Why Dyslexia Should Not Be Considered a Disorder


As part of Neuron Learning’s information programme Neuroscientist Dr Martha Burns discusses her views on why dyslexia should not be considered a disorder, but rather a difference in the way a person’s brain is organised. Charles Schwab is discussed as an example of how people can be very strong in other skill areas.

Did you know that Dyslexia is not a problem with vision?

It is primarily an Auditory Processing Disorder with weaknesses appearing specifically in phonological processing. In the U.S., approximately 1 in 10 people and 8 in 10 students who struggle with reading are likely to have some form of dyslexia. That means that all educators should be prepared to have learners with dyslexia in their classes, from kindergarten through twelfth grade.



Dyslexia Dos and Don’ts: for an optimal learning environment


  • Assume that students with dyslexia have been identified.
  • Tell struggling readers to “just sound it out.”
  • Punish students for their learning differences.
  • Tell students that they’ll outgrow it.
  • Hold students back a grade without addressing needs.


  • Screen and test for dyslexia.
  • Take a strengths-based approach to dyslexia.
  • Allow modified or alternative assessments.
  • Don’t take off points for spelling errors if it’s not a spelling test.
  • Offer extra time on assignments and tests.
  • Create opportunities for multisensory learning.

Checklist of Dyslexia Signs: to know when to recommend a student for dyslexia screening

Do you think one or more of your students might have some form of dyslexia? It can be difficult to spot because it’s a spectrum disorder and looks a little different on everyone. To help you decide who to recommend for a dyslexia screening and evaluation by a qualified professional, here is a checklist of dyslexia symptoms to look for by age.


5 Ways Technology Can Help: students with dyslexia reach their potential

  • Speech-to-text software
  • Text-to-speech software
  • Smart pens
  • Computer games that target phonological processing
  • Spell checker

This is a great study done in Harvard showing the positive changes in brain processing.

According to a brain-imaging study published in the journal Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, some children with dyslexia struggle to read because their brains aren’t properly wired to process fast-changing sounds. Sound training via computer exercises can literally rewire children’s brains, correcting the sound processing problem and improving reading, says the study. The finding may someday help clinicians diagnose dyslexia even before reading begins, and suggests new ways of treating dyslexia, such as musical training.

While reading children with developmental dyslexia confuse letters and syllables. Nadine Gaab, PhD, of the Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience at Children’s Hospital Boston, used functional MRI imaging (fMRI) to examine how the brains of 9- to 12-year old children with developmental dyslexia, and normal readers, responded to sounds, both before and after using educational software called Fast ForWord Language, designed in part by Tallal, a co-author on the study.

Gaab tested the children’s brains to two different types of sounds: fast-changing and slow-changing. These sounds resembled vocal patterns found in speech. As Gaab watched using brain fMRI, the children listened to the sounds through headphones. The fast-changing sounds changed in pitch or other acoustic qualities quickly–over tens of milliseconds–as in normal speech whereas slow-changing sounds changed over only hundreds of milliseconds.

11 brain areas became more active when the children listened to fast-changing, compared to slow-changing, sounds in typical readers which Gaab call as normal. Dyslexic children processed the fast-changing sounds as if they were slow-changing–using the same brain areas, at the same lower intensity which is obviously wrong according to Gaab.

Infants use sound processing to grab from speech all the sounds of their native language, then stamp them into their brains, creating a sound map. Their sound map may become confused if they cant analyze fast- changing sounds. Gaab believe that reading trouble may develop when these children first see printed letters because at this stage, the children’s brains wire their internal sound map to letters they see on the page. Linking normal letters to confused sounds may lead to syllable-confused reading.

After completing exercises in a computer program known as Fast ForWord Language (Neuron Learning is the distributor in Europe) the brains of the children with dyslexia changed. The exercises involved listening to sounds but no reading starting with simple, changing noises, like chirps that swooped up in pitch. The sounds played slowly at first–an easy task for the dyslexic children–but gradually sped up, becoming more challenging. The exercises then repeated with increasingly complex sounds: syllables, words, and finally, sentences.

Learning to sing or play an instrument, for example, involves gradual, repetitive, and intense listening and responding to fast-changing sounds.Studies shows that musicians are much better at processing rapidly changing sounds than people without musical training.So musical training can be tried with dyslexic children to improve their reading.

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