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October 16, 2003
Dyslexia Prescription Presentation Summary
ŠJeanne D. Beckman, Ph.D.
Some estimates of the occurrence of learning disabilities in United States population have indicated that one in five individuals (20 percent) has a learning disability. Of that 20 percent, more than 80 percent are believed to have some form of dyslexia.
Dyslexia is defined as a learning disability of an impairment in the ability to read. Individuals with dyslexia have normal or above normal intelligence. Dyslexia cannot be caused by cognitive deficits, blindness or other physical impairment preventing the visual input, lack of education, or other environmental factors. Despite the fact that dyslexia by definition may not be caused by retardation, a recent survey indicated that 85 percent of Americans still believe that people with learning disabilities are retarded. Due to this negative stereotype, many children and adults with dyslexia hide their disability, even if it means that they do not receive interventions and accommodations they need.
With advances in brain scans and research based reading interventions, we know definitively that individuals with dyslexia utilize different parts of their brain to read and retrieve learned information than non-dyslexic individuals. Dr. Sally Shaywitz1 reported the extensive research that has also indicated that there are specific reading remediation programs that are highly effective to teach dyslexic individuals how to read. Research has also indicated that there continue to be many reading programs (and many school districts that utilize those programs) that are almost useless in teaching dyslexic individuals to read.
At the same time that brain research has indicated to us that specific reading remediations are effective from early childhood through the adult years, both children and adults who have dyslexia are too often faced with continued failure, humiliation from being subjected to dependence on others for information, and shame because they're told (by peers and society) that they're "stupid."
In addition to increased knowledge regarding the specific research-based remediations that are effective for dyslexia, much has been done in the area of assistive technology. Research has indicated that text-to-speech reading programs such as Kurzweil 3000 and WYNN are effective accommodations for assisting students to read curricular, reference, and non-curricular materials as well as to access the Internet. Some assistive technology is useful for accommodations, some for remediation, and some have blurred the distinction between remediation and accommodation by improving some skills while providing access to the curriculum.
This presentation will review the research regarding dyslexia as well as briefly discuss the reading remediation research. Information will be provided regarding the assistive technology accommodations necessary to assist dyslexic individuals to achieve in school. Guidelines for determining what technology would be useful for a particular individual will be presented. Finally, recommendations will be made regarding how to demystify the individual, his parents, and the school system regarding the diversity of learning styles, the particulars of the disability (and how the individual learns) so that the individuals self esteem will remain intact.
1Shaywitz, Sally,2003. Overcoming dyslexia, New York: Knoph Press.
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