Brain Research, Reading and Dyslexia
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By Diana Moore, M.L.S.
Citing the National Research Council book, Dr. Shaywitz outlined the following key steps in reading development (which are usually achieved in grades K-3):
- Print awareness
- Recognize letter shapes and names
- Know spoken words come apart into small sounds
- Know sounds are represented by letters
- Blend sounds together
- Process larger letters and units
- Develop automaticity, fluency
- Develop comprehension strategies.
Known risk factors for preschoolers include:
- Late talking
- Difficulty learning and recognizing rhyme
- Pronunciation problems
- Difficulty finding the right word in speech
- Difficulty learning letters
Dr. Shaywitz discussed ways in which phonemic awareness could be developed and measured and suggested important components of kindergarten screening. She stressed the importance of direct, explicit instruction that is systematic, sequential, and supportive.
Finally, she addressed the importance of adopting a lifespan approach to learning and disability management. While young children may benefit from intervention, young adults learn best with accommodations (such as extra time). Accommodations allow youth and adults to access their "sea of strengths." While LD adults do not have decoding skills, they compensate by using reasoning, concept formation, comprehension, general knowledge, critical thinking, vocabulary, and problem solving skills.
Dr. Shaywitz went on to propose a "bill of rights" for learning disabled college students , which included:
- Not requiring new diagnoses for the previously identified disabled student
- Recognizing prevalence and not limiting numbers of disabled
- Protecting privacy
Finally, Dr. Shaywitz discussed various pitfalls of standardized testing and supported the idea of extra time for LD students taking standardized tests. She cites the recent Boston University case which questioned the fairness of accommodations for learning disabled students. "Accommodations, by themselves, do not promote success; accommodations only act as a catalyst that allows success."