Most of us are born with the innate ability to speak – the wiring of our brain is already in place for this to happen. However, none of us are born with the ability to read. It has to be learnt. This learning doesn’t just happen through good teaching, it requires the physical development of parts of our brain. We need to organise the flow of information between different parts of the brain in a way that hasn’t happened before. In a Dyslexic brain, this organisation becomes disrupted, sometimes in more than one way. Because of this the process of learning to read is slowed down which is commonly revealed in the following ways:
- attaching the right sound to a letter takes longer to achieve
- forming words or whole sentences takes longer, as does the understanding of what was just read
Dyslexia isn’t caused by visual problems, flipping letters or reading letters backwards, and it is certainly not related to intelligence. It is the result of a brain with a different organization making reading and writing more difficult. In order to understand what is happening in a Dyslexic person’s brain, it is useful to learn about the four areas in the brain that we use for reading and which must be connected to make reading an effortless process. Together they form a reading circuit that links these different areas of the brain and then runs at a speed so fast it’s practically automatic.
This is the area of the brain where we receive, process and understand visual signals from our eyes. Strangely it is located at the furthest point from our eyes on the head – at the back, on the right side. It is where we are able to determine that what we are looking at is letters and words instead of other patterns or shapes. And then which letters and words they are, compared to ones we have seen before.
A little further forward from the Visual Cortex, is the area of the brain where we hear and interpret those noises in to different sounds used in speech. When we are reading, we also use this area to create a mental or actual sound that makes up the words we are seeing.
Without this section of our brain in the reading circuit, a person cannot connect the sounds in their spoken language to letters or letter combinations. We need to be able to isolate and blend sounds into words, and parts of words, in order to learn to read and spell. For many dyslexics, this becomes a challenging task creating great difficulties in decoding what they hear or see.
Moving to the left half of the brain we have the Angular Gyrus, where we connect sounds with letters and vice versa. So it is important for writing as well as reading to ourselves or to other people. Making these connections can be difficult for Dyslexic people leading to a much slower process between seeing words and understanding the sounds connected to them.
Inferior Frontal Gyrus
The fourth section of the brain we use to complete the reading circuit is the Inferior Frontal Gyrus, positioned at the front left of the head. Here we develop the speech sounds, the words and sentences and the understanding of what we are hearing and reading. So there is a lot of information converging at this point – any disruption to the routes bringing that information to this area of the brain will create problems in reading and comprehension. In a Dyslexic brain, these routes are interrupted or inconsistent so the information from what they see or hear cannot be decoded properly.
As we learn a language, we become accustomed to seeing patterns of letters and conventions for word combinations and build connections to decode them. Dyslexia can affect memory, especially working memory, making it harder for students to remember what they just read, or learning sequences. As a result people with Dyslexia find it hard to decode information on this reading circuit so rely more than others on sounding out frequently used words that would otherwise be held in memory, leading to an uneven and laboured style of reading. It can develop into a difficulty understanding how root words can be used to form a variation of that word and confuse simple words like ‘on’ and ‘to’ when reading.
It is important to diagnose Dyslexia early in a child’s learning, so strategies and assistance can be put in place to enable them to develop to their full potential. A diagnosis can only be confirmed through a qualified Assessment, but the signs can be detected in the classroom by investigating a child’s ability to put their own reading circuit to the test.
The following processes can help them do this:
- Use a sound wall in the classroom or at home, to group similar sounding words and letter combinations
- Familiarise students with the printed word. Help them recognise the letters of the alphabet, how a book is organised from front to back and how punctuation changes the meaning of what we see.
- Use phonics to sound out words and learn which letters and letter combinations make which sounds.
- Fluency comes from frequent reading as we learn how whole sentences are put together and then how they create paragraphs and books.
About Dyslexia First
Dyslexia First provides first-class dyslexia assessments for children and adults across the North West.
Owner Michala Morton has worked in the field of Special Needs for over 20 years, across a wide range of educational settings, and works closely with The British Dyslexia Association and The Dyslexia Association assessing children and adults.
Based in Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside, Dyslexia First is conveniently accessible by train, linking to Central Liverpool, Manchester and cities within an hour’s commute.
By helping you to get the right support, a world of possibilities will open, that might not have seemed accessible before.
Contact us to discuss your assessment needs at email@example.com or call 07711 904 589.