Dyslexia – Overview


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Linda S. Siegel has prepared a wonderful overview of ‘dyslexia’, or reading disability, which outlines much of the current thinking in this area. Like so many others before her, however, she has completely dismissed the visual element suggesting that since it does not cause dyslexia, it is a non-issue. The article remains an excellent starting point to get up to speed quickly on research, but is by necessity brief.

The article also lacks any sort of commentary on treatment, but I hope to add many more of these references in the future. Information on my preferred treatment approaches can be found throughout this and the tx.dvvc.ca (Private Therapy Site), but this is largely dependent on the given circumstances of the case.

Perspectives on dyslexia


Sally Shaywitz’s ‘Overcoming Dyslexia’ may also be useful and is widely available. It’s hard to find ‘experts’ who are broadly knowledgeable, and Shaywitz is no exception – she ironically speaks from a purely medical perspective regarding diagnosis, but recognizes that the only effective treatment is a behavioural one. There is a broad range of visual problems that plague humans, and when they are significant enough, they will play havoc in our daily lives. Children are especially vulnerable when they are learning to read and setting the stage for an average of 12 years of schooling. Way beyond the simple good health of the eyes, vision is fundamentally a neuro-behavioural activity requiring extreme precision in many neuromuscular and brain systems: We are using our visual and auditory sense to connect patterns in our memories. Like an automobile or computer, but substantially more so, vision’s simplicity belies its complexity and reliance upon not only good health but the ability to perform the daunting task put before it: Exercise extreme precision and reliability over rapidly repeated sequences of precision eye movements thousands of times in an hour, and each step of the way be able to match the visual symbol with an auditory cue and the associated meaning and usage.

Reading, then, is a behavioural concern based primarily on healthy eyes being able to produce strong visual skills. Vision, which is rarely ‘extreme’ in nature – that is, being either excellent or very poor, but nothing in between – is completely disregarded in Shaywitz’s approach to diagnosis. To clarify, as an MD, she is obviously interested in the child’s neurological and ocular health, but because research has failed to show that bad vision ’causes’ dyslexia, she dismisses it entirely as important – The child’s eyes are either healthy or they are not. While this apparently obvious assertion appears to follow diagnostic logic, it makes an important and fatal error by defining vision so narrowly as ‘eye health’. One might say she’s on the right track, but walking on her hands by not diagnosing and managing visual behavioural deficiencies first before immediately moving on to therapy and unneeded expenses to the public purse through healthcare and allowances at school.

To futher the discussion, it is an interesting and valuable observation that dyslexics very frequently, but not always, will show visual behaviours that are easy to detect starting at a young age. These include visual motor problems and problems associated with processing visual imagery in the brain. Visual therapeutic techniques are often necessary in order to maximize results from other therapies and make testing reliable. Not assessing visual skills will often lead to unnecessary psychoeducational assessments and individualized programming for school divisions. It is a simple and kind thing to require parents submit their children to a visual behavioural assessment before school starts. While this can frequently obviate the need for additional intervention and cost, not to mention stigma and anxiety, it is not part of the current model of ECS intake.