Dyslexia Awareness and Empowerment

How do we feel empowered?...How do we make others feel empowered?

  1. From greater understanding of ourselves – our strengths and our weaknesses

  2. Having the knowledge to make informed decisions for ourselves

  3. The feeling that others believe in us

Let’s start with number 3…

 
Photo by Brunel Johnson on Unsplash
 

The feeling that others believe in us.

A smart cookie created a code that simulates what it might be like to experience dyslexia. If a loved one you are trying to support has dyslexia, and you are trying your best to understand how hard this must be, just take a look at this page:

http://geon.github.io/programming/2016/03/03/dsxyliea

How much could you read? How long did you persist trying to work out the meaning of what you could see? The creator of the page you have just seen had a friend who had dyslexia and wondered if it was possible to experience the characteristic ‘letters jumping around’ and high level of concentration needed to make sense of the words on the page. The page illustrates well just how challenging, frustrating and stressful living with dyslexia might be.

Now that we have a slightly better understanding of the experience for someone with dyslexia, let’s jump back to number 1.

 
 

Having greater understanding of ourselves – our strengths and our weaknesses.

If you are reading this blog and have dyslexia you are not alone, dyslexia is a very common problem and affects 5-10% of the population (Heth and Lavidor, 2015). Dyslexia is one of the most common learning disabilities (Peterson and Pennington 2015), and according to NIH research, of those who are placed in special education for a learning disability, around 80% of those have dyslexia (Shaywitz 2003). It is a neuro-psychological condition that is defined as “an individual with normal education, motivation and intelligence having challenges with learning to read” (Heth and Lavidor, 2015).

Having challenges with learning to read includes difficulty with:

  • phonological awareness – the ability to focus on and manipulate all of the sounds in spoken words

  • phonological decoding - the ability to grasp the meaning of words you don’t know by translating groups of letters back into the sounds that they make, then making links from these to what you do know in order to find meaning.

  • processing speed – basically time it takes a person to complete a cognitive task

  • orthographic coding – the ability to understand the conventional spelling system for a language ie. The letters, symbols, and digits

  • auditory short-term memory - it involves the skills of attending, listening, processing, storing, and recalling input from what you hear

  • language skills/verbal comprehension – the ability to use you vocabulary to express yourself in a meaningful way and apply these skills to information other present to you verbally

  • rapid naming – the ability to name things out loud (Horton, 2016)

There are three proposed cognitive subtypes of dyslexia: auditory; visual; and attentional. Individual cases of dyslexia are better explained by specific underlying neuropsychological deficits and co-occurring learning disabilities (Horton, 2016).

So, now that we understand a little of the complexity that happens with dyslexia, let us finally take a look at number 2:

 
Photo by Mike Enerio on Unsplash

Photo by Mike Enerio on Unsplash

 

Having the knowledge to make informed decisions for ourselves

As dyslexia is a neuro-psychological disorder, exploring brain-based treatment options is definitely an option. There is evidence to suggest that both Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) and Neurofeedback treatments may improve abilities in people with dyslexia.

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation

There is evidence that non-invasive brain stimulation works on improving reading by facilitating the neural pathways underactive in children, adolescents and adults with dyslexia (Costanzo, et. al., 2016). A tDCS study by Heth and Lavidor (2015) details improved reading speed and fluency in adults; and Turkeltaub and Team (2015) found that targeted tDCS improved reading efficiency in adults with below average reading skill.

Neurofeedback

In a study conducted by Walker and Norman (2006) they found that each of the school aged children treated with 30-35 neurofeedback sessions improved by at least two grade levels, with improvements assessed in the areas of reading speed and comprehension. A more recent and larger study in the USA demonstrated that neurofeedback treatment lead to an average enhancement of 1.2 grade levels in reading scores (Coben, etal., 2015).

Both Neurofeedback and tDCS treatment options for dyslexia are available at The Perth Brain Centre. Should you wish to find out more information about these and other services that may help you or a loved one with dyslexia please call 6500 3277 or head to perthbraincentre.com.au/contact-us.  

About the author - Ms. Emily Goss (Occupational Therapist, Senior Clinician, The Perth Brain Centre).

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