Virginia CEC for 2014 to feature Lavoie

When the Virginia Federation of the Council for Exceptional Children holds its annual conference in the fall of 2014, it will feature widely known speaker Rick Lavoie. The conference, which will be held in Virginia Beach at the Virginia Beach Resort Hotel, is slated for 17 and 18 October 2014. Learn more by visiting the Virginia Federation’s Web page.

ResearchILD conference 2014

The annual conference of the Research Institute for Learning and Development (ResearchILD) will be held 14 and 15 March 2014. The theme of the conference for this year is “Myths and Realities in Education: Executive Function, Attention, and Learning Differences.”

Ably led for many years by Lynn Meltzer and held at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the conference features an extensive series of sessions. Go to the ResearchILD Website to learn more or simply download a PDF copy of the brochure.

The House should support Resolution 456

U.S. Representative Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, with the support of Representative Julia Brownley of California, introduced a resolution to the U.S. House of Representatives 10 January 2014 calling on “State and local educational agencies to recognize that dyslexia has significant educational implications that must be addressed.” The resolution, which was foreshadowed by a kick-off event by the Congressional Dyslexia Caucus in November of 2013, is drawing support around the Internet, as it should, from diverse sources:

  • Sally and Bennett Shaywitz, noted advocates and researchers on dyslexia, posted a notice on their site, Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, and published a guest editorial in the influential political news source, The Hill calling for support of the resolution.
  • Pete and Pam Wright of Wrightslaw, the widely esteemed site for legal information about students with disabilities, lent their support to the effort, recommending constituents contact their representatives.
  • Over on Barto’s World (long-time connection with LD Blog), Amy Barto posted an entry pointing to the Yale Center’s and Wrightslaw’s pages.
  • Over on High Expectations Advocacy, Sandra Fitzpatrick posted a blog entry pointing to the Yale Center post and recommending that people contact their own representatives to encourage those legislators to support the resolution.
  • Joan Brennan, at Help for Struggling Readers provided a message of support including some useful links (along with some links to her own product).

Dyslexia is the most common reason that students are identified as having learning disabilities in the US. It is, indeed, a problem that deserves very careful consideration and systematic, evidence-based treatment. Even though some may glamorize it and others may ignore it, I agree that the most appropriate course of action is to recognize it and empower schools (and others) to address it effectively and humanely.

Readers interested in obtaining a PDF copy of the full resolution can download one.

Got LD? Tell what it’s like!

Elizabeth Geiger, who is a masters student in the Counseling Psychology program at Teachers College, Columbia University (NY, US), is soliciting participation in a survey by students in higher education who have LD. If you qualify or you know someone who does, consider enrolling in the study.

Here’s what she has to say:

I am looking for individuals who would like to participate in my research study exploring the life experiences of students diagnosed with a learning disability/disabilities. This survey should only take about 20 minutes of your time.

If you are willing and eligible to participate, please click on the link provided below. Thank you in advance for your time and input. Also, I would really appreciate it if you could pass this message along to anyone else that you think may be eligible and willing to participate.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Must be at least 18 years old.
  • Must reside in the U.S.
  • Must be diagnosed with a learning disability/disabilities.
  • Must be currently enrolled in college or graduate school.

If you meet the above eligibility criteria and are interested in participating, please click on the link below to take you to the survey:

https://tccolumbia.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_d0jhAN1g2dXayP3

This study has been approved by the Teachers College, Columbia University Institutional Review Board: (Protocal #14-020).

Oopsie. Not quite LD

According to Samantha White, a reporter for the Burns (OR, US) Times-Herald, a local advocate for individuals with disabilities had a dream of promoting longer periods of schooling for students with disabilities. “That dream was to provide more opportunities for her son, Nicholas, and other people in Harney County who have developmental disabilities, such as autism, Down syndrome, and other learning disabilities.”

Ooops! Is this a case of using LD as a generic? Did Ms. White mean to write “developmental disabilities, autism, Down syndrome, learning disabilities, and other problems?” What do you think?

Later in her article, entitled “A ‘Desert Dream’ come true,” Ms. White revealed that she had searched a popular Website (Autism Speaks) for data about about autism. She apparently passed on the chance to search any of several reasonably authoritative sources about LD such as LD Online, TeachingLD, CLD International, the LD Association of America, NJCLD, and the non-governmental National Center on LD. Sigh.

