Dyslexia: We do not have a knowledge gap, but an action gap

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Get the Full Transcript HereThe really good news: Science is ready for those who are dyslexic. As my colleague, Dr. Sally Shaywitz from Yale University stated last year in her testimony to this committee, “we now have the data to reliably define dyslexia, to know its prevalence, its cognitive basis, its symptoms and remarkably, where it lives in the brain and evidence-based interventions which can turn a sad, struggling child into not only a good reader, but one who sees herself as a student with self-esteem and a fulfilling future.”  The bad news: We do not have a knowledge gap, but an action gap. Again, from Dr. Shaywitz’s testimony, “In dyslexia, remarkably in America, in the year 2014, we have not a knowledge gap but an action gap. We have the knowledge, but it is not being put into policy and practice and far too many children and adults, too, are suffering needlessly. NEWSFLASH: scientific research show that reading relies on  rapid and consistent auditory processing (listening) and oral language (particularly phonological) skills, and that weakness in these two areas predispose a child to subsequent reading failure.  Schools are in the business of teaching students how to read, not how to process faster or to speak. The Language to Literacy Continuum There is ample prospective, longitudinal research that demonstrates the factors that ultimately cause reading failure begin well before a child enters formal education. Using an infant’s temporal integration threshold at 7 months of age and gender, it was possible to predict 93% correctly those toddlers who at age 3 years scored in the “impaired” range on the Verbal Scale of the Stanford Binet Test of Intelligence. It is important to emphasize that children with slower auditory processing were not intellectually impaired on non-verbal components of intelligence nor did temporal integration thresholds predict non-verbal intelligence. This dissociation demonstrates the specificity of the relationship between auditory temporal integration thresholds and language-based learning. Auditory Processing Can Be Assessed and Addressed at Any Age Moreover, the same model of neural sound processing tracked with children’s actual reading abilities in school-age children.  The good news is that research has shown that addressing this with classroom listening interventions can improve a child’s reading ability and fundamentally rewire the brain for healthier learning and communication skills. Why is the precision and speed of auditory processing important for learning language? Listening to and processing ongoing speech is the fastest thing the human brain has to do. Our brain does not know what language we are going to have to learn to speak. In order to learn to talk, we first have to learn to listen to and chunk information into meaningful segments in the rapidly changing, complex acoustic sounds around us. English Language Learners. Children for whom English is not their first language are also at great risk of becoming struggling learners. Not only does oral language make up to 80% of the curriculum, many of these children have not had sufficient language stimulation in English to set up the distinct phonological representations for 7 English phonemes that are required for phonological awareness in learning to read English. Why Have Schools Failed to Focus on Improving Students’ Fundamental Auditory Processing and Linguistic Capacities? Given the substantial body of research that has consistently shown that learning to read requires: • a solid foundation of fundamental auditory processing (listening) skills; • oral language skills (specifically phonological awareness) and substantial resources have been directed to improving reading outcomes Neuroplasticity: The Brain that Changes Itself One of the basic tenets of modern neuroscience is that, ”Neurons that fire together nearly simultaneously in time, wire together”, Throughout life, but especially early in life, the brain is literally shaped anatomically and physiologically by experience. This repeated scenario of stimulus, neural firing, and reward, leads to experience-driven organization of the brain. This is called “neuroplasticity”. Fast ForWord ® : A model system for translating neuroplasticity-based training research into educational programs Research shows that for the vast majority of dyslexics, before they begin to fail to learn to read in the early school years they already have failed to establish a strong oral language system as toddlers and preschoolers………This cascade from auditory perceptual weakness, to oral language weakness, to reading failure, which I have called the Language to Literacy Continuum, follows the child from infancy into adult life, if not corrected.   Reading Fluency A hallmark of dyslexia is slow and effortful (non-fluent) reading. Research has shown that the best way to improve reading fluency is to have a student read out loud to an adult who corrects the student’s reading errors in real time. Unfortunately, there is limited time for teachers to provide the struggling reader the amount of individual attention they need to develop fluent reading. Many new technologies provide increased opportunities for helping the struggling reader receive the individualized practice that they need. For example, as a “virtual tutor” Reading Assistant ® uses stateof-the-art voice recognition software that allows a child to read stories out loud off of a computer and receive real-time correction of errors. Dr. Paula Tallal Senior Research Scientist, Center for Human Development, University of California, San Diego; Adjunct Professor, Salk Institute for Biological Studies; Founder and Director, Scientific Learning Corporation   Get the Full Transcript Here

Suggestions for further reading

1.Tallal, P. (2000) The science of literacy: From the laboratory to the classroom. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 97(6), p. 2402-2404.

2. Benasich, A.A. & Tallal, P. (2002) Infant discrimination of rapid auditory cues predicts later language impairment, Behavioural Brain Research, 136, p. 31-49.

3. Temple, E., Deutsch, G. K., Poldrack, R.A., Miller, S.L., Tallal, P., Merzenich, M.M. & Gabrieli, J.D.E. (2003) Neural deficits in children with dyslexia ameliorated by behavioral remediation: Evidence from functional MRI, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 100, (5) p. 2860- 2865.

4. Tallal, P. (2004) Improving Language and Literacy is a Matter of Time, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 5, (9), p. 721-728.

5. Tallal, P. (2013) Fast ForWord®: The Birth of the Neurocognitive Training Revolution. In Michael M. Merzenich, Mor Nahum, Thomas M. Van Vleet editors: Changing Brains: Applying Brain Plasticity to Advance and Recover Human Ability. Progress in Brain Research, Vol. 207, Burlington: Academic Press, 2013, pp. 175-207. ISBN: 978-0-444-63327-9© Copyright 2013 Elsevier B.V. Academic Press

6. Gaab, N. Gabrieli, J.D.E., Deutsch, G.K., Tallal, P. & Temple, E. (2007) Neural Correlates of rapid auditory processing are disrupted in children with developmental dyslexia and ameliorated with training: an fMRI study. Restorative Neurology Neuroscience, 25, p. 295-310.

7. Tallal, P. & Gaab, N. (2006) The Role of Dynamic Auditory Processing, Including Musical Training, in Language Development and Disorders, Trends in Neuroscience, 29(7).

8. Ylinen, S. & Kujala, T. (2015) Neuroscience Illuminating the Influence of Auditory or Phonological Intervention on Language-related Deficits. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 137, doi: 10.3389/psyg.2015.00137.

9. Doidge, N. The Brain that Changes Itself. Penguin Books, 2007.

10. Kraus N, Anderson S. (2015) Low socioeconomic status linked to impaired auditory processing. Hearing Journal. 68(5): 38-40.

11. White-Schwoch, Woodruff Carr, Thompson, Anderson, Nicol, Bradlow, Zecker, Kraus. Auditory processing in noise: A preschool biomarker for literacy. (2015) PLOS Biology