There is help locally for dyslexia

  • Posted: Monday, October 21, 2013 12:01 a.m.
    UPDATED: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 6:53 a.m.
Staff Photo by Stephanie Turner
Ann Whitten of Aiken Learning Lab demonstrates a technique she uses to teach students. Students can trace letters, as Whitten is doing with the letters “sh,” while sounding them out to help them learn.
Staff Photo by Stephanie Turner Ann Whitten of Aiken Learning Lab demonstrates a technique she uses to teach students. Students can trace letters, as Whitten is doing with the letters “sh,” while sounding them out to help them learn.

Reading can take you to a different place or inform you of a time past.

Some can read with ease and even do it often; others find it a great task – one some even avoid.

People with this disability might fall under the diagnosis of dyslexia, according to Ann Whitten of Aiken Learning Lab.

“Dyslexia is a specific reading disability caused by a defect in the brain's processing of graphic symbols,” said Laura Casdorph, a North Augusta Middle School special education teacher.

People with this disorder often have trouble with spelling, writing and pronouncing words, according to the International Dyslexia Association.

Because of this, dyslexics might rely on memorizing or guessing words, Whitten said.

These techniques might work for a while, but, when a child starts to get older and encounter unfamiliar words, he or she won't have the phonetic skills to help them.

These basic skills help a person connect letters of written language to the sounds of spoken language, which helps in reading and writing, according to The Partnership for Reading.

Dyslexia can be genetic, according to Whitten. It can also be caused by a neurological defect.

The brains of those with dyslexia tend to process activities like reading and spelling with the right hemisphere, instead of the left; the right hemisphere usually deals with interpreting areas, spaces and patterns. Therefore, processing words with this side usually makes the person see them as line drawings, for example, according to Casdorph.

In other words, a child will see a picture of a house or the word “house” and interpret it as “drawing” that means where someone lives. If you use a synonym for the word, the child might not make the same connection, according to the Reading from Scratch program.

A big myth tied to the disorder is that dyslexics read backward, according to Whitten. Though spelling can look jumbled at times, there is more involved with the disorder, according to the International Dyslexia Association.

Other signs include reversing sounds or parts of words when reading or reversing letters and words when writing or difficulty in pronunciation, recalling important details or explaining what certain phrases mean, according to Casdorph.

Another sign is not being able to rhyme words. This is because they simply can't understand what makes them rhyme, according to Whitten. This is usually an earlier sign.

Fluency is also affected by the disorder because it slows down reading speed, according to Whitten. An average reading rate for a student is more than 90 words a minute, whereas those with dyslexia might read at a speed of 40 words per minute, according to Whitten.

To accurately determine if someone has the disorder is through tests.

However, “dyslexia is difficult to assess. There is no one test to assess it,” said Casdorph.

Everyone who has the condition is different, Whitten said.

A newer treatment method is the Response to Intervention process, which provides students with “intensive and individualized supplemental reading instruction,” according to the International Dyslexia Association.

Whitten uses games to help her students learn that words have sounds and what those sounds are.

Using multisensory practices can help, too.

“Multisensory learning involves the use of visual, auditory and kinesthetic-tactile (language symbols we feel) pathways simultaneously to enhance memory and learning of written language,” according to the International Dyslexia Association.

Those with dyslexia often feel embarrassed or dumb, Whitten said.

However, those with this disorder are often considered very bright and creative.

“They are out-of-the-box thinkers ... and see the big picture of things,” Whitten said.

One of these includes filmmaker Harvey Hubbell V, and one of his latest project is documentary “Dislecksia: The Movie.”

Several crew members also have the disorder, including writer Jeremy Brecher.

Among those on-screen will be lawyer David Boies, television writer Stephen J. Cannell and actor Billy Bob Thornton – all who also have this learning disability.

Whitten is arranging to have this film shown in Aiken in November.

Another movie showing she has arranged is the James Redford-directed production “The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia.”

Redford, the son of actor Robert Redford, has a son who is dyslexic. He is featured in the film.

A free showing of the film will be at the Aiken County Public Library on Oct. 29. The showing will start at 7 p.m., with a panel discussion afterward.

Dyslexia can't really be prevented, according to Boston's Children Hospital.

However, every child's reading skills can benefit from simply reading to him or her 15 to 20 minutes each day, preferably from a book higher than his or her reading level, said Whitten, who is also part of the Learning Disabilities Association of South Carolina and S.C. Branch of the International Dyslexia Association.

For more information on the disorder, visit www.interdys.org or call Whitten at 803-507-5079.

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