Author: Jan Bedell, M.Ed, Master level Neuro-Educational Specialist
It seems reasonable to NDs (Neuro-educational specialists) that dyslexia actually results from a combination of several different inefficiencies. They would suggest that each case of dyslexia has a unique set of causes that needs to be addressed by looking at individual situations. This involves a global look at the child and specific activities based on the findings, in each case, treating the root causes. They look at the whole child and focus on the causes instead of the symptoms!
When you hear “The ND (Neurodevelopmental) Approach” think “neuro-plasticity,” the brain’s natural ability to change and modify itself in response to changes in or enrichment of the environment (Ratey, 2001 p. 167) (See article online.) Plasticity is present as long as a person lives, otherwise stroke victims would have no hope of regaining function. ND is the study of the brain’s plasticity to make advancements regardless of the current condition of the person with an understanding that abilities can be enhanced with brain stimulating activities when applied with the keys of frequency, intensity, and short duration over a specified period of time. (See related article online.) NDs believe that these three keys to input, used in the stimulation of an individual’s auditory, visual, tactile, manual, language and mobility systems, are the solution to causing low or non-functioning parts of the brain to gain function thus reducing dyslexic symptoms.
This unique approach relies on creating the right environment for the brain to essentially heal the faulty wiring which causes dyslexic symptoms. Theoretically, the ND Approach establishes learning difficulties as symptoms of incomplete development and inefficient communication between brain and body. For instance, if an infant is not allowed to move from the stages of random movement into more specific coordinated movement and experience cross patterning activities gained through normal progression of crawling and creeping, the organization of the brain will be left in an incomplete state. A surprising 75% of students with diagnosed learning difficulties never crawled (Corso, 1997). Crawling even promotes a new level of brain organization, as indicated by more organized EEG brain-wave activity in the cerebral cortex.
Other Key Elements
NDs are keenly aware of the auditory system and the important role that it plays in the acquisition of reading skills. Auditory memory refers to the ability to take in pieces of information, hold them in your mind and manipulate them in the short-term (Ness, K. 1999). There is an understanding that language skills such as speech, reading, writing, and spelling develop only if the child has learned to “listen” (Goddard, 2002 p. 106). The auditory system is a major aspect of phonology. All auditory deficits negatively affect phonological processing which would explain why many dyslexics make slow or minimal progress from phonetic instruction while others benefit greatly. Phonics being an auditory system requires decoding and holding sounds together to achieve words. It would follow that the better an individual’s auditory processing ability, the easier it would be to utilize phonics. However, developing auditory skills is a challenge in a society which has become primarily visual Developing advanced auditory processing is highly recommended by NDs! It enhances the ability to decode unknown words as well as increasing reading comprehension. When low auditory processing exists, a different reading strategy is required until the auditory deficit can be remediated.
NDs also agree with prominent researchers in learning disability history who noted issues with the visual system of dyslexics from eye-hand coordination to tracking and teaming, to central detail vision issues, etc. The visual system does not act alone but relies on the vestibular and proprioceptive systems for accurate information, confirming the ND approach i.e. an individual is an integrated whole with different systems interacting and affecting each other. Eye dominance (a subject too extensive for discussion here, see “Learning Disability” article online) has proven a key factor in correction of dyslexic symptoms. Orton (1938/1989), said that “eyedness… is not so widely recognized as handedness, but it is probably of equal importance” (p. 30). NDs have found that when eye dominance coordinates with the dominant hand and additional inefficiencies are addressed, dyslexic symptoms diminish and often disappear entirely. Refer to a bar graph, which shows the percentage of individuals (personal clients labeled as dyslexic by other professionals) that had mixed dominance as well as low auditory and visual sequential processing.
Despite enhanced buildings, longer school calendars, better teacher training, advanced methods and curriculum, home schooling or other one-on-one or tutoring type interventions, the percentage of students with reading disabilities still persists and even grows each year. In the author’s opinion it is time for a paradigm shift! It is time to take a fresh new look at these challenges through the lenses of the latest brain research in cognitive neuroscience! When specific activities are done each day to address the root causes of dyslexia, functional ability is realized! When the brain can function more efficiently, the symptoms of dyslexia are rare. This has been the experience of individuals using the ND Approach.
A complete list of references and related articles can be found online at www.littlegiantsteps.com– articles – Dyslexia, The Neurodevelopment Approach