Our Spring 2014 Dyslexia Scholarship

Announcing the Spring 2014 winner of our $1000 scholarship: Melissa Shoff. Congratulations, Melissa, and thank you for sharing your experiences of overcoming dyslexia!

This season, students have inspired us with their stories of overcoming the obstacles caused by dyslexia. Our Spring 2014 essay contest entrants not only perform well in school but also manage to thrive academically, fostering a love of learning. This is what Gemm Learning is all about.

You might know that dyslexia is more than simply confusing and inverting alphabetical letters. Students face the following issues:

  • Difficulty reading, writing and spelling
  • The struggle to keep up in school despite their potentially higher than average IQs
  • Receiving an accurate diagnosis and searching for proper, customized accommodations

Our scholarship essay contest was established to empower students to pursue academic and personal goals by overcoming the difficulties of dyslexia. If you want to enter for the Fall 2014 Dyslexia Scholarship, consider these four important insights:

  1. Dyslexia allows students to get in touch with their strengths as well as their weaknesses. They often compensate for weaknesses by working diligently, maybe even two to three times more so than students without learning disabilities. They find and utilize the learning styles that work best for them.
  2. Having dyslexia can lead to the development of strong problem-solving skills.
  3. Perseverance is key. Don’t give up. Kids with dyslexia can, and do, excel academically every day.
  4. People face a unique set of challenges every day. Dyslexia happens to be one of those challenges for some students. Just like any other challenge, it doesn’t have to stop them from pursuing their dreams.

Entries for the $1000 Fall 2014 Dyslexia Scholarship Award are due on June 30th, 2014. We look forward to reading your story!

How to Get Your Dyslexic Child to Love Reading

How to Get Your Dyslexia Child to Love ReadingLet’s face it. Dyslexia makes reading tough on kids, parents, and teachers, and a lot of us don’t know what to do. There’s plenty of dyslexia reading strategies and resources out there, but how do you know which is best for your child?

The answer is simple. Find out what your child loves, and encourage that passion. She wants to learn about what interests her, so it’s essential that you provide the resources that talk about those interests. Does your child love jokes, mythology, pictures?There are books out there for any niche.

Here are a few we’ve seen work when fostering a love for reading:

  • Back to Front and Upside Down by Claire Alexander: For ages 4-7, this illustrated book follows Stan as he struggles with letters, seeks help from a friend and finds success. Dyslexic children can relate well to Stan’s challenges, plus there’s a coloring page included.
  • Hank Zipzer: The World’s Greatest Underachiever by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver: We’ve recommended this series before, co-written by Winkler, who’s best known for his role as Fonzie on Happy Days. His sense of humor and personal experience with childhood dyslexia resonates with kids, as we saw firsthand in our interview with Winkler.
  • Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson: Comic strip series can be a great tool for helping your child learn – and love – to read. The images drive the story, intriguing young readers and helping them through the storyline, step by step.
  • Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco: In this story, a girl named Trisha struggles to decipher letters and numbers. She turns to drawing until a new teacher provides the help she needs. Written at a 4.1 reading level, this book is perfect for children facing the struggles of dyslexia. And you can gain dyslexia insights from the author in our interview with her.

Finding the right tool can be difficult, but it’s important that you provide the resources your child needs. You can also consider a dyslexia program to get your child on the right track for reading.

What books do your children love? Share them in the comments to help parents like you.

What Dyslexia is Not

What Dyslexia is NotWhenever a child has difficulty in school, this is one of the first things that crosses a parent’s mind: is there something wrong with my child’s intelligence? Is there a medical problem?

With dyslexia, it’s common for parents to think both these thoughts. That’s why it’s important to understand the misconception about dyslexia and intelligence.


Dyslexia Has Nothing to Do With Intelligence

Dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence or IQ. Your child could be the next Einstein and have dyslexia, or he could be gifted in other types of intelligence, such as kinesthetic, and become the next all-star athlete. Similarly, your child could have a very high IQ or an average IQ and still have dyslexia.

Many children with dyslexia learn to adapt their thinking over several years just to cope with the disorder, and this coping process may bring out more creativity than with other children. But the bottom line is that learning to cope with dyslexia on your own is far different than using programs such as Fast ForWard™ software, which decreases the coping time that’s needed by every dyslexic person.


Dyslexia is a Language Problem

When a child has dyslexia, the problem is a linguistic one, not one with the eyes where corrective glasses or surgery is needed. Reading is a language skill that depends on listening and reading, and dyslexia can result whenever listening or reading skills are delayed.

