David P. Hurford, Ph.D.
Dr. Chris Christman
Dr. Sean Lauderdale
Dr. Rick Lindskog
Dr. Jan Smith
Shanise Butts, B.S.
Jordan Boux, B.S.
Dyslexia is defined as a learning disorder marked by an inability to read; dys (Greek, meaning difficult or disordered) and lexis (Greek, meaning word), hence;difficult or disordered word. Dyslexia essentially means difficulty reading words. Researchers have now furthered the definition to include not only reading difficulties, but an impairment in areas of language development that is observed when the individual begins learning to read. These skills are measured with the Center for READing's assessment protocols.
The ability to learn to speak is natural and relatively effortless for nearly all infants and toddlers. For most infants, simply exposing them to a language guarantees that they will learn the language. Regardless of nationality, infants are generally born with the ability to utter all of the sounds that humans are capable of producing. After some time in a particular language environment, the infant will stop producing some sounds in favor of those that he or she is hearing in his or her language environment. The infant and young toddler's vocabulary also increases in leaps and bounds. For the most part, this process is seemingly so automatic and effortless that Noam Chomsky theorized that infants are born with a Language Acquisition Device (LAD). The LAD is a theoretic neurological device whose primary purpose is to help the individual to acquire language and helps to explain how language development occurs so readily and easily in young children.
Learning to read, on the other hand, is not a natural process and takes an extraordinary amount of effort. Allowing young children to have exposure to text without someone reading the text to them, does not result in spontaneous reading.
Most young children are quite motivated to learn to read and look forward to attending school in anticipation of learning how to read. This excitement can turn to frustration and disappointment for children who are experiencing weaknesses in the skills that are necessary to begin learning to read.
Researchers have identified a causative agent involved in the difficulty some children have when trying to learn to read; phonological processing deficiencies. Phonological processing refers to the ability of the individual to understand that words are comprised of sounds and that these sounds can be used as linguistic building blocks. As an example, when children who are not at risk for reading difficulties are asked to say a word such as dog, and then to say it again without a particular sound, they can do this successfully. That is, say dog without the /d/sound. The child not at risk for reading difficulties would say og. Children at risk for reading difficulties typically are not as able to consistently do this. Learning to read involves decoding text into sounds and then combining those sounds to produce words. Without the ability to understand that words are comprised of sounds, children have a very serious difficulty learning to read. In other words, phonological processing is a prerequisite skill when learning to read.
Some children are able to essentially memorize the visual representation of a word along with the sounds that it represents. Unfortunately, this strategy fails when the child's memory system becomes overloaded. This is one of the reasons that many children who have reading difficulties are not identified until after third grade. This is when the memorization strategy fails.
When children come to understand that letters of the alphabet represent the sounds of language and when they can manipulate these sounds and symbols, they have the essential skills to begin the process of learning to read. Linguistic researchers refer to acquiring this ability as the having learned the alphabetic principle. Comprehending the alphabetic principle is the key to deciphering the phonological code stored in the visual representation; the word. It is also the same strategy that adult readers use to read a word they have never seen before.
Children with reading difficulties are not just disadvantaged academically, they are likely to experience a number of other important difficulties. They are likely to have lower self-esteem and experience some conflict with their parents.
Imagine knowing that you are relatively intelligent. You know that you are at least as smart as your friends. However, your friends are learning to read, but you are not. Unfortunately, children are likely to attribute their difficulties learning to read with "being stupid." Of course, they are not. But when children are unable to do particular tasks or do not have specific skills, they typically attribute this lack of ability as a deficiency in themselves. In addition, parents get very frustrated with their children with dyslexia/reading difficulties. They know how critically important the ability to read is. Teachers many times suggest that in first grade children learn to read, while after third grade children read to learn. The educational system relies on children's abilities to read. Parents also know that, to a large extent, their children's abilities to later gain and maintain employment will be related to their children's abilities to read. Most jobs today require reading ability. Parents who are not aware of the reasons for reading difficulties sometimes believe that since their children are intelligent enough to learn to read and are not doing well learning to read, they are simply not trying hard enough. This sometimes leads to harsh and hurtful words. Because parents love their children and want the best for them, they feel that they need to help motivate their children to work harder. Regrettably, this strategy does not work. Children with reading difficulties need specific and explicit instruction that will not improve with "increased motivation" or with the simple passage of time. Waiting simply delays improvement and widens the gap between good and poor readers.
At the Center for READing, we have been studying dyslexia and reading difficulties for quite some time. We have specifically developed techniques that are very accurate in identifying the difficulties related to reading difficulties. We have also developed strategies to help individuals become competent readers.
Correcting a reading difficulty will do much more than just improve academic skills. It opens up tremendous opportunities that might not otherwise be available to an individual with dyslexia.
The research that is generated by the Center for READing is concerned with three areas:
This section provides information regarding the technical information associated with the identification techniques and the training paradigm used by the Center for READing.