Dyslexia refers to profound difficulty with learning to read despite instruction, normal intelligence and good sensory functioning.
Learning to read our language is usually best done through a phonetic approach (sounds for the symbols of letters). However, there are several roadblocks to being able to do it in this way. One is an inability to learn all the various sound combinations for the symbols. Another involves not being able to successfully blend the sounds together to recognize a word. A third difficulty is in accurately perceiving the spatial, critical features that identify letters.
There are several different types of dyslexia. A diagnosis of which type is made by analyzing miscue (error) patterns in combination with neuropsychological test findings.
There are effective ways to get around the roadblocks that dyslexia creates. It is a matter of matching instruction to how the person learns best. Additionally, there are numerous technological tools available to assist dyslexics with text to speech capabilities.
Dysgraphia refers to difficulty with the mechanics of writing. It is a form of dyspraxia (motor clumsiness).
Some symptoms associated with it include:
- Trouble getting good ideas down on paper
- Poor writing and drawing
- Messy eater
- Poor at physical activities
Many effective accommodations are available for this disorder, including voice activated word processing programs that essentially eliminate the mechanical side of writing.
Visit Learning Disabilities Association of America at www.ldanatl.org/ for more information.
Dyscalculia refers to profound difficulties in learning concepts in math, despite instruction, good intelligence and sound sensory functioning.
These difficulties may not be apparent early in a child’s development, but become noticeable by the time math processes become more complex, around fifth or sixth grade.
Dyscalculia can have a major impact in many aspects of an adult’s life, including managing money, following directions without a map, pairing faces with names, time telling on an analog clock, among many others. It results from difficulties with complex, spatial reasoning and/or language processing.
There are effective ways to learn how to get around this disorder, using technological tools and self-produced, color-coded models for how to solve computation problems.
Visit the Learning Disabilities Association of America at www.ldanatl.org/ for more information.
Cognitive output disorders involve difficulties with effectively connecting what you know with how you are able to demonstrate that knowledge.
Oftentimes it involves trouble getting on paper what you know. Do you have thoughts that are much better expressed in verbal form rather than written, whether it’s a note to the boss or an assignment from a teacher?
Generally, it involves difficulty with smoothly and quickly integrating or coordinating what you know with how you are able to express (output) it. Output mechanisms include both speech and writing.
Recent technological advances have created effective ways to overcome this problem.
A language processing difficulty involves not being able to understand ongoing speech. Someone may know what each word means, but is unable to follow the overall meaning. Oftentimes, children struggle with school learning because of language processing problems. This can affect both receptive and expressive abilities. They often have trouble with the following:
- Difficulty understanding language
- Reluctance to engage in conversation
- Report not hearing you say something
- Often ask to have information repeated
Another type of language processing disorder affects primarily input or comprehension of language called Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD). While the ears work fine for bringing what is heard into the brain (hearing), the brain has trouble processing (listening). Problems in this area lead to difficulty when there is any background noise, difficulty differentiating between similar sounds (ring/wing; t/ch), listening over time and drawing inferences from conversations or understanding jokes. Because these same symptoms can also look like a lack of attention, individual evaluation by a trained professional is needed to determine the difference.
For more information about CAPD see www.kidshealth.org and www.familyeducation.com. In addition to the usual speech/language therapy, we have found much success with the Fast ForWord language training program. Fast ForWord is an intensive language and reading intervention program developed by Scientific Learning Corporation that rapidly develops language skills, both receptively and expressively. Students at computers listen through headphones and use the computer mouse as they interact with the Fast ForWord Language exercises. With each click of the mouse, Fast ForWord Language adapts to the individual student’s progress, providing efficient, targeted training. On average, students who work on Fast ForWord software with a trained provider for 50 minutes a day, five days a week make language gains of 1-2 years in just 4-10 weeks. For more information, visit (www.scilearn.com).
Children who experience difficulties early in their lives often have problems as they continue to grow and mature.
Pervasive Developmental Delays
When a child has difficulties in a wide range of both motor and cognitive behaviors special care must be given to designing an environment that allows for them to meet their potential. Many developmental delays are caused by auto-immune or allergic reactions. These delays are typically in social interaction skills, communication and language skills. Oftentimes, there are stereotyped behaviors, interests or activities. There may be difficulty in nonverbal behaviors such as maintaining eye contact, facial expressions, body postures or gestures. They may have trouble forming and keeping friendships. These differences in development can range from various levels of autism (www.autism.org) to Asperger’s Syndrome (www.faaas.org).
Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism are more severe forms of developmental delay. In addition to the difficulties noted in pervasive developmental delay these children lack imaginative play, are often mesmerized by a solitary interest, and insist on following routines beyond reason. Stereotypical body movements become more pronounced and constant. The differentiating factor is that in Asperger’s there is no early delay or loss of language skills.
Treatment for these types of children focuses on management of symptoms with the aim of being able to fit into society. For additional information regarding these special children, try the National Institute on Developmental Delays at (www.nidd.org).
Pre and Post Evaluations for Treatments
It is useful to include assessments of brain functioning prior to initiating chemotherapy, radiation or surgery for the brain. As a former team member of the Brain Tumor Clinic at Deaconness Hospital we serve children and their families involved in treatment for tumors of the brain. Frequently, a pretest of cognitive functioning prior to neurosurgery or radiation is useful for comparison purposes after treatment and healing have occurred.
Counseling for Brain Trauma
Learning to cope with brain disease is a difficult task. Our caring staff at Neuroeducation can help families move through this confusing and frustrating time by offering guidance about what to expect, and how to help the patient and themselves.
Children and adults with Nonverbal Learning Disorders typically have above average to superior abilities with language, with clear deficits in spatial processing and reasoning. They often are detail experts, but miss the big picture. Because social cues are primarily spatially based (facial expressions, gestures perceived spatially, etc.) they are often at a loss in the social realm. Because of their difficulties they have trouble generalizing information they have learned to new situations. Typically, their rote verbal memory is stellar.
Academically, they can be terrific readers, but tend to be better with literal comprehension rather than interpretive. They suffer with math and spelling, both of which depend heavily on spatial reasoning.
Physically they can tend to be somewhat awkward, lacking coordination to ride a bike, catch or kick a ball, or skip when other youngsters have already mastered these. Their handwriting skills may be poor.
Emotionally they struggle to adjust to new situations or changes in routine. They can appear to be quite naive, lacking common sense. As they grow older, anxiety or depression tend to become more common as their self-esteem erodes in the face of their difficulties.