Monday, April 7, 2008

The International Dyslexia Association Conference

First and foremost I want to thank my principal, Susan Phillips and literacy coach, dayle timmons for the opportunity of attending this conference. The focus of this two day dyslexia conference in Jacksonville was Reading Rx: What Medicine, Science, and Education Prescribe for Reading Success. As an educator I thrive on hearing cutting edge research and sharpening my tools to better serve the children in my care. If you are a regular education teacher reading this please don't think this doesn't pertain to you. Dyslexia occurs in 1 out of every 5 children and it is important for everyone to notice the early indicators.

Ok, so are you wondering why I included a picture of myself and Jacksonville's mayor, John Peyton?!? Well, Mayor Peyton took time to join us for lunch and speak about the importance of early intervention and his Literacy Initiative Plan to get every child in Jacksonville ready to read when they enter kindergarten. Mayor Peyton mentioned that the "Rally Jacksonville" reading initiative has made him as popular with the 4 year olds as Spiderman! He is approached quite frequently around town by 4 year olds telling him how much they love their books. He also shared with us that he knows firsthand how debilitating dyslexia can be as it is in his family.

Dyslexia as defined by IDA is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language.

Session title: Why Some Smart People have Trouble Reading: The Science of Reading and Dyslexia

Presentors: Sally E Shaywitz and Bennett A Shaywitz
Yale University School of Medicine
Directors of Learning, Reading and Attention

This precious husband and wife team were dynamic! Highlights of their presentation follow.

Simply stated, the definition of dyslexia is an UNexpected difficulty in reading. It is unexpected in relation to intelligence, motivation, education, and for adults professional status. Dyslexia disproves the assumptions that if you read well you are smart and that if you don't read well you are not smart. Dyslexia is multifactorial with multiple influences not explained by a single gene. Multiple genes are involved with each contributing a small amount. Now this is cool.....Through the use of Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the brains of impaired and nonimpaired readers Mr. Shaywitz was able to show that three systems in the brain show activity when a non-impaired reader is reading. However, when an impaired reader is reading the only activity was in the frontal lobe. Dyslexic readers try to compensate for this and thus slow down the reading process. Current research is showing that two medications (Stratera and Ritalin) have postive effects on reading with both ADHD and dyslexia. Their plea is that we celebrate and draw positive attention to the "Sea of Strengths" of dyslexic individuals (critical thinking, reasoning, concept formation, comprehension, general knowledge, problem solving, and vocabulary). They support a reading program with scientific evidence.

Early indicators are:
family history of dyslexia
early language delays (speech and syntax production)
and signs of struggling with:
print awareness
letter knowledge
expressive vocabulary
sentence/story recall
phonological and phonemic awareness
rapid automatic naming

Effective reading intervention is early intervention, an evidence based program, knowledgeable teachers, intensive instruction for a sufficient duration (60-90 minutes 4-5 times per week).

My favorite part of their presentation was when Mrs. Shaywitz shared success stories of dyslexic adults. When her book was near completion she had a misguided professor comment that he couldn't imagine "someone like that" (meaning a dyslexic person) being a doctor, lawyer, etc. This gave her the idea to add to the end of her book many "people like that" that are very successful adults. Some names you may know are John Irving and Charles Schwab.

website to visit:
book to read: Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally E Shaywitz

I have much more to share, so look for more post tomorrow.


dayle said...

Wow - this sounds like a great presentation. I think for a long time in our practice we have noticed that our children slow down in reading to compensate. Their fluency scores reflect this trend. I guess the question for me is, knowing this, how much direct fluency training should we be doing and will it make a difference? dayle

Tammi said...

Great Leaps, Great Leaps, Great Leaps
I certainly heard many singing the praises of this program that we are actively using. They say it will only make a difference if it is consistent and administered correctly.
Wilson also now has a fluency piece.
Of course, many are supporters of repeated readings as well.