A HEAD START ON DYSLEXIA TESTING, TUTORING AND DIAGNOSIS.
Before children learn how to read, differences in key language structures can be observed. Dyslexia, a condition that affects 10% of Perth children, is a reading dysfunction normally diagnosed during the second grade. The new MIT study however presents new hope of catching the condition even before children learn how to read. Testing for Dyslexia by using visual stimuli rather than words that children may not have learnt at a preschool age.
The study of kindergartners in Boston Children’s Hospital uncovered a link between the size and structure of thearcuate fasciculus, an area of the brain that bridges its two language processing sections, and pre-reading skills. When this area is smaller and less organized, poor reading skills can be observed. It was not readily established if the lack of reading experience influenced reading difficulties in the Dyslexia testing study.
The senior authors of the paper, John Gabrieli and Nadine Gaab, looked keenly on discovering the differences in children who were not introduced to reading instructions yet. Their findings together with lead authors Zeynep Saygin and Elizabeth Norton were published in the August 14 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience 2014.
Learning to Read
This study is part of a bigger undertaking where parents of 1,000 children from Rhode Island and Massachusetts were asked for permission to conduct pre-reading skills assessment on their kids. Using sounds to form words, the pre-reading abilities of kindergarten were analyzed against those from other classrooms or other peers. This provides concrete benefits for both teachers and parents. The 40 children from the test group were subjected to diffusion-weighted brain imaging in MIT. This technique is based on Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and intends to uncover the size and organization of the nerves that carry information between the brain’s regions.
The left side of the brain, associated with reading, contains the arcuate fasciculus, the inferior longitudinal fasciculus (ILF) and the superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF), which were the focus of the dyslexia research. The results of various pre-reading tests and the brain scans revealed the link between the size and organization of the arcuate fasciculus to the identification and manipulation of language sounds. Testing the child’s ability to divide, identify, and rearrange sounds to make new words served as the measurement for phonological skills. The stronger the phonological skills, the easier it is for children to learn how to read.
Rapid naming and letter naming test were also carried out to predict reading ability. These tests did not show any relationship between the size and organization of the nerves to phonological skills. This is an important step in uncovering biological markers for children that need additional help in learning to read. According to Brian Wandell, director of Stanford University’s Center for Cognitive and Neurobiological Imaging, the study reveals clear biological markers for Dyslexia at a very early age. This provides scientists new study areas on predicting reading skills.
Catching Dyslexia early.
The speech production (Broca) and understanding of written and spoken language (Wernicke) areas are connected by the arcuate fasciculus. The structural differences revealed by the study showed how a larger and more organized arcuate fasciculus delivered better communication of the areas. The impact on brain differences by other factors like genetic differences and environmental influences were not fully explored by the study. The strategy is to monitor these children and evaluate their brain measures up to second grade in an attempt to predict poor reading skills.
The big question is whether the behavioural and brain measures can deliver more accurate predictions for identification of dyslexic children over time. This would make it possible to take more proactive approaches to avert the condition early on instead of waiting for its manifestation. Some children with dyslexia have responded well to additional phonological skills training. The National Institutes of Health, the Poitras Center for Affective Disorders Research, the Ellison Medical Foundation and the Halis Family funded the research.
At Focused Education we specialise in testing, assessing and tutoring children with Dyslexia. We use the latest, researched methods to test at an early age for signs of Dyslexia. Our specialised assessments include Dyslexia testing for young children that have not yet developed an understanding of reading letters, words and sounds. This testing procedure incorporates the research recently completed by MIT university. We then intervene early providing advice, treatment options and support for Perth families that require Dyslexia testing and support services.
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