PHONICS TALK: The Dorbooks Newsletter
Volume 28 ~ September 2007
by Dolores G. Hiskes


DISSECTING DYSLEXIA: Part One

The next two newsletters will focus on various aspects of dyslexia. The first two topics will be covered in this newsletter, the last two in the newsletter which follows:

WHAT IS DYSLEXIA?
Experts have found it difficult to come up with a definition that everyone agrees with, but here is the latest collaborative working definition from scientists from NICHD, National Center for Learning Disabilities, and the Orton Dyslexia Society Research Committee.

WHAT CAUSES DYSLEXIA?
There are many factors that can result in dyslexia or dyslexic-like symptoms, and we will touch on some of the most common roadblocks to learning that affect so many people and can result in *dyslexia*.

CAN DYSLEXIA BE CURED?
True dyslexia is rare, but most of what is called dyslexia today can easily be treated or overcome successfully with relatively simple but drastic steps. Even true dyslexia can be mitigated and overcome!

SUCCESS FOR ALL!
Teachers and parents share amazing and inspirational success stories about severely dyslexic students they have worked with, and how it has changed these students' lives.

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WHAT IS DYSLEXIA?
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Here is the latest *working definition* of dyslexia from the Orton Dyslexia Society Research Committee based on current research in the field, reflecting the need to alter the definition in light of continuing advances in research and clinical knowledge:

Dyslexia is one of several distinct learning disabilities. It is a specific language-based disorder of constitutional origin characterized by difficulties in single word decoding, usually reflecting insufficient phonological processing. These difficulties in single word decoding are often unexpected in relation to age and other cognitive and academic abilities; they are not the result of generalized developmental disability or sensory impairment. Dyslexia is manifest by variable difficulty with different forms of language, often including, in addition to problems with reading, a conspicuous problem with acquiring proficiency in writing and spelling. (April 1994)

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WHAT CAUSES DYSLEXIA?
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We are not born with the ability to automatically read from left
to right -- it is an acquired skill which is absolutely necessary to
learn in the earliest stages of reading. It paves the way to fluent
reading with ease, accuracy, and precision.

The focus in this section will be known factors that cause or affect
dyslexia, and which are easily correctable:

(1) EDUCATIONALLY-INDUCED WHOLE-WORD DYSLEXIA

Sometimes phonics is taught along with or after words are learned as
wholes. These reading programs rely a lot on picture clues, sentence
context, and word substitution. They have descriptions like *balanced
literacy* or *complete language arts* programs, and school districts
purchasing them think they are getting a true phonics program.

At the World Congress on Dyslexia Robert McCalfee wrote that
one of the best ways to decrease performance in beginning reading
is to present irrelevant information such as pictures and high-
frequency words, which distract the student from the decdoding
process they are trying to learn, establish, and make automatic.

At first whole-language methods can seem to work. The educator
Carl Bereiter commented as follows:

Most books on education do say what you think they will say.
The only time you will ever miss out is when the author says
something different from what you might expect. Children
start out with experience charts, where they already know
the story before they read it. From there they go to low
interest, low vocabulary readers (with pictures) which were
crafted so as to contain nothing that would upset their
expectations . . . the result is pervasive loss of meaning,
a literary entropy, and a collapse of literate culture.

If we are limited to reading only words we know and guessing at new
words through context clues, we are confined within the boundaries
of our current vocabularies and thoughts, interpreting things only
from our own shallow perspectives.

Reading is not an on or off thing, but rather a gradient. For example,
according to reading specialist Don Potter the original Open Court
was a Code 10, but the revised one is more like Code 6. He wrote:

The difference is significant, and will show up as between
mild or severe whole-word dyslexia. Authors of current
phonics programs say they teach phonics much better than
the Code 1 whole-language programs. That is true but
deceptive: the Code 6 program is relatively weak compared
to a Code 10 program like Phonics Pathways.

One critic called these programs *Whole-Language Wolves in Sheep's
Clothing,* and the esteemed educator Louisa Moats has written a
definitive report on this called *Whole-Language High Jinks* which
can be found at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute www.edexcellence.net.

(2) ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS

Pollutants, chemicals, and even food can contribute to dyslexia
and hyperactivity in sensitive individuals, such as the greatly increased
amount of hyperactivity and discord in our local elementary school
whenever the rose garden next to it was sprayed with insecticide.

Perhaps less well known is the influence of music and noise upon
human behavior. Some University of California researchers did a
fascinating study about this a few years ago. They exposed school
children of various ages to a variety of music types for half an hour
a day for ten months, and this is what they found:

• Classical Music: Increased clarity and vigor, decreased hostility and hyperactivity.
• New Age Music: Increased hostility and tension, decreased energy level.
• Grunge Rock: Decreased relaxation and clarity, increased hostility and hyperactivity.

They did note in more complex experiments that as long as
children were exposed to classical music as well as other kinds, the
results were not too different from those exposed to classical
music alone.

Then they exposed mice ten hours a day for six weeks to the same
kind of music, and then put them through a maze. They all ran the
maze in approximately ten minutes.

Then they divided them into three groups and repeated the experiment:

• Mozart: After three weeks of being exposed to Mozart the mice ran the maze in 106 seconds.
• Hard Rock: They were fastest to begin with, but by the third week they actually took more time to finish the maze than they did at the beginning.
• Heavy Metal: Initially they began killing each other, and had to be put in separate cages to finish the experiment. By the third week they ran the maze in five minutes.

They found music affects hormonal balance, such as the adrenaline
surge most of us feel when listening to *Jaws* music, and our bodies
will react accordingly.

These researchers pointed out there have been tremendous changes
to the noise we are exposed to in the last 100 years. We used to be
only producers of music which was the only way we could hear it.

We are now consumers of music without having control over much
of it unless we make a real effort to do so, to counteract some of
the negative effects of much of the stuff we hear.

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Whew -- as you can see, I've accumulated considerable information
about dyslexia! I'm sharing what I feel is most relevant and correctable.
Part Two with *Can Dyslexia Be Cured?* and *Success For All!* will
follow very shortly.

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Questions:

Why do *fat chance* and *slim chance* mean the same thing?
Why are a *wise man* and a *wise guy* opposites?

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Thought for the Day:

Aspire to inspire before you expire!!!

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That's it for now. We'll certainly be in touch very soon again! We do hope you enjoyed this newsletter, and will feel free to share it with other people who you think might be interested in reading it.

Dolores

copyright 2007 Dolores G. Hiskes

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