A DISCUSSION OF READING DISORDERS: PERCEPTUAL, COGNITIVE AND MNEMONIC ELEMENTS

October 5, 2014 in Special Education Articles by Doug Goldberg

A Perplexing Problem

In some ways the very idea of a reading disorder makes little sense; particularly in light of the “all things being equal” paradigm – i.e. that reading teachers and curriculum materials are usually adequate vehicles by which to impart this skill. To some extent, this is also true with regard to neuro-developmental factors.

For example, assume a given child has average intelligence, which, according to a study conducted by the Council of Exceptional Children (2011) is typical of most students with reading disorders. The fact that intellectual tests measure many of the same skills needed to learn to read, i.e. auditory memory, visual perception, visual computation and spatial perception suggests the reading disabled child’s cognitive and perceptual faculties are functioning well enough to absorb a wide variety of inputs from various sources (school, family, the general environment). This is especially relevant in light of the fact that the evidence for a specific, neurological dysfunction is varied and questionable. For example while some MRI studies have pointed to prefrontal cortical and executive function deficiencies (Beneventi, Tonessen et al. 2010) other studies have suggested cerebellar dysfunction (Nicolson, Faucett et. al 2001) while still another implicated working memory – presumably arising from temporal left hemispheric roots (Berninger, Raskind, 2008).  These assumptions are mostly based on brain activity levels – as derived from MRI studies and do not point to pathologies per se. In fact Berninger cautioned against drawing conclusions of neuro-pathological roots to reading disorders due to the fact that unusual brain activity patterns can arise from behavioral compensations learned by the child, resulting in skewed shifts in brain blood flow rather than from neuropathy. The idea that various brain sites could be involved in producing the disorder – as it often asserted with regard to more severe learning disorders such as autism, seems somewhat specious.  Children with reading disorders are usually normal in every respect, which runs contrary to the global brain dysfunction hypothesis inferable from these various research and theoretical sources. Read the rest of this entry →

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