What are ‘dyslexias’ or ‘learning disabilities’?

​Dyslexia is a term used for language processing difficulties:  ‘dys’ meaning ‘not efficient’ and ‘lexia’ meaning ‘language’.

Perhaps each of our brains’ reading ‘neuronal circuits’ could be compared to ‘snowflakes’; none of them are exactly the same, so none of us ‘reads’ exactly the same way.

“The history of different explanations and names for dyslexia has its origins in the complexity of the reading circuit.…adding to the complexity of dyslexia is the fact that the brain can and does make different reading circuits.”  Maryann Wolf, Ed.D

This is quoted from Maryann Wolf’s article “Marcus Aurelius and the Continuing Dyslexia Debate” 1.  Maryann Wolf often refers to the term ‘dyslexias’ because there is a spectrum of disabilities experienced by students in the reading, writing, listening and speaking skills of our English language.

Some of our children’s brains have reading circuits that are inefficient and laborious.  In the academic setting, where our children spend a good deal of their time, reading is of primary concern.  When a child realizes that he/she is not reading as well as his/her peers, the child can begin to lose confidence with academic reading, and often writing, activities.  The student’s grades can take a slide downward, comments from teachers can indicate a lack of engagement, and student’s behavior can depict a desire to avoid any or all types of reading or writing.

The Orton-Gillingham approach is based on ‘multi-sensory’ teaching – in other words, using movement, tactile, visual and auditory learning strategies simultaneously to attempt to engage and activate as much as the brain’s neuronal circuitry as possible. Current research using fMRI brain scans have now validated the successful results of this type of therapy.  When pre and post-therapy influenced brain scans of individuals with dyslexias were compared, the areas in the brains where efficient neural connections associating sounds of the spoken word to the written word had become more active, more like non-dyslexic individuals.  A very important point to keep in mind is that the earlier a student with a dyslexia is given therapy, the quicker and easier the student will remediate his or her academic skills.

1.  International Dyslexia Association: http://www.interdys.org/June2014_MAWDyslexiaDebate.htm