Tag Archive for 'early literacy'

Mistaking dyslexia


Daniel Britton’s Alphabet

In “Powerful images show what it’s like to read when you have dyslexia,” Ana Swanson reported about the typeface developed by Daniel Britton in 2013. As an individual with dyslexia, Mr. Britton, who works in graphic design, created a typeface that omits parts of capital letters, as illustrated here, putatively to simulate the experience of reading with dyslexia.

I am saddened by the possibility that people may get the mistaken impression that dyslexia is caused by misperception of the shapes or forms of letters. Fortunately, Ms. Swanson discounts this mistake at two points in her article. First, she notes that the font is not designed to mimic what a person with dyslexia sees when she or he reads, but to force skilled readers to lose fluency. Second, although I might quibble with the phrasing she uses, Ms. Swanson puts the focus in the right place when she reports
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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.

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

Ingvar Lundberg: 1934-2012

Ingvar Lundberg—an internationally renowned psychologist who studied the psychology and pedagogy of reading and writing, learning disabilities such as dyslexia and dyscalculia, and problems in language development—died 23 April 2012. He was 77 years old.

Born in Stockholm 30 September 1934, Professor Lundberg began his academic career after teaching elementary school in the 1950s. He completed undergraduate and graduate training in the 1960s at the University of Stockholm and then began his academic career in the department of psychology at Umeå University in 1967. In 1995, he moved to Göteborg University and held dual appointments at Åbo Akademi, Finland, and Bergen University, Norway, during his tenure there. At the time of his death, he was Professor Emeritus in Psychology, University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Although Professor Lundberg’s research ranged across many areas of psychology, we remember him here especially for his work on learning disabilities. He was a long-time member of the International Academy of Research in Learning Disability and the Society for Scientific Studies in Reading. As a perusal of the accompanying selected list of publications will show, he contributed a lot to our understanding of reading processes and problems.

Jacobson, C., & Lundberg, I. (2000). Early prediction of individual growth in reading. Reading and Writing, 13, 273-296.

Lundberg, I. & Nilsson, L.G. (1986). What church examination records can tell us about the inheritance of reading disability. Annals of Dyslexia, 36, 217-236.

Lundberg, I. (1988). Preschool prevention of reading failures: Does training in phonological awareness work? In R. L. Masland & M. W. Masland (Eds.), Preschool prevention of reading failure (pp. 163-176). Parkton, MD: York Press.

Lundberg, I., & Höien, T. (1989). Phonemic deficits: A core symptom of developmental dyslexia? The Irish Journal of Psychology, 10, 579-592.

Lundberg, I., & Höien, T. (1990). Patterns of information processing skills and word recognition strategies in developmental dyslexia. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 34, 231-240.

Lundberg, I. (1994). Reading difficulties can be predicted and prevented: A Scandinavian perspective on phonological awareness and reading. In C. Hulme & M. Snowling (Eds.), Reading development and dyslexia (pp. 180-199). Philadelphia: Whurr.

Lundberg, I. (1998). Why is learning to read a hard task for some children? Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 39, 155-157.

Lundberg, I. (2006). Working memory and reading disability. In L.-G. Nilsson & N. Ohta (Eds.), Memory and society: Psychological perspectives (pp. 198-214). New York: Psychology Press.

Olofsson, Å. & Lundberg, I. (1983). Can phonemic awareness skills be trained in kindergarten? Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 24, 34-44.

