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Ability to Catch Dyslexia Early May Stem Its Effects by Elizabeth Norton Lasley

Article Review

The article by Elizabeth Norton Lasley, Ability to Catch Dyslexia Early May Stem Its Effects, discusses the importance of identifying children who are dyslexic as early as possible, ideally during preschool or kindergarten. It is felt that targeting the problem at such an early point would permit interventions that would increase the chances that the child's reading ability could be maximized. Research during the last 15 years or so has demonstrated that rather than dyslexia emanating from a problem with visualization, it is actually a perceptual difficulty that involves the sounds that make up each word. In addition, the article emphasized the importance of early identification because at a young age, if the child is reading poorly, the chances are greater that later on, he or she will continue to read poorly so that the farther along he goes in school, and the more reliant on books his education becomes, the greater the chances that he will perform at a substandard pace.

Research has found that children who receive assistance to help them with their dyslexia benefit from assistance when it was offered as early as possible, ideally before the third grade. Dyslexia was found to be a chronic condition, rather than a temporary lag in ability, that, without help, did not improve. Additionally, brain imaging reveals that dyslexia occurs because a distinct area of the brain, called the "word-form" area, is not activated in the way it is for other children who are able to develop more skills in reading.

It is felt that, according to the article, early intervention can lessen, or at least postpone some of the difficulties that a child with dyslexia will experience. Studies that have utilized EEG measurements of brain activity have indicated that brain changes occur in response to language. It was felt that measuring this type of brain activity may help to identify reading problems more accurately than behavioral observations. The scientists who studied these issues felt that it could be very helpful to test preschool or kindergarten children to screen for early signs of reading problems. In addition, parents were felt to be excellent observers of their children’s ability or inability to begin speaking, which is an early predictor of reading ability. Finally, the author discusses the importance of well-trained teachers’ ability to identify children who are at risk of having reading problems, and their ability to work with them intensively regarding phonetics in order to enhance their reading potential.

This article was very significant regarding the field of neuropsychology, because of its examination of areas of the brain and their impact on the processing that result in language and, secondarily, reading skills. The studies that photographed brain images look closely at the three key areas of the brain, and how each area impacts the "pulling apart" of words, as well as the region of the brain that reacts to, rather than analyzes, the entire word as a pattern. Understanding exactly how the brain functions in relation to reading is a further tool to utilize in order to understand dyslexia and other learning disabilities.

This article was clearly very valuable for educators, especially those who have access to children either in preschool or kindergarten. Teachers are in the ideal position, along with parents, to be able to identify children who are at risk to develop reading problems early on and which will follow them throughout their lives if there is no intervention at an early enough point. Because of their ability to understand where children are developmentally, what is "normal" versus what reflects a lagging behind of age-appropriate performance in all sorts of skills beginning with language, teachers are in an advantageous place to initiate help for children who are at a crucial juncture regarding such skills. When an educator identifies a child that may be at risk of having dyslexia, learning disabilities, or any other obstacle that may interfere with his or her ability to take advantage of all possible tools in school, he or she can design a program for that student which will address the areas of deficiency, and either work intensively with that student or connect him or her with the necessary services that will improve that student’s chances of thriving academically.

There are several areas of research that can be conducted to supplement the research reported in this article. For example, it would be useful to study parents who would be trained to work with their very young, preschool children on language, phonetics, rhymes, and compare their children's performances in reading with those of children who, for one reason or another, did not have parents who were able to work with them in those ways. It would also be interesting to continue to do brain imaging on children as they learn reading and other skills in the higher grades beyond the third grade, to measure whether brain changes occur when different subject areas are introduced, as well as other skills like handwriting , or mathematics and spelling which require memorization,. The implication from this study is that when different skills are utilized, different areas of the brain may be stimulated, and vice versa. These thoughts are strictly those of a layperson, rather than a neuropsychologist, but hopefully they are coherent.