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Overcoming Dyslexia: A Chat With Dr. Sally Shaywitz

In 2003, hosted an online chat with Sally Shaywitz, M.D., where participants asked her questions about dyslexia and reading problems in children.

By Sally Shaywitz, M.D.

On October 14, 2003, hosted an online chat with Sally Shaywitz, M.D. Participants had the opportunity to ask this nationally-known expert questions about dyslexia and reading problems.

List of Questions Asked of Dr. Shaywitz:

  1. What do you recommend when parents have received doubtful, questionable, or borderline diagnoses of their children and want to know how they can be sure that their child does or does not have dyslexia?
  2. Are there any proven programs that have been shown to help the short-term memory problems can be part of dyslexia?
  3. How do we begin to make the changes in special education that are so desperately needed? It seems as though we just keep doing what does not work.
  4. Is there a place we can find out which programs have been approved by the National Reading Panel?
  5. Do you believe that dyslexics, like stroke patients, can be taught to re-route their brains to use the correct part for reading?
  6. Can all children with dyslexia learn to spell fairly well? How much should we teach them to rely on technology for spelling, such as spellcheck?
  7. Why is there reluctance among evaluators to think about kids as dyslexic?
  8. How does balanced literacy fit in with your recommendations for reading instruction in the first and second grade?
  9. Would you speak about the child who eventually does learn to read and who still doesn't understand?
  10. As a mom, what encouragement would you give to parents so they can continue the work of helping children learn and be successful in life?

The following is the complete transcript from this event.

Dr. Shaywitz: I'm really excited and looking forward to joining all of you this evening. It's really a pleasure to be here.

Moderator: We had a number of questions from parents who seem to have received doubtful, questionable, or borderline diagnoses of their children and want to know how they can be sure that their child does or does not have dyslexia. What do you recommend?

Dr. Shaywitz: That's a very good and very common question. The good news is that, because we have learned so much from science and understand dyslexia at a very basic level, we can now translate that science into the earlier and more accurate identification of children and adults who are dyslexic. That's why I wrote Overcoming Dyslexia and, in the book, on pages 122 through 127, I provide clues to help parents and teachers identify dyslexia earlier and more accurately. And I also provide a section called "Diagnosing Dyslexia" in the school age child, in the young at-risk child, and in bright young adults. From all that we have learned about dyslexia, we know how to ask the right questions about a child's development, language, and learning; what to observe as he or she reads out loud; and what the appropriate tests are. These are all discussed in Overcoming Dyslexia .

Moderator: Short-term memory problems can be part of dyslexia. Are there any proven programs that have been shown to help?

Dr. Shaywitz: Right, short-term memory problems are part of dyslexia because both of these problems reflect the basic problem of getting to the sound structure of spoken words. What is very exciting is that effective, science-based intervention programs for dyslexia have been demonstrated to improve short-term memory. In addition, saying the material out loud, associating it with a humorous or outlandish visual image, and trying to remember the material by viewing it right before going to bed and having a good nights' sleep can help retain the material to be remembered.

Comments from readers

"I desire that my community that were I live in the caribbean be come more opened minded about the issues of learning challenges. What can I do to bring true awareness without stepping on so many toes. "
"I am a retired teacher (33 years--majority in 2nd). I tutor children who are having reading and writing difficulties. Dr. Shaywitz's Overcoming Dyslexia has confirmed all my thoughts and observations about how children learn to read and why many have great difficulty. I have enjoyed this discussion and am using many of the excellent ideas presented in Dr. Shaywitz's book. Thank you so much for all your research and guidance. Sincerely, Elaine Newton"
"am man fourty four years of age i decied to go back to school i notice that when i read or study for a test my mine goes blank thats why its so hard for me start reading. is this a sign of dyslexia. thank you for any help. "
"At what point is it that a parent has to realize that the Science-Based program doesn't work for their child and where do they go from there? My daughter has been dx since 1st grade. She is a severe case. She is going into the 9th grade and she is only able to read and write at the 2nd grade level and Math is of a 1st grader. She has has an IEP since 2nd grade and has been using the Barton Program for 3 yrs. She is frustrated and wants to give up and the teachers act like everything is great. The scores don't lie. What do I do? "
"These kinds of conversations in the future would be great as events. Publicized by the site, and moderated with audience participation. An area for the audience to interact directly with each other is a great way to leverage community experience to help parents looking for solutions and gain valuable insight in to what they would like you as a publisher to do more of, and less of. Hope this helps"