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Conference Update:
The DCY conference yesterday was great! I thought I’d write a few posts summarizing some of the information from the presenters. Here is part 1 from the keynote speaker. Dr. Rebecca Murry Metzger summarized research showing that children with learning disabilities are at higher risk for dropping out of high school and are less likely to go to college, in comparison to non-LD peers. She also discussed the importance of early identification, and intervention using effective, multi-sensory instruction. Research shows that children who are poor readers in first grade tend to remain poor readers. Dyslexia signs can be seen in children as early as kindergarten but schools usually do not officially identity them until later grades when they are further behind. She discussed adults that were not diagnosed until college. (Attentive college professors recognize the signs and send them in for evaluation.) Even with effective instruction at school, many children will need extra outside instruction in order to catch up with peers. Research shows that you don’t outgrow Dyslexia, even those who learn to read, continue to struggle with reading, reading fluency, and spelling, throughout their lives.

Raising Readers, Writers, and Spellers

An expert guide for parents
by J. Richard Gentry

In Plain Language: 5 Big FAQ’s About Dyslexia

Follow these tips to understand and help dyslexics.
Psychologists, cognitive scientists, and neuroscientists are unraveling the mysteries of dyslexia. But if you are a parent, teacher, or caregiver, it may be hard to read and comprehend the latest research. Here are five important frequently asked questions about dyslexia that cut through the jargon to bring you up to date.

5 Important Questions and Answers about Dyslexia

1. What is dyslexia? Dyslexia is a biologically-based condition that makes it difficult for beginning readers to learn to read. In laymen’s terms, the typical brain organization for reading and spelling does not function normally in dyslexic children even though they may be very smart. Dyslexia is brain-based but its cause has nothing to do with intelligence. Simply put, kids who are dyslexic have trouble learning to decode print and to spell. Dyslexia is not a comprehension disorder; however, if one can’t read words, one can’t comprehend. (This post does not address acquired dyslexia in literate persons who suffer brain injury.)

Dyslexics can learn to read—most probably by reorganizing brain circuitry and accessing different regions than the normal reading brain. Dyslexic readers are known to be slower in reading rate but no one seems to know why. I posit a simple theory for this condition in contrast to more complex general-processing-speed-deficit theories on which scientists disagree: Many dyslexics likely are slower in reading rate simply because they subvocalize, that is, they “say each word in their mind” rather than use a more direct route from seeing print to meaning. Even though most dyslexics who learn to read likely say words in their mind when they read, they can’t see words in their mind when they spell.

Indeed, lousy spelling is a tell-tale sign of dyslexia and it’s a good bet that if you are dyslexic you will struggle with English spelling. It’s often easy for dyslexics to spell the same word differently several times in the same paper and never detect the variations. It’s theorized that a “word form” area of the brain linking language to visual cues which is activated for both reading and spelling is dysfunctional in dyslexics. This area seems to access a function in normal proficient readers enabling them to see words in their mind’s eye or “visualize” spellings.

No two dyslexics are alike—or have exactly the same brain functioning—so expect variations in how this condition manifests itself.

2. How common is dyslexia? Nobody knows. I’ve seen estimates in the literature on dyslexia ranging from 1% to one-third of the population. Recent studies suggest that 1 in 5 people have neurologically-based processing difficulty for learning to read. Contrast that with the fact that 65% of American fourth graders read below proficiency levels.

Part of the difficulty in determining the incidence of dyslexia is that dyslexia manifests itself across a continuum: some cases are mild, others severe.

3. Does dyslexia run in families? Yes. It has a genetic origin. It’s biologically and neurologically based so familial occurrence is not surprising. Recent studies debunk a popular myth and report that dyslexia is just as common in girls as in boys. If you are dyslexic, it’s likely that half of your brothers and sisters are too.

4. Do dyslexics see words backwards?  Probably not—though they may write words or letters backwards when they attempt to spell them. The science on this issue is muddled. Most recent studies associate dyslexia’s causal factors with early difficulties in letter-sound processing (phonological processing deficits) and not with a lack of visual abilities or dysfunction in visual processing. The visual anomalies with dyslexia may be a symptom, not a cause.