For example, your child’s listening skills depend on his ability to hear the different sounds of words. If he mistakes the word “fan” for “van,” his brain interprets a very different meaning of what you are saying. He may not be able to hear the difference in these words or break down the words into sounds. This affects his reading.

Because dyslexia is not a medical problem, taking prescription medications for it won’t improve your child’s cognitive skills. This is why medical insurance doesn’t cover treatment for dyslexia.

If you’re ready to take the next step to help treat your child’s dyslexia, get more information about Fast ForWard™ software provided by Gemm Learning.

Celebrate Dyslexia or Seek Dyslexia Treatment?

Celebrate Dyslexia or Seek Dyslexia Treatment?While we would always recommend treatment for dyslexia when it is indicated, there is a positive side of dyslexia. To overcome the day-to-day challenges that a dyslexic has, other areas of the brain start to become more active.

For example, a child begins to get more creative at solving problems. If you pose a problem to him, he’ll most likely think outside the box to answer the problem. This results because he has to use out-of-the-box thinking for reading and other daily activities he participates in. He’s unable to read like other children so he has to invent a way around his reading disorder in order to succeed in life.

To think outside the box, he may ask adults to show him the concept in a hands-on way. When he works out the concept with his hands, this activates another part of his brain so that the learning of the concept is made real to him.

One of the other brain centers that is activated by having dyslexia is intuition. If he can intuit the answers to questions asked in class, he can have better success academically.

Thinking outside the box, learning kinesthetically and developing the ability to use intuition at an early age are great achievements by the teen years. In some ways, the acceleration of these skills sets up a child for business success while other children will take years to develop similar skillsets. For example, read our interview with Henry Winkler to see how dyslexia affected this famous actor and author.

However, there’s a downside to all this positive thinking about dyslexia. The downside is that it still takes a child with dyslexia years to develop the “gifts” of dyslexia. And in the meantime, what’s happening is a string of repeated failures. Failures in the classroom on a daily basis. Failures at home with parents and siblings. Failures socially in the real world, too. And you can’t control how your child is going to interpret those failures.

How long will it take your child to take it to heart that he’s not reading as well as other children in the class? How long will it be before he decides that he’s not as smart as the other children? How can you expect your child to stay positive about these “gifts” of dyslexia when frankly he doesn’t have them yet, and he sees himself as lacking normal skills other children have?

How long will it be before he feels shame for not being up to par? And how many years will he carry that shame in life?

All these are the true realities of a child with dyslexia during these early formative years.

The only solution is to boost cognitive functions with dyslexia treatment that specifically addresses the causes of dyslexia. And when you do, the coping mechanisms are accelerated and within weeks, your child notices his brain is really capable of developing all the skills that other children have developed. It’s the most remarkable transformation you’ll ever see.

Find out how your child could benefit from dyslexia treatment.

Changing Theories on the Cause of Dyslexia

Cause of DyslexiaSince learning how to read was reserved only for the elite for many centuries, the study of dyslexia is relatively new. Without tens of thousands of people reading up until the 1900s, there was less opportunity for cases of dyslexia to appear. Unlike medical conditions such as infections, where protocols were available since before Hippocrates’ time, dyslexia wasn’t discovered until almost 1900 and its treatment didn’t start until decades later.

There are three primary theories that try to explain the cause of dyslexia:  visual, language and cognitive. Each of these appeared to be valid in their own time.

The Visual Defect Theory Starts off the Race to Find the Cause

The first case of someone with dyslexia wasn’t reported until 1896 when the British doctor, W. Pringle Morgan, described a 14-year-old boy who couldn’t learn to read. Despite the reading problem, he was doing quite well in other subjects. Morgan’s theory was that there was a deficit in storing visual representations of the words that were being read.

During this time, the existence of medical journals made medical matters a talking point between various physicians. The term “word blindness” was coined by a Scottish optic surgeon, James Hinshelwood, and announced to the medical world in The Lancet in 1896. One article led to the next, and soon a complete collection of articles opened the door to British ophthalmologists learning about dyslexia. By 1917, Hinshelwood’s theory was refined: dyslexia was inherited. It was found more often in boys and was remediable.

Just because there was a genetic part of the dyslexia puzzle, it didn’t mean that the visual theory disappeared. In 1925, the neurologist Samuel T. Orton, American neurologist and psychiatrist, released a paper about his “twisted symbols” theory. This theory focused on how ambidextrous children had a higher tendency to reverse and transpose letters. After studying close to 3,000 children, he concluded that they had deficient visual perception of letters. It was thought that these were perhaps due to a brain malfunction in the hemisphere dominance of one occipital lobe over the other. Many people still believe that the primary definition of dyslexia is the reversal of letters, although the definition of dyslexia has progressed to mean a lot more than this.