DLD fall conference is just around the corner

Check out the fine slate of workshop sessions available to registered guests at the annual “Bridging the Gap Between Research and Practice” meeting of the Division for Learning Disabilities, which is to be held in Baltimore (MD, US) 29 and 30 October. Of course, I am biased, but I consider this one of the outstanding professional development opportunities of the year in learning disabilities, including the more specific disabilities such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and so forth (as well as related disorders such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder).
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Word reading still predicts comprehension

Justin Wise and colleague examined the reading comprehension of students with differing problems in reading fluency. Some of the students only had difficulty with reading connected text fluently, but others had difficulty in reading connected text and individual words fluently. They found that for both groups the ability to read individual real words fluently was the strongest predictor of reading comprehension.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine whether different measures of oral reading fluency relate differentially to reading comprehension performance in two samples of second grade students: 1) students who evidenced difficulties with nonsense word oral reading fluency, real word oral reading fluency, and oral reading fluency of connected text (ORFD), and 2) students who only evidenced oral reading fluency of connected text difficulties (CTD).
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Chall grants 2010

Over on Spedpro I posted a notice about the opportunity to apply for a Jeanne S. Chall Research Grant. Applications are due by May 14, 2010.

Does RtI reduce numbers of children in special education?

In an article slated to appear in Remedial and Special Education, Jeanne Wanzek and Sharon Vaughn reported that widely popular three-tiered approach to addressing did not significantly reduce the number and percentage of students identified for special education across seven elementary schools. Their study, which is limited to the response to instruction or intervention in the primary and early elementary grades and focused primarily on academic intervention, revealed no significant reduction in identification of children as having Learning Disabilities, even though this group would be the most likely to benefit from such prevention efforts. Similarly, there were no differences in the proportion of students identified for special education according to ethnic background.
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Letter-sound correspondences: New scanning data

A research team in Professor Leo Blomert’s lab at Maastricht University in the Netherlands reported that brain scans of children with and without dyslexia reveal differences when associating letters with sounds. Vera Blau and colleagues studied 34 9-½-year-old children, 18 of whom were identified as having dyslexia. While the children completed tasks under four different conditions (letters presented only visually; speech sounds presented alone; multi-sensory matching letter–sound pairs; and multi-sensory not-matching letter–sound pairs), the researchers obtained scans of brain activity. They found that in the brains of children with dyslexia there were weaker effects when letters and sounds matched than in the brains of children without dyslexia; these effects appeared most clearly in certain areas of the brain related to language function. In addition, the dyslexic readers’ brains showed weaker activation when speech sounds were the only stimulus (i.e., without accompanying letters).
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JLD on professional development


JLD cover

The Journal of Learning Disabilities for September-October 2009 features a special series of articles about the teaching of reading teaching. Issue editors R. Malatesha Joshi and Anne E. Cunningham put together a set of articles by stellar authorities in the area of reading to examine “Perceptions and Reality: What We Know About the Quality of Literacy Instruction.”

Moats, L. (2009). Still wanted: Teachers with knowledge of language. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 387-391.

Joshi, R. M., Binks, E., Hougen, M., Dahlgren M. E., Ocker-Dean, E., & Smith, D. L. (2009). Why elementary teachers might be inadequately prepared to teach reading. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 392-402.[Link]

Podhajski, B., Mather, N., Nathan, J., & Sammons, J. (2009). Professional development in scientifically based reading instruction: Teacher knowledge and reading outcomes Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 403-417. [Link]

Cunningham, A. E., Zibulsky, J., Stanovich, K. E., & Stanovich, P. J. (2009). How teachers would spend their time teaching language arts: The mismatch between self-reported and best practices. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 418-430. [Link]

Spear-Swerling, L. (2009). A literacy tutoring experience for prospective special educators and struggling second graders. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 431-443. [Link]

Kaiser, L., Rosenfield, S., & Gravois, T. (2009). Teachers’ perception of satisfaction, skill development, and skill application after instructional consultation services. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 444-457.[Link]

Joshi, R. M., Binks, E., Graham, L., Ocker-Dean, E., Smith, D. L., & Boulware-Gooden, R. (2009). Do textbooks used in university reading education courses conform to the instructional recommendations of the National Reading Panel? Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 458-463. [Link]

Stotsky, S. (2009). Licensure tests for special education teachers: How well they assess knowledge of reading instruction and mathematics. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 464-474. [Link]

Lyon, G. R., & Weiser, B. (2009). Teacher knowledge, instructional expertise, and the development of reading proficiency. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 475-480.[Link]