaticity - what does this mean and how does it hamper our learning?
We require fluency in almost everything we do and literacy is no different.  It requires fairly complex skill sets, often taken for granted and we rely heavily on several areas to transpose information from both the visual and auditory tract.  We can benefit from natural automaticity (subconscious) skill, as this allows us to work to a much higher level in all we do and literacy is no exception… the more we know the more we can learn and the faster we can take information in.  If we are skilled at the art of reading, we find little disrupts us (noisy environments) and this allows us to perform multiple tasks at the same time, such as breaking down new words, making sense of what the whole thing means, extrapolating learnt material and referencing when needed… these operations are done automatically (without thinking) and are known as automaticity. Imagine how difficult it would be to drive a car or do many other things without automaticity… you wouldn’t move off your drive!
It’s so important that teachers take into account a student’s automaticity, as it is extremely relevant to literacy and positive learning outcomes.  We can also figure what the reverse of this would be like for those that lack automaticity, everything slows down and become fragmented and this leaves the student with limited chances in a test situation.  This can also be slowed because of a processing problem, but this doesn’t have to be the case as reasoning comes in to play too.
Reasoning Skill Sets -
We have four variants of reasoning and they are storage, retrieval, matching and execution.
The first two of these are used in decoding words and are the storage and retrieval skills, enabling the learner to transfer information to and from long-term memory… all of our academia is stored here!
Matching (categorization) speeds up the cognitive process and, in literacy terms, this refers to the recognition of word blends and chunks… in fact, when you make reference to anything stored in your memory that you already have a grasp of, you are categorizing.  This can also be incorporated into the way we extrapolate… this is a skill we use throughout our lives, but in terms of early learning and academic studies,  enables learners to match the pattern of information from one area to that found in another area.  We use this as an assistive strategy, by linking through the thought process and thus removing the need to start from beginning, when we as learners encounter new information. Instead we, the learners, take information that already exists from a different situation and adapt it to suit the new situation.
Execution and the use of the recalled information, in whole or part, is the last in the set of reasoning skills. These skill sets are the ultimate controller, insofar as they co-ordinate the other skill sets, in order to help the student to build new cognitive layers or reconstruct former ones. This is similar to that in big business… you don’t have to so much as reinvent the wheel, as to tweak that which already exists - restructure your business, restructure your thinking, is very much one and the same.
As mentioned in some of my earlier articles, it is so important to gain an early insight into literacy deficit disorder (dyslexia), we owe it to all the children.  It’s not their fault we fail to pick up the signals… we can only lay the blame at our own door.  I see so many students who are bright but struggling in literacy and numeracy… many think they are lethargic and lack interest in being taught and it’s far from reality.  They try ten times harder than most and just struggle to move forward. I have a particular student who is steadfast in attending school, never late, always well-mannered, turns up to every class and yet many of the teachers at the school fail to understand them.  If only they tried, their education would be so much easier and it would be easier for their teachers too.
We can see through the research that there are many facets in early word recognition and learning, and also idiosyncrasies, from the gentle introduction of the phonetic alphabet around 3-4 years old up to the addition, deletion and substitution of phonemes to build new whole words with a similar structure and elements of shared sound at age 6-7.  This later phase is the point where most with literacy deficit/dyslexia would fall away and it’s at this juncture intervention (support) needs to be deployed to help students keep up with their literate peers.
Early screening in schools in many countries appears to be an approach being looked at by many trying to accelerate early detection of LDD and Dyslexia.  However, this doesn’t seem to be unanimous, with some for and some against its implementation, as research suggests detection rates to be lower than that of those involved in detection and intervention at standard test age, which may be in part due to some children just being late developers.  This could also be down to many not wanting to comment on an area they are not trained in; we are just seeing moves in the UK to introduce a module on specific learning needs into teacher training and many countries are yet to follow with this. There are many existing teachers that would also need to be retrained in this area. The teacher is far better placed to get an overall picture of slow readers and those with spelling deficits, however if we increase early detection will the system cope with increased numbers of students requiring support?  This in itself will cause a log jam, as we have more competing for declining resources. One thing that would make sense is that initial screening, to filter those that are causing concern from those that just develop late or at a slower rate,  and then get teachers to sieve and pass on to professional assessors those that are at possible risk of a literacy deficit disorder.
All our articles are for guidance purposes only and professional advice should always be sought.
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