After Orton died in 1948, the Orton Dyslexic Society was created to improve the life of dyslexic children and adults. Special attention and learning centers were created and the Society stood up for the rights of those who had the learning difficulty.

Not a Visual System Deficit at All – or Is It?

In 1957, Alfred Tomatis in France proposed the idea that dyslexia was a problem of the auditory system, not the visual system. Tomatis created a method to reverse the deficits, but it never really caught on with those who needed it.

Throughout the 1960s, it was popularly believed that the cause of dyslexia was due to both auditory and visual deficits.

By 1970, if you had dyslexia in Great Britain, you were included in those considered disabled in Great Britain’s Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act.

The Cause of Dyslexia is Linguistic in Nature

By the 1970s, imaging techniques were being created for the medical profession. In 1971, Isabelle Liberman, a psychology professor at the University of Connecticut used neuroimaging to determine that reversal errors in reading do not have to be visual in nature. She proposed a verbal / linguistic cause of dyslexia, which was supported by other researchers in the field.

By 1979, dyslexia research took on a new twist. Vellutino noted that dyslexics have difficulties establishing verbal associations and may not be able to decode words by phonemes. This means the difference between the word lip and rip couldn’t be heard. In normal readers, if there was a deficit in the ability to process these phonemes, there usually were deficits in short term memory, too. Thus, it was established that dyslexia was a language deficit, not a visual problem.

There was some merit to this theory, although different languages have different complexities of phonological rules. Dyslexics seem to make more mistakes and are slower readers when the language is more complex phonologically.

Teaching methods were created to address these language deficits in Europe and used successfully for many years.

Cognitive Skills are the Cause of Dyslexia

Language acquisition is part of linguistics, and scientists next took the idea a little farther and in a slightly different direction. Spring, Capps, Denckla and Rudel soon proved that just because a child was dyslexic, it didn’t mean that he or she didn’t have a good vocabulary; instead, the child was simply a little slow at naming colors, numbers, objects and letters. The cognitive abilities used to name objects had to be a necessary part of the puzzle. With their research, it became obvious to all dyslexia investigators that everything related to reading skills had to be studied. The cognitive theory was born.

In 1975, the U.S. National Committee on Learning Disabilities was created. These experts suggested that learning disabilities subgroups should be studied to determine the cause, diagnosis and treatment of each subgroup. This meant that those with specific reading deficits could potentially be treated differently from those with other specific reading deficits. In 1976, reading disability was proven as a learning disability subgroup, identifying backward readers and those who were reading retarded.

Rapid Naming and Memory Storage are Deficient

An example of how those with dyslexia have cognitive deficits is the inability of dyslexics to find words accurately and quickly. This skill is called rapid naming. Scientists discovered that rapid naming skills are a precursor of reading deficits.

On a similar note, accuracy and speed of single word identification predicts reading ability. Researchers at the University of Toronto found that without the ability to identify single words quickly, efficient reading wasn’t possible. It was reasoned that if dyslexics have a word recognition deficit, then this affects their reading comprehension, vocabulary and eventually intelligence.

And since dyslexics can’t process information rapidly, these cognitive deficits may cause the phonological deficits, proposed the scientists in 1995. Maybe the cause was one of rapid information processing.

Another cognitive deficit found in dyslexics was memory storage ability smaller than what normal readers have. The inability to store more memory could lead to coding deficits, although some experts suggested that the memory banks were small only for language information. Regardless of the theory, it was possible that if ways to increase memory storage ability were initiated, maybe dyslexia could be remedied.

During the 1980s, the most prominent theories were primarily that dyslexics had phonological skill and isolated word recognition deficits. They are slower at rhyming as well.

New Direction for Researchers Still Hunting for the Source

The 1990s and later years, the cause of dyslexia has become settled science.  Reading is a language skill, and dyslexia is caused by difficulties processing language, phonological and other delays.

These days scientists have started looking for the source of these language processing delays.  Is there a  genetic basis for dyslexia?  So far a relationship between chromosomes 6 and 15 and reading disability have been confirmed by some researchers and disputed by others.

Or is there an environmental factor?  Studies show strong links between the number of words a child hears in early life and reading ability later on, but are there other environmental factors?

And yet, despite all these theories, everyone agrees on one thing:  dyslexia can be remediated. And that alone is enough reason for hope.

The next step is to create a plan for treating the causes of dyslexia. Find the dyslexia treatment that’s right for your child at Gemm Learning.