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January 12, 2004

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APD and reading disability/dyslexia

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  Links     In the early 1900s, a physician named Norman Geschwind noted that when his patients had neurological damage to the left hemisphere auditory cortex, that the result was frequently that they experienced difficulty reading.  Similar conclusions were drawn by Samuel Orton, M.D., a neurologist in the early 1900s, who is now credited with being the first to identify reading problems in children as being of 'left hemisphere, neurological' origin.  That led to the development of the Orton-Gillingham reading approaches and the founding of the International Dyslexia Association.  It was not until the 1980s, however, that these theories were proven to be true.  Sally Shaywitz, M.D., a neurophysiologist at Yale Medical School did fMRI studies on adults with dyslexia and adults who had no reading difficulty.  Results of fMRI on individuals done while they read, showed that the area of greatest activation was in the left hemisphere auditory cortex (Wernicke's area) as well as some activation in the  pre-frontal, Broca's area, where speech is produced.  Reading is now understood to be primarily an auditory-language processing task in the brain.

Research conducted in 2003 showed that children with learning-to-read difficulties also had dysfunction in the same cortical areas.  Temple, et al., showed that children in the early elementary grades who were having difficulty learning to read showed the same pattern of dysfunction as those individuals in the Shaywitz study using fMRI images.  These children were involved in phonological tasks associated with learning to read.  While this is interesting, the most exciting part of this study was that it demonstrated that this area of dysfunction could be quickly remediated.  In this same study the reading delayed children were provided Fast ForWord auditory training.  Upon completion of Fast ForWord, these children were administered fMRI imaging studies that revealed normal activation in the left hemisphere auditory cortex when they were involved in the same phonological tasks.

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