5. How can we help dyslexics?

  • Intervene early. Dyslexia or reading problems are considered to be the most prevalent learning disability. They often are not diagnosed or treated until it’s too late for easy recovery.
  • Teach writing. Begin teaching writing in preschool and kindergarten. Beginning writing and reading which are reciprocally connected in the brain are nearly one and the same. Early writing builds interest and stamina (both needed for literary), engages the brain in repeated thought about how letters and sounds reflect meaning, addresses multiple reading and reasoning skills, and helps activate both reading and spelling regions of the brain.
  • Teach phonics.
  • Teach spelling. Spelling ability is the locomotive that powers the reading brain. It’s crucial for how reading regions of the brain operate smoothly or cause a train-wreck. Principals should stop telling teachers not to teach spelling simply because spelling is not on high-stakes tests. Teaching spelling explicitly in grades K through 8 increases automaticity and fluency resulting in readers and writers who do better on high-stakes tests. (Dyslexics need special accommodations for spelling and more time for taking high-stakes tests.)
  • Teach handwriting. Technology is great but it doesn’t engage the early reading brain in the same positive way as learning to move the pen across the page to use letters as pictures-of-sound to express thoughts. Brain scan studies show that early manuscript lessons help activate and coordinate reading circuitry.
  • Embrace repetition. The brain feeds on repetition to make doing things such as reading automatic. Embrace repetition in the primary grades for reading aloud, for rhyming, for matching letters with sounds, for writing alphabet letters, for spelling, for sounding out words, for automatic reading of words on sight, for making meaning in print. Do it in balance and make it fun. Don’t expect perfection and correctness at the beginning.
  • Don’t ever give up with dyslexics. Remember, dyslexics are in the process of reorganizing brain circuitry. They may need more time, accommodation, and compassion. Some dyslexics experience extraordinary literacy success in adulthood.

We don’t have all the answers about dyslexia. This clear set of answers is my synthesis of thirty years of research and is informed by my work with hundreds of dyslexics and my personal experience: I am dyslexic.

Reading and Language

The Facts About Dyslexia

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a specific kind of reading difficulty. Despite average to above average intelligence, children with dyslexia have difficulty learning to “decode,” or read words by associating sounds and letters or letter combinations. They have difficulty recognizing common “sight words,” or frequently occurring words that most readers recognize instantly. Examples of sight words are “the” and “in.” Children with dyslexia also have difficulty learning how to spell, sometimes referred to as “encoding.” Recent research suggests that there are two main features of dyslexia. First of all, people with dyslexia have weak phonemic awareness. This means that they have difficulty hearing the fine distinctions among individual sounds, or phonemes, of the language. They also have difficulty rhyming and breaking words down into individual sounds. Phonemic awareness relates directly to learning to decode and to spell words. In addition, it takes longer for people with dyslexia to “process” phonemic information, or to make connections between sounds and letters or letter combinations. When reading, people with dyslexia need more time than typical readers to put together individual sounds into words.

What are the symptoms of dyslexia?

The following is a list of common symptoms of dyslexia. If your child exhibits one or more of these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean that she has dyslexia. A thorough evaluation is needed to determine if a child has dyslexia. If your child exhibits many of these symptoms, however, it is a good idea to talk with her teacher.

  • Is late to recognize letters
  • Has trouble rhyming
  • Has difficulty listing words that begin with the same sound
  • Is slow to learn the sounds of letters and letter combinations
  • Has difficulty recalling the sounds of letters and letter combinations rapidly
  • Has trouble learning to recognize words
  • Has difficulty learning to decode unknown words
  • Reads slowly and/or in a word-by-word manner
  • Is reluctant to read
  • Has weak spelling
  • Writes far less than other children

What causes dyslexia?

Recent research indicates that the cause of dyslexia lies in the brain. The brains of children with dyslexia simply have a harder time learning and remembering the code to how sounds and letters go together. Despite this difficulty, children with dyslexia have strong listening vocabularies and understand text when it is read aloud to them. They are bright, are good thinkers, and are often very creative. With special instruction, children with dyslexia learn to read, but most continue to be somewhat slow readers and many struggle with spelling into adulthood. Luckily, there are many strategies that people with dyslexia can learn to help them compensate for these difficulties. As a result, people with dyslexia who have had special help as children and who have developed solid compensatory strategies, or ways of using their strengths to help them compensate for their weaknesses, can be successful in all walks of life.

