March 13th, 2013

Dyslexia is a language processing disorder that affects written and spoken information.  Even though children with dyslexia usually have normal-to-above average intelligence, it is considered a learning disability, affecting about 10% of all schoolchildren.  The ability to properly and efficiently sequence and decode letters and words is impaired in people with dyslexia, making reading comprehension, spelling, and writing very difficult.  Although dyslexia is often thought of as a problem of vision, it actually is not.  Visual acuity is usually normal and most kids see just fine.  The problem lies in the pathway from the eyes to the brain, or in the symbol-processing area of the brain.  According to Adriana Barton, new research by Nina Kraus at Northwestern University is now showing that the auditory-processing center in the brain is also impaired in people with dyslexia:

This deficit in the brain’s ability to recall speech sounds “may be a biological marker of dyslexia,” she said.

Although many different factors may contribute to dyslexia, the link between a child’s reading ability and auditory processing skills appears to be a “highly significant relationship,” said Kraus.

Reading involves an internal hearing of printed language, Kraus explained. As children learn to read, they begin to hear the sounds of consonants, vowels and syllables in their heads and make meaningful connections between sounds and information.

One in 10 people has dyslexia. The reading disability does not affect intelligence, but it does interfere with the ability to recognize words, understand the meaning of a sentence and make sense of written language.

Children with dyslexia may not make strong sound-to-meaning connections in language because of how their nervous systems are set up, Kraus said.


The same researchers are studying whether music therapy can help kids with dyslexia:

Music fine-tunes auditory skills involved in identifying pitch, timing and timbre (the difference, for example, between the sound of a tuba and violin). In multiple studies, Kraus and colleagues have demonstrated that compared to non-musicians, adults with music training are better able to track the pitch, timing and timbre of music as well as speech, and are more likely to exclude unimportant sounds.

“There really is a connection between music and reading,” Kraus said.


My friend Dr. Joe Falbo at Red Apple Learning Centers has more on the diagnosis and multi-sensory treatment of dyslexia in the video below:



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    Ned Ketyer, M.D.

    Ned Ketyer, M.D.

    Dr. Ketyer has special interests in developmental pediatrics and preventative medicine, specifically how nutrition and the environment affect health. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Vermont and his medical degree from Northwestern University Medical School. He completed his residency at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

    As one of the founding physicians of Pediatric Alliance, PC, Dr. Ketyer served as its president from 1997-2004. He has been practicing general pediatrics at Pediatric Alliance since 1990. Dr. Ketyer and his wife have three boys and live in Pittsburgh's South Hills. 

  • Note: The information included in these posts is for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

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