Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Reading and Spelling Difficulties

Reading is a neurological process that the brain undertakes every time it is presented with text on the page. In order to target the primary cause of reading difficulty to find a solution, we have to look at different areas where that process can break down.

Whole word sight reading - a condition called Optilexia 


  • Regular guessing (or errors) when reading
  • Errors show up as switching of words to incorrect ones with the same first letter
  • Short words can seem harder than long words
  • Spelling always atrocious except possibly in spelling tests
  • Spelling based on very simple phonic construction
  • Made early reading progress but then moved onto a plateau
  • Reading may be at grade level, but below individual's potential
  • Great difficulty decoding an unfamiliar word
  • Comprehension accuracy often poor compared to fluency
  • Possible flipping of b/d, on/no, was/saw, etc.
The main sign of Optilexia is guessing when reading, particularly with the short words. Sometimes the longer words seem easier and the reader will read a word without a problem on one page, but not the next. The underlying cause of Optilexia can be found in how the learner is processing the text visually rather than aurally. Once that has been switched, a steady rate of progress can be gained.

Another important reading struggle is caused due to  Eye-Tracking Weakness 

Sometimes children skip words and lines. Normally a reader's eyes perform a refined jump from word cluster to word cluster left to right, called a saccade. Some struggling readers have weakness in the neural feedback loops controlling the eye muscles that control this movement. That makes focusing accurately on a word in a sentence very hard. Simple eye-tracking exercises usually fix this neural weakness in just days.

Reading is a higher brain function and is therefore controlled by the frontal cortex. When the brain is under stress, 70% of the frontal cortex energy is diverted to the fight or flight center (amygdala) and the brain loses its capacity to think clearly. A child who struggles with reading is in a state of stress when trying. This sets the child up for inadequate mental resources when attempting to read. The pattern of being under stress and getting more stressed when trying creates a downward stress spiral which often results in meltdowns, tears and finally giving up.

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