Frequently Asked Questions About Dyslexia

  • Do children with dyslexia see letters backwards?
    There is no evidence that children with dyslexia see differently from other children. The root cause of dyslexia lies in a difficulty processing sounds–not visual information. While it is true that children with dyslexia tend to reverse similar letters, such as “b” and “d,” for a longer time than typical children, it is important to remember that nearly all children reverse letters in the early stages of reading and writing development. Letter reversals in children with dyslexia are a result of slower literacy development and do not indicate that they “see” the letters any differently from typical children.
  • Are more boys than girls dyslexic?
    It was once thought that dyslexia is more common in boys than in girls, but recent research had shown that this is not the case. An equal number of girls and boys are dyslexic. It is thought that boys are more likely to act out as a result of having a reading difficulty and are therefore more likely to be identified early. Girls, on the other hand, are more likely to try to “hide” their difficulty, becoming quiet and reserved.
  • Do people “grow out of” dyslexia?
    Because the source of dyslexia lies in the brain, children do not outgrow dyslexia. With the proper intervention, children with dyslexia can learn to read well. As adults, people with dyslexia can be successful in many different careers, although many adults with dyslexia continue to have difficulty with spelling and tend to read relatively slowly.
  • Are all reading problems dyslexia?
    Not all reading problems are dyslexia. Some reading problems are caused by lack of exposure to books and good language models in the home or to lack of quality reading instruction in school. Other children with reading problems or difficulties can read text accurately, but have difficulty with reading comprehension.
  • How many people with dyslexia are there?
    Research suggests that about 17 percent of the population has dyslexia.
My story about dyslexia is on the front page of The Deseret News today.  You can see it online at the link below to view

Case of the Year
Parent Participation in the IEP

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September 24, 2013

IEP MeetingParents have an important role as members of the IEP Team.

Has your school held an IEP meeting when you were not able to attend?

If there are scheduling conflicts for an IEP meeting, whose attendance has priority?

In this issue of the Special Ed Advocate learn the Court’s decision in a landmark case about parent participation at IEP meetings. Parent attendance must take priority over attendance of other team members.

Please don’t hesitate to forward this series to other friends, families, or colleagues.

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Failing to Include a Parent at the IEP Meeting Violates IDEA

In Doug C. v. Hawaii, the Court said failing to include the parent at the IEP meeting violated the procedural requirement of IDEA and invalidated the IEP. This ruling is one reason Pete is nominating Doug C. to be “Case of the Year.”

Read Pete’s analysis of Doug C. v. Hawaii

Note: All parents and all special education staff who conduct IEP meetings should be familiar with this landmark ruling.


YouTube video by Pete Wright Doug C. v. Hawaii case






videoPete Walks You Through the Case RulingWatch the video discussion of Doug C. Download and print the Decision.You will see the actual decision on screen as Pete walks you through it, highlighting key provisions.Grab your highlighter and be prepared to pause, back up, and replay video portions as you read and digest what happened in this case.


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IEP Team Meetings: The Excusal RuleDo parents have to excuse members of the IEP Team?Are there penalties for schools that routinely excuse IEP Team members?If you don’t know, find the answers in Chapter 2 of Wrightslaw: All About IEPs

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Poll: Required IEP Team Members

We know parents are required members of the IEP team. Do you know the other members required by IDEA?

Who is not required? Vote in the poll.

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Dyslexia: E-readers ‘more effective’

Short lines of text increase reading speed and comprehension in some readers with dyslexia, research suggests.

Read more:

Great article:
PAugust 2013
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Dyslexia Workarounds: Creativity Without a Lot of Reading

Actor Henry Winkler was told he was stupid. A teacher labeled Dan Malloy, the future governor of Connecticut, “mentally retarded.” Delos Cosgrove recalls “hanging on by my fingernails” in high school and college before becoming a thoracic surgeon and the Cleveland Clinic’s chief executive officer.

Each has dyslexia, a condition that makes reading difficult but has little to do with intelligence. Mounting evidence shows that many people with dyslexia are highly creative, out-of-the-box thinkers, and neuroimaging studies demonstrate that their brains really do think differently.

That helps explain the long list of entrepreneurs, inventors, scientists, actors and other professionals, doctors and lawyers who have excelled despite, or perhaps because of, their affliction, experts say.

“There are people who are dyslexic that you could never imagine,” says Sally Shaywitz, co-director, with her husband Bennett, of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity. When they give talks on dyslexia at high-powered gatherings such as the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, she says, “We can’t walk down the hall without people pulling us aside and saying they think they have it, too.”

The Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Cosgrove says he relied on memorizing texts in medical school, and reading hasn’t gotten easier for him. He says he has never read a novel and told his staff he’d rather hear about any problems in person than read a report.

But, he says, “I frankly think dyslexia is a gift. If you are supported in school and your ego remains intact, then you emerge with a strong work ethic and a different view of the world.”

As many as one in five Americans has some degree of dyslexia, according to Yale research, although only about 5% of children have been formally diagnosed. And it clearly runs in families; six gene variations have been linked to the condition to date. Dyslexia was long thought to be a vision-related problem, but there’s a growing consensus that dyslexics instead have difficulty associating letters with spoken sounds and blending them together fluidly to make words. Neuroimaging studies can even pinpoint what goes awry.

Reading typically involves three distinct areas of the brain, all on the left side. The parieto-temporal region, just behind the ear, and the inferior frontal gyrus, at the front, slowly analyze words. The occipital-temporal area farther back recognizes the whole word instantly. Scientists think a word’s meaning, pronunciation and spelling are stored there too.

Imaging studies show that the best readers have the most brain activity in the rear, instant-word-forming area when they read. Dyslexics have much less activity there and more in the two slower areas.

“Think of the word ‘bat,’ ” says Dr. Shaywitz. “If you are dyslexic, you have to retrieve the B and the A and the T separately each time. It’s exhausting.”

Dyslexia can’t be cured, but imaging studies show that some remedial programs that help children learn sequential sound-letter relationships can rewire those circuits. Without such help, dyslexics may become accurate readers, but they never read fluidly. They often have problems spelling, writing, reading aloud and pronouncing words.

That’s why experts urge schools to give students with dyslexia extra time on tests, waive foreign language requirements and grade separately for creativity and spelling. But many schools don’t, according to a federal report commissioned last year by the Congressional Dyslexia Caucus.

Among dyslexics who succeed, Dr. Shaywitz says many “give up their social lives and everything else to spend more hours studying. They are very bright, but they are terribly anxious and think, ‘I’ve just been fooling everybody.’ “

Other children with dyslexia become discouraged early on and continue to fall further behind their peers, even if their IQs are high.

Helping them access information in ways other than reading can be critical, experts say. Audio books and computer programs that can turn written text into spoken words and vice versa can keep their minds stimulated and vocabulary growing.

Gov. Malloy credits his mother for believing in his potential and giving him a radio to listen to at night. Having to read slowly helped him master complicated issues as he went from a New York City prosecutor to mayor of Stamford, Conn. He was elected governor in 2010. But even now, he says, “I have to stop and call each word up and do the best I can.”

At auditions, Henry Winkler memorized scripts in advance or ad-libbed if he forgot. “Some people got upset that I wasn’t reading the words, but I told them I was giving them the essence of it,” says Mr. Winkler, who played Fonzie on TV’s long-running “Happy Days” and many other roles. He is the co-author of 23 books for children in the series “Hank Zipzer, The World’s Greatest Underachiever,” about a resourceful fourth-grader with dyslexia.

Jack Horner’s reading ability is so poor that he says he bought shampoo for dogs instead of people recently. He left high school in the 1960s with all Ds and flunked out of college.

Mr. Horner also made some of the most spectacular dinosaur finds in the Western hemisphere. He won a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant, has two honorary degrees, inspired a character in “Jurassic Park” and is curator of paleontology for the largest Tyrannosaurus rex collection in the world.

How did he do it? He took a low-level museum job and worked his way up. And as he tells his students at Montana State University: “If you’re the first to do something, you don’t have to read about it.”

Other people with dyslexia find that they thrive only outside the world of reading and writing. “Find what you love and enjoy it,” says Piper Otterbein, a high school senior from Cape Elizabeth, Maine, whose talk at a TEDYouth conference has become a YouTube sensation. After years of tutoring and remedial classes, she dropped English, math and French and has found her passion, and self-esteem, in art and design. “I decided my creative brain is the one that suits me best,” she says.

Many adults with dyslexia say life does get easier, even if their reading skills don’t. Secretaries, co-authors, book editors and spouses can take dictation, spell and proofread. “There are very few times when adults are judged on being timed in reading,” unlike the standardized tests kids take in school, says Tyler Lucas, a New York-based orthopedic surgeon who realized he was dyslexic after his daughter was diagnosed with it.

