Tuesday, July 12, 2011

It's Dyslexia...So Now What?

The past two weeks have made a mess of my mind...information...opinions...decisions. But I feel I'm on the right track.

Here's the deal. Our nine-year-old H-Bob has lagged a grade or two behind in her reading since the beginning. Writing and spelling have been atrocious. No word attack skills. She's had attention issues. Looking back she never 'got' rhyming. Lessons taught one day were forgotten the next. Math...similar issues. Now that I know, those are hallmark tags of a dyslexic learner. Not the backward letters or writing that I incorrectly had been told were the signs to look for.

On original suspicious that she could have vision tracking problems, we had her tested and eventually enrolled in eye therapy sessions every other week which have helped tremendously. Her ability to perceive...not just physically see...written letters or numbers on a page was in the 10% range. They were amazed she was even reading. Six months later her abilities are vastly improved. But her reading and math have not caught up.

Enter my contact with Raising Spirited Kids, and a comment there on determining whether certain temperaments were exacerbated by learning disabilities portrayed a more accurate definition of dyslexia, and I begin to read some more. After inhaling Overcoming Dyslexia, at H-Bob's next eye therapy appointment I asked her therapists some questions. She ran a few diagnostic tests and confirmed that there were also visual processing deficiencies...in other words dyslexic tendencies. A later component of her therapy will address those. But that wasn't going to address my questions I had now. If we have a diagnosis, I need to know the best way to support the situation.

There seem to be several ways people attack dyslexia.

It's there. Let's find a remediation phonic program and hammer in those phonemes until they're firmly rooted in long-term memory. Good approach. You have to have sound association in order to sound out unfamiliar words. We're now working with Saxon's Phonic Intervention program designed for fourth grade and above.

Let's work around it. I was thoroughly impressed with the information on Dianne Craft's site. Dyslexic learners are extremely right-brained. Let's teach them using materials that appeal to their creative right brained sides and utilize the photographic memory that resides there. This also makes sense. H-Bob expresses many tendencies of an overly dominant right brain...great large motor poor poor fine motor skills; excessively cautious; very visual learner.  I was also intrigued by her Brain Integration theories and nutritional aspects that she writes about.

Control it with diet. Studies have shown that many neurological disorders such as ADHD, autism, and dyslexia can be improved through diet. There may not be food allergies present that cause outward symptoms that come to mind when you think 'allergy' but there can be food sensitivities. Those sensitivities are part of a complex cycle where nutrition absorption is compromised and brain activity is affected. I read Brain Allergies which mainly deals with food sensitivities and psychological issues. At the time it was written, research had not applied it to the epidemic level of kids with ADHD, autism and such but the process by which the brain is affected holds true. I've come across people in my life recently who have restricted their sugar, gluten, and dairy for various reasons and have personally reported tremendous changes. The evidence is too hard to ignore that food sensitivities are real, and it too is a path we should take with H-Bob.

Fix it. Yes, that's right, fix it. I sat and cried as I read Disconnected Kids, The Groundbreaking Brain Balance Program for Children with Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Other Neurological Disorders. They were describing my child. Very right brained. Disconnected left brain. No communication between the two to process...in her case...reading and writing. The results that have been had with this program which was tailed for home use in this book or performed at their Brain Balance Centers makes you want to shout from the housetops, "You have to try this!"

Here's an excerpt:

These disorders may manifest with different symptoms but they are really one and the same problem: a brain imbalance. There is even a name for it--Functional Disconnection Syndrome, meaning areas in the brain, especially the two hemispheres of the brain, are not electrically balanced, or synchronized. This electrical imbalance interferes with the ability of the two hemispheres to share and integrate information, meaning the brain cannot function as a whole. The result is that a child with a brain imbalance has normal or even unusually good skills associated with the higher-functioning area or side of the brain, and unusually bad skills associated with the underactive area or side of the brain. The problem seems to come about because one side of the brain is maturing at a faster rate than the other. As the child develops, this imbalance becomes more significant and the two hemispheres can never fully function as one. The brain is functionally disconnected. Fix the disconnect--that is, get the immature side of the brain to catch up to the other side--and the symptoms go away. So does the disorder.
We've just started the home version of Dr. Robert Melillo's program, so I cannot say personally that we have achieved success. But I'm positive and hopefully that it will make a difference. There are different facets to his work. One is to physically trigger just the left-brain, in H-Bob's case. (Autistic children have a right-brain disconnect and would work to connect it.) Sensory exercises make that left-brain wake up and communicate. It has become silent in the "use it or lose it" concept after originally becoming unsynchronized during the developing process. The other portion of the program is diet and getting the body nutritionally balanced. Here it is again. Start an elimination diet to figure out if there are food sensitivities and get the system off to a start with a clean slate. Interestingly he writes that these food sensitivities will leave once the brain hemispheres are reconnected. The last component is a Behavior Modification Plan which to be honest I haven't absorbed completely yet. It deals with appealing to the deficient side to reward/punish, once again to stimulate the hemisphere that needs to reconnect rather than continue to build the dominant side.

So...there's a lot here. We've started our sensory motor exercises. We've initiated our no-sugar week while keeping our food diary before starting the elimination diet next week. An boy oh boy, there's some research to be done there. I'm in a panic wondering what in the world there will be left to feed poor H-Bob. We're continuing our vision therapy. We are going to start the phonics intervention program.

There will be tears...over no-sugar items already. Next week might...no WILL be...ugly as well. I am going to need the patience of ten thousand saints and the prayers of a multitude to get through this. But we will. And the results are bound to be worth it.

It's your turn. Advice? Comments? 

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