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Science reveals benefits of dyslexia

Ask the Experts by Ann Laciura

Q: Our fourth-grade son was just diagnosed with dyslexia, and we are about to start lessons with an Orton-Gillingham-trained instructor.  The problem is, because of his frustration in school, our son is convinced that he is stupid, nothing will change that, and tutoring is a waste of time. What can we do to give him hope?

A. Dyslexia does not mean a person is stupid. In fact, history shows, quite the opposite. Tell your son that he is in excellent company. Albert Einstein was no slouch, revolutionizing physics. Fellow innovators Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell and Henry Ford were dyslexic. In the art world, Leonardo da Vinci and Walt Disney are giants.

Among today’s dyslexic public figures are journalist Anderson Cooper, business tycoon Richard Branson, and authors John Irving and Stephen Cannell. Dyslexic entertainers include Jay Leno, Cher, Whoopi Goldberg, Quentin Tarantino and Henry Winkler.

I might refer you to a wonderful book: The Gift of Dyslexia: Why Some of the Smartest People Can’t Read and How They Can Learn.

The book, by Ronald Davis and Eldon Braun, explains that a dyslexic mind commonly thinks in three-dimensional pictures, not the slower, linear, language-based thinking of most brains. While this quality does not make every dyslexic a genius, the authors write, it does mean the person likely is unusually intelligent, inventive and creative. Bottom line: The brain function that makes reading and spelling so difficult for your son is the very trait that may turn out to be his greatest strength. Reassure him that different learners just need different instruction to succeed in school.

Q: I thought the Orton-Gillingham approach was for language-based instruction only.  Can it help dyslexic students with math skills, as well?

A. Yes! The dyslexic mind generally has difficulty with abstract concepts, sequencing and rote memorization tasks. Therefore, learning math can be daunting for some dyslexic students. Take the multiplication tables, for example. It is easier and more effective for the dyslexic mind to summon a mental picture of paired images and stories related to that combination of images than to memorize abstract number sentences. Using this approach, students can master the multiplication tables within hours.

Whether introducing multi-digit addition and subtraction with number rearrangement, fraction operations, or geometry and algebra principles, making ideas something to see, touch and move is a powerful teaching strategy.

Grosse Pointer Ann Laciura is an instructor at the non-profit Michigan Dyslexia Institute and a member of MDI’s Detroit Metro Center’s advisory panel. Ann is a member of The Family Center’s Association of Professionals.  She offers dyslexia remediation in the Grosse Pointes. Call her at 313-885-0576. For more information, check out the Michigan Dyslexia Institute at http://www.dyslexia.net, or call 248-658-777. The center, 3384 12 Mile in Berkley, offers testing, instruction, teacher training, and support groups for parents and children.

Enriched Communities Through Strong Families
The Family Center serves as the community's hub for information, resources and referral for both families and professionals. The Family Center is a non-profit organization founded to promote a deeper understanding of the role of parents and others in supporting our youth to become competent, caring and responsible community members.

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To volunteer or contribute, visit www.familycenterweb.org, call (313) 432.3832.
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20090 Morningside Drive, Grosse Pointe Woods, MI 48236.