The proliferation of smartphones, video chats and other technologies may also make the future easier for people with dyslexia, he adds. “Reading is just one way of communicating—and in the future, I think it won’t be as important as in the past.”

Try Being Me offers an interactive look at dyslexia
To accompany a CBBC Newsround report on children suffering from dyslexia, the BBC has posted an interactive series of browser games which simulate the experience of suffering from the disability.Titled Try Being Me, the games present creative interpretations of the symptoms of dyslexia, such as memory loss and the confusion with reading and decoding written words. Different mini-games have been added to the website over the past few days, lining up with the premiere of a Newsround special focusing on a group of children and adults alike who have suffered from dyslexia their entire lives.Try Being Me is the latest in a large library of browser games based on the BBC’s shows, including Horrible Histories and The Sarah Jane Adventures.
ALERT! Rights for Students with Dyslexia
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1. Dyslexia Must Be in the New DSM-5
Call to Action from the International Dyslexia Association
Psychologists use DSM codes to diagnose conditions. In the revised DSM-5, dyslexia no longer has a diagnostic code of its own.
The latest revision, which now omits the term dyslexia, is a significant step backward. This omission will:
  • perpetuate the lack of recognition and understanding of dyslexia
  • contribute to delays in diagnosis and treatment
If you are concerned about the proposed revisions, email your comments orsign the petition
Act Now! Public Comment period ends June 15.
Take actionSign the Petition
2. Legalize Dyslexia: Schools Must Accept the Diagnosis of Dyslexia
The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, directed by Dr. Sally Shaywitz, is asking you to support a much-needed Bill of Rights for Dyslexic Children and Adults that affirms the following:
  • Dyslexia is real: schools must accept the diagnosis of dyslexia
  • Dyslexia is a Clinical Diagnosis
  • Diagnosis/Identification reflects that it is an unexpected difficulty
  • Dyslexia is persistent, no need to retest after high school
  • Accommodations required so that high stakes tests assess ability and not disability
  • High stakes tests must be reliable, valid and accessible to dyslexic children and adults
Urge Congress to “Legalize Dyslexia: Grant Accommodations to Dyslexic Students.”
Take actionSign the Petition
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The Reality of Dyslexia: Millions Struggle

Published: February 12, 2012

To the Editor:

Ron Regé

The Upside of Dyslexia,” by Annie Murphy Paul (Sunday Review, Feb. 5), rightly points out that while all people with dyslexia struggle with reading, some demonstrate unique strengths. What this research does not underscore is the extent to which this learning disability negatively affects millions of lives.

Nearly two million students in our public schools struggle with reading because of dyslexia. Learning to read with accuracy, fluency and comprehension greatly increases the likelihood of high school graduation, enrollment in college and career success. Dyslexia presents real obstacles to these students.

Twenty percent of students with disabilities drop out, and only 67 percent graduate with a regular diploma. These alarming statistics reinforce the need for additional research to further our understanding of the neurobiology of learning, particularly as it relates to students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities.

While the research featured in the article is welcome, we shouldn’t minimize the challenges that students with disabilities face every day.

Executive Director, National
Center for Learning Disabilities
New York, Feb. 6, 2012

To the Editor:

The headline “The Upside of Dyslexia” raised my hackles, and I was prepared to attack what the author, Annie Murphy Paul, said in the article. I am the mother of a 12-year-old boy who is severely dyslexic, and this new wave of “dyslexia is a gift” drives me crazy.

It’s not a gift when my son goes to get a snack at a community pool and burns his hands because he cannot read the sign on the counter that says, “Caution: Hot.” It’s not a gift when after over $100,000 spent (and borrowed) to address his dyslexia, there are still days when he does not recognize the word “the.” It’s not a gift when friends laugh at his homemade sign on his door to keep his brother out: “Do not disterv.”

Nobody lives in his world, where his dyslexic demons play with his mind, making a trip to the movies stressful and doing homework an exercise in “how much more of this can I endure?”

But after reading Ms. Paul’s essay, I felt that she understood the complexity of it. Yes, saying dyslexia is a “gift” is patronizing and unhelpful, but it is also true that these children are gifted. I like this shift in thinking.

Now if only my son can get through school with his heart intact and find ways to share his gifts with the world.

