The Brain Science Behind a Multisensory Curriculum
Research has shown that dyslexia is neurological in origin. This means that dyslexia is not caused by poverty, developmental delays, speech difficulties, lack of reading, or poor teaching. Studies show that students identified with dyslexia can have some of the best teachers but still struggle with reading and spelling skills. This is because students who are identified with dyslexia need a multisensory teaching approach to help remediate their reading and spelling difficulties. It all starts and ends with the brain.
So What’s Going On Inside the Dyslexic’s Brain?
If we were to divide the brain, we could see it as two sections or hemispheres- the left and right hemispheres. Areas responsible for reading and language are located in the left hemisphere. The right hemisphere is primarily responsible for spatial activities, thoughts, creativity, music, art, and intuition. We will be focusing on several lobes and the left hemisphere, which is needed for language and reading- frontal, parietal, occipital, and temporal lobes.
- The frontal Lobe – is responsible for controlling speech, reasoning, planning, regulating emotions, silent reading proficiency, and consciousness. Within this lobe, Broca’s Area can be located, which is primarily responsible for the organization, production, and manipulation of language and speech.
- Parietal Lobe – controls sensory perceptions as well as providing connections for spoken and written language to memory to give it meaning so we can understand what we hear and read.
- Occipital Lobe – is the visual cortex that is important in identifying letters.
- Temporal Lobe– needed for visual processing and verbal memory and within the temporal lobe, Wernicke’s Area is also important for language processing and reading.
(As taken from www.readingrockets.org)
Why is this important? These areas/lobes are important for seeing, hearing, recognizing, understanding, and comprehending language- all skills needed for reading. When integrated together, reading appears to be a seamless task.
Scientists using fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scans on traditional and dyslexic brains demonstrated that there was an overactivation in the right hemisphere of the brain and the frontal lobe for students with dyslexia. So what does this mean? Once the student with dyslexia has been exposed to the visual portion of the word, the word takes a much longer trip through the brain than that of a “traditional” reading brain. It can be delayed in the frontal lobe, particularly in Broca’s Area. This is why the dyslexic student struggles with words in isolation and as a secondary consequence, even reading comprehension.
How to Rewire the Brain for Reading
Rewiring the brain to become more efficient at reading (and writing) tasks may seem to be a daunting undertaking. However we already have the answers at our fingertips- a comprehensive dyslexia curriculum, rooted in an Orton-Gillingham foundation, that is multisensory, direct, explicit, and taught to mastery. Through the use of multisensory curricula (such as MTA or Esperanza) delivered with fidelity, the brain begins to “reorganize” and parts of the brain that are needed for reading become activated. This is due to the brain’s neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to form synaptic connections. Students who are instructed in a multisensory curriculum start to reform connections and their brain starts to reorganize and reassemble to look more like a traditional reading brain. Areas that were not responding in the past are now becoming activated.
Does this mean that people with dyslexia can be cured of their dyslexia? The short answer is no. But using a multisensory curriculum can start to bridge the gap between performance and cognition, allowing the student with dyslexia a greater chance at academic success.
The brain’s left hemisphere is primarily used for reading and spelling skills and incorporates multiple lobes for reading tasks. In the student with dyslexia, the right hemisphere is engaged and there is an overactivation in Broca’s area. This overactivation causes reading tasks to take a less efficient path through the brain. Through dyslexia remediation, these under-stimulated areas will start to become more active during reading tasks, taking on the look of a more traditional reading brain. Appropriate dyslexia intervention, coupled with an appropriate dyslexia curriculum, with an Orton-Gillingham foundation, can start to bridge the gap for students with dyslexia.