RTI can’t stop parents from requesting evaluations

Given the continuing interest in response to instruction (or intervention), it’s important to remember that parents can still request that their child be evaluated for special education. Thanks to organizations such as the Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA), parents can be well-informed about how and why to pursue this avenue when they have a child who needs help. Just because a school is using an RTI process, that’s not sufficient reason to delay an eligibility evaluation. The RTI data may be a part of the evidence in determining eligibility, but shouldn’t be the sole criterion.

I’m no lawyer so this is not legal advice, but as I understand it, schools cannot use RTI to stand in the way of a parent’s request. LDA published a helpful position paper on this matter in 2013, and it is available for free.

Ross Greene to speak in central Virginia

Over on EBD Blog, I have a post about a pending October-2013 talk by child psychologist Ross Greene, author of The Explosive Child and Lost at School. The talk is scheduled for 10 October 2013 at Piedmont Virginia Community College in Charlottesville (VA, US) and is free and open to the public. Read the post for details.

Testing genetic causes of dyslexia

Although at least four genes have been identified as possible markers for dyslexia, scientists have encountered considerable difficulty in coming to consensus about identifying a culprit as a contributing cause for the perplexing reading disorder. As noted previously here on LD Blog, DCDC2 (1 November 2005) and DYX1C1 (1 August 2008; 19 November 2009), among others, have been cited as possible loci for disruptions. But problems emerge when seeking to connect studies that point toward these candidate genes and studies showing the individuals with the problems. The associations between genes and problems appear in some language populations, but perhaps not in others, making one wonder about the clarity of the relationships.

Seeking a means of examining the relationships at a more abstract level, a group of European researchers collected data from a sample of individuals with dyslexia that represented people from eight different countries (Austria, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Finland, Hungary, and the United Kingdom). Using this diverse language sample, they reasoned, would allow them to search the the connections between genes and dyslexia at a more abstract level than when testing with a sample of people speaking just one or two languages.
Continue reading ‘Testing genetic causes of dyslexia’

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Visual differences are a consequence, not a cause, of dyslexia

In an article to appear 10 July 2013 in Neuron, Olumide Olulade, Eileen Napoliello, and Guinevere Eden present a series of studies that greatly help educators, psychologists, neurologists, and others understand the relationship between visual deficits and dyslexia. Although most people interested in reading have understood that problems with phonological processes undergird dyslexia, personal accounts of those with dyslexia and some anomalous evidence about the visual cortex and the performance of individuals with dyslexia on certain visual tasks kept the possibility of a visual component open to debate. Professor Eden’s group devised studies and collected the data that shed light on these issues.

In a nutshell, in their first study, Eden’s team found the same results that others had found: When their participants with dyslexia were compared to similar aged children, they showed certain deficits in visual processing associated with a particular part of the brain shown by fMRI. However, when their participants were compared with younger children of like reading ability, there are no deficits in the visual performance; so, these children must not have had the visual problems all along. In their third study, the researchers provided even stronger evidence: The provided powerful remedial reading instruction to their participants and they observed not only improved reading outcomes, but they also found that the students had improved performance on the visual tasks as reflected in fMRI. (Click the accompanying image for a movie of Professors Eden and Olulade explaining the experiments.)

Here is the abstract:

Developmental dyslexia is a reading disorder, yet deficits also manifest in the magnocellular-domi- nated dorsal visual system. Uncertainty about whether visual deficits are causal or consequential to reading disability encumbers accurate identifica- tion and appropriate treatment of this common learning disability. Using fMRI, we demonstrate in typical readers a relationship between reading ability and activity in area V5/MT during visual motion pro- cessing and, as expected, also found lower V5/MT activity for dyslexic children compared to age- matched controls. However, when dyslexics were matched to younger controls on reading ability, no differences emerged, suggesting that weakness in V5/MT may not be causal to dyslexia. To further test for causality, dyslexics underwent a phonolog- ical-based reading intervention. Surprisingly, V5/MT activity increased along with intervention-driven reading gains, demonstrating that activity here is mobilized through reading. Our results provide strong evidence that visual magnocellular dysfunc- tion is not causal to dyslexia but may instead be consequential to impoverished reading.

Olulade, O. A., Napoliello, E. M., & Eden, G. F. (2013). Abnormal visual motion processing is not a cause of dyslexia. Neuron, 79, 1-11. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2013.05.002