Washington, Feb. 5, 2012

To the Editor:

Annie Murphy Paul highlights the exciting scientific research being done to change the way dyslexia is viewed. These experiments show that people with dyslexia possess learning advantages that go hand in hand with their learning difficulties. Perhaps these advantages help explain why, according to a 2007 study, 35 percent of entrepreneurs are dyslexic, a number far exceeding the 15 percent of the population thought to be dyslexic.

It is imperative that we keep these learning advantages in mind, and provide students with a flexible and multisensory education that highlights both their strengths and weaknesses. At Jemicy School, we have long recognized the importance of art, math, science and technology to tap into the strengths that dyslexic students possess.

Thanks to articles like Ms. Paul’s, our society is coming closer to recognizing that learning differences are just that: not better or worse, just different.

Owing Mills, Md., Feb. 8, 2012

The writer is treasurer of the International Dyslexia Association and head of school at Jemicy School, which specializes in educating students with dyslexia.

To the Editor:

For those of us in the field of reading, “The Upside of Dyslexia” was not a surprise. We know many smart and talented people with dyslexia. It is time for the federal Department of Education to recognize dyslexia as a specific diagnosis instead of using the broad and misleading diagnosis of learning disabled.

A diagnosis of dyslexia would pinpoint the problem and help children get the appropriate reading instruction to be successful in school.

The article states that an estimated 15 percent of the population is dyslexic. That translates to more than 45 million Americans. It makes you wonder how many scientists, lawyers, doctors, engineers and writers we have lost because they failed early on in school and no one knew how to tap into their talents and teach them how to read.

Brooklyn, Feb. 5, 2012

The writer is a reading specialist at a New York City public school.

*Helping classroom teachers understand your dyslexic child (Click on link)


Article written:  September 20, 2011.


Study Sheds Light on Auditory Role in Dyslexia


Published: August 1, 2011

Many people consider dyslexia simply a reading problem in which children mix up letters and misconstrue written words. But increasingly scientists have come to believe that the reading difficulties of dyslexia are part of a larger puzzle: a problem with how the brain processes speech and puts together words from smaller units of sound.

Now, a study published last week in the journal Science suggests that how dyslexics hear language may be more important than previously realized. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found that people with dyslexia have more trouble recognizing voices than those without dyslexia.

John Gabrieli, a professor of cognitive neuroscience, and Tyler Perrachione, a graduate student, asked people with and without dyslexia to listen to recorded voices paired with cartoon avatars on computer screens. The subjects tried matching the voices to the correct avatars speaking English and then an unfamiliar language, Mandarin.

Nondyslexics matched voices to avatars correctly almost 70 percent of the time when the language was English and half the time when the language was Mandarin. But people with dyslexia were able to do so only half the time, whether the language was English or Mandarin. Experts not involved in the study said that was a striking disparity.

“Typically, you see big differences in reading, but there are just subtle general differences between individuals who are afflicted with dyslexia and individuals who aren’t on a wide variety of tests,” said Richard Wagner, a psychology professor at Florida State University. “This effect was really large.”

Dr. Sally Shaywitz, a director of the Center for Dyslexia and Creativity at Yale University, said the study “demonstrates the centrality of spoken language in dyslexia — that it’s not a problem in meaning, but in getting to the sounds of speech.”

That is why dyslexic children often misspeak, she said, citing two examples drawn from real life. “A child at Fenway Park watching the Red Sox said, ‘Oh, I’m thirsty. Can we go to the confession stand?,’ ” she said.

“Another person crossing a busy intersection where many people were walking said, ‘Oh, those Presbyterians should be more careful.’ It’s not a question of not knowing, but being unable to attach what you know is the meaning to the sounds.”

Dr. Gabrieli said the findings underscored a critical problem for dyslexic children learning to read: the ability of a child hearing, say, a parent or teacher speak to connect the auditory bits that make up words, called phonemes, with the sight of written words.

If a child has trouble grasping the sounds that make up language, he said, acquiring reading skills will be harder.

The research shows that spoken language deficiencies persist even when dyslexics learn to read well. The study subjects were mostly “high-functioning, high-I.Q. young adults who had overcome their reading difficulty,” Dr. Gabrieli said. “And yet when they had to distinguish voices, they were not one iota better with the English-language voices that they’ve heard all their life.”

Experts said the new study also shows the interconnectedness of the brain processes involved in reading. Many scientists had considered voice recognition to be “like recognizing melodies or things that are primarily nonverbal,” Dr. Gabrieli said. Voice recognition was thought to be a separate task in the brain from understanding language.

