A new study of remedial programs for students with dyslexia shows “that more aggressive treatment can make dyslexic brains work the way normal brains do, activating a region that plays a vital role in reading fluency”.
April 27, 2004
Learning Disabilities: A Clearer Path to Reading Fluency
By JOHN O’NEIL
Remedial programs for students with dyslexia often succeed only in making bad readers into slightly better bad readers. Now a new study shows that more aggressive treatment can make dyslexic brains work the way normal brains do, activating a region that plays a vital role in reading fluency.
Good and bad readers handle tasks differently, brain scanning research has shown, from the processing of sound to the recall of vocabulary. Last year, a study showed that dyslexic students who were tutored with typical methods made limited gains but continued to use cumbersome mental pathways.
The new study, to be published in May in the journal Biological Psychiatry, was the first to compare the effect of standard and aggressive treatments before and after pupils received them.
One group of 37 poor readers, ages 6 to 9, received an average of two hours a week of instruction using a systematic, phonics-based curriculum. A comparison group of 12 poor readers continued to receive their school’s normal remedial help: about an hour a week.
Testing showed that in one year the intensive teaching group made up about half the gap between their initial scores and those of a control group of normal readers, while the other students fell further behind.
The brain scans showed that the children who received the intensive remedial tutoring had begun to activate an area of the brain known as the word-form region the way the average readers did.
Dr. Sally E. Shaywitz of Yale, an author of the study, called that change crucial. “The word-form region allows a child to look at a word and to automatically know how to pronounce it, spell it and know what it means,” she said. “If a child is not a fluent reader, he or she will avoid reading; it’s too effortful.”