Helpful Articles

Learning Disabilities: An Overview

By: LD OnLine (2008)

Learning disabilities (LD) come in several forms. Learn more about them, how they're identified, and what types of instruction support students with LD.  learning disabilities

What is a learning disability?

Some individuals, despite having an average or above average level of intelligence, have real difficulty acquiring basic academic skills. These skills include those needed for successful reading, writing, listening, speaking and/or math. These difficulties might be the result of a learning disability.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a federal law, defines a learning disability as a condition when a child's achievement is substantially below what one might expect for that child. Learning disabilities do not include problems that are primarily the result of intellectual disabilities, emotional disturbance, or visual, hearing, emotional or intellectual disabilities. 

Many children with LD have struggle with reading. The difficulties often begin with individual sounds, or phonemes. Students may have problems with rhyming, and pulling words apart into their individual sounds (segmenting) and putting individual sounds together to form words (blending). This makes it difficult to decode words accurately, which can lead to trouble with fluency and comprehension. As students move through the grades, more and more of the information they need to learn is presented in written (through textbooks) or oral (through lecture) form. This exacerbates the difficulties they have succeeding in school.

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fMRIs show that dyslexia isn't a matter of IQ

Published: Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - 14:36 in Psychology & Sociology


About 5 to 10 percent of American children are diagnosed as dyslexic. Historically, the label has been assigned to kids who are bright, even verbally articulate, but who struggle with reading -- in short, whose high IQs mismatch their low reading scores. When children are not as bright, however, their reading troubles have been chalked up to their general intellectual limitations. Now a new brain-imaging study challenges this understanding of dyslexia. 

"We found that children who are poor readers have the same brain difficulty in processing the sounds of language whether they have a high or low IQ," says Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientist John D. E. Gabrieli, who worked on the study with Fumiko Hoeft, Hiroko Tanaka, Jessica M. Black, Leanne M. Stanley, Shelli R. Kesler, and Allan L. Reiss of the Stanford University School of Medicine; Charles Hulme at York University in the UK; and Susan Whitfield-Gabrieli, also at MIT.

"Reading difficulty is independent of other cognitive abilities." The findings, which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science, could change the ways educators help all poor readers.

The study involved 131 children, about 7 to 17 years old. According to a simple reading test and an IQ measure, each child was assigned to one of three groups -- typical readers with typical IQs; poor readers with typical IQs; and poor readers with low IQs. All were shown word pairs and asked whether they rhymed. Spellings didn't indicate sound similarities. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, the researchers observed the activity in six brain regions important in connecting print and sound.

The results: Poor readers in both IQ groups showed significantly less brain activity in the observed areas than typical readers. But there was no difference in the brains of the poor readers, regardless of their IQs. "These findings suggest the specific reading problem is the same whether or not you have strong cognitive abilities across the board," says Gabrieli.

The study could have an important impact on both the diagnosis and education of poor readers. The revised definition of dyslexia proposed for the upcoming Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V), psychiatry's diagnostic bible, "currently lacks neurobiological evidence for the removal of 'severe discrepancy' [between IQ and reading ability]," says Stanford's Fumiko Hoeft. "Our study will be the first to provide such evidence."

Meanwhile, educators commonly offer reading- and language-focused interventions to bright dyslexics, to bring their reading up to the level of their expected achievement. But they may consider such specific remediation futile for less-"smart" children. If teachers understand that the same thing is going on in the brains of all poor readers, they may see that all those children could benefit from the same interventions. Since it's hard to learn much if you can't read, that's good news for a lot of kids.

 

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Twelve Myths We Tend to Believe About Dyslexia

1. People with dyslexia see words backward, such as “dog” for “god” or “was” for “saw”.

This myth is incorrect. Dyslexia is not caused by a vision problem. Many people have a lifelong confusion over left and right. Plus, they have difficulty sounding out the words in the first place and may simply mix up the words. They do not see things backwards.

2. Dyslexia is a medical diagnosis.

Physicians do not test for dyslexia and it is not classified as a medical term. Physicians are not trained to test for reading, spelling, and writing difficulties and there is not a pill or medical procedure to help with those types of issues. 

3. Dyslexia cannot be diagnosed until third grade.

False. Professionals conducting cognitive testing can accurately diagnose reading problems as early as five years old.

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Do You Read to Your Child?

Do You Read to Your Child?

By: John Edelson

Learning to read is an exciting time for children and their families. Learning to read successfully is the culmination of many steps. And the early stages of the reading process combines two skills that go hand in hand: phonics and vocabulary. Simply put, phonics is the understanding of how letters combine to make sounds and words. And this starts with, what else, the alphabet. Phonics skills grow as students distinguish between vowels and consonants and understand letter combinations.

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Simple Practices to Nurture the Motivation to Read

Simple Practices to Nurture the Motivation to Read 

By: Linda Gambrell and Barbara Marinak (2009)

Honoring books for self-selection, sharing the excitement of read-alouds, building a balanced book collection, making your passions public, and providing rewards that that demonstrate the value of reading are just a few simple but transformative suggestions that can nurture the love of reading in your classroom.

Research confirms that student motivation is a key factor in successful reading.

 

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