But this research shows that normal reading involves a “circuit, the ability to have all of those components integrated absolutely automatically,” said Maryanne Wolf, a dyslexia expert at Tufts University. “One of the great weaknesses in dyslexia is that the system is not able to integrate these phoneme-driven systems” with other aspects of language comprehension.

As a follow-up, the M.I.T. researchers have been scanning the brains of subjects performing voice recognition and other activities, and have found “very big differences in dyslexics and nondyslexics in a surprisingly broad range of tasks,” Dr. Gabrieli said. “We think there might be a broader kind of learning that’s not operating very well in these individuals and that in some areas you can circumvent it pretty well. But in language and reading, it’s hard to circumvent.”

One of the unusual aspects of the M.I.T. study is that it isolated the skill of processing vocal speech from reading and from skills involving the meaning of language, experts said. The sentences were basic, like “The boy was there when the sun rose,” and the Mandarin sounds meant nothing to the listeners.

Dr. Wagner suggested that something like the voice-recognition task might be used to identify young children at risk for dyslexia.

Often diagnostic tests require separating sounds from words. A child might be asked to say “cowboy” without the “boy” part.

“For young children, it’s a real difficult task,” Dr. Wagner said. “Sometimes they’ll say, ‘cowboy without saying boy,’ because that’s exactly what you’ve asked them. The holy grail is to come up with tasks you can give to a 3-year-old.”

Dr. Shaywitz said the study also has implications for teaching.

If a teacher asked, “ ‘Oh, Johnny, what is the capital of New York State?,’ Johnny will go, ‘Uh, uh, uh,’ and the teacher will say, ‘Oh, gee, you don’t know it,’ ” Dr. Shaywitz said. “It’s more likely to be a problem of word retrieval than knowledge. If she reframes it as, ‘Is the capital Houston or Albany?,’ Johnny is more likely to answer correctly.”



December 2010Poll Reveals Dangerous ConfusionA recent poll released by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation showed that parents and educators are dangerously confused about learning disabilities but also support greater government funding for intervention.   It uncovered troubling misunderstandings about the definition, root causes, key influencers and interventions that impact public policy and legislation to support children who learn differently.  Read More

Parents…tell us about early intervention
and special education services in Utah.

This information is also available online in PDF format by visiting

Parents of children receiving services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) are being asked to help provide important information about how Utah is meeting the state’s requirements to provide programs and services for children with disabilities in early intervention and special education.

provide important information about how Utah is meeting the state’s requirements to provide programs and services for children with disabilities in early intervention and special education.

Each year the US Department of Education makes what are called “verification visits” to state education agencies and early intervention lead agencies around the country.  Utah has been chosen for a visit on October 12th, 2010.

Parents who have had children participate in the early intervention programs (Part C of IDEA for infants and toddlers) or special education programs in preschool, elementary, middle, or high school (Part B of IDEA) can provide input in your choice of several ways.

1.      First, follow the appropriate link below depending on whether your child isages birth through 2 (Part C) or is 3 or older (Part B) to a web based survey tool.  Click on the link, complete, and submit your responses:

Survey for parents of children ages birth through 2 (Part C)


Survey for parents of children 3 or older (Part B)


Access the surveys through the Utah Parent Center’s website at:

2.          Second, you may print out the survey that relates to your child’s program, complete, and fax (801-272-8907) or mail it in. The links for PDF (printable) versions are here and instructions for submitting your responses are on the form:

Survey for parents of children ages birth through 2 (Part C)


Survey for parents of children 3 or older (Part B)

3.    Third, you may call the Utah Parent Center office at 800-468-1160 and complete it over the phone with one of our staff or volunteers. Spanish-speaking families can ask for Julie Moreno or Nancy Rodriguez for help in completing the surveys.

If your child is one of the many students who has a hidden disability and struggles in the general classroom but is not covered by a Sec. 504 Plan or an IEP Plan under IDEA you might be concerned.  Over 80% of the students with learning disabilities are in the general education classroom without services.  The bill is short and you can read it for yourself at

Either call your Senator at the Utah State Capitol or email your Senator and Representative.  You can look up your legislative districts and legislators at

Here is the link…it does have exceptions for special ed and 504 children.

Basic but valuable information- 2/08/2010 (click on link below)