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Blog:  News About Understood

From Brain Science to Teaching, Experts Weigh In at “Dyslexia Understood”

News About Understood blog post by The Understood Team
Jul 15, 2015

Screenshot from Dyslexia Understood live panel

Brain imaging is starting to play a role in understanding the strengths of people with dyslexia.

Dyslexia laws aren’t always leading to better outcomes for students.

Policymakers are now taking dyslexia advocates seriously.

These were just a few of the insights that came out of a unique panel discussion organized by Understood. The event, titled “Dyslexia Understood: Research, Instruction and Awareness,” took place on July 14 at the Newseum in Washington, DC.

The panel featured experts in three areas of dyslexia: brain research, instruction and advocacy. Each expert spoke about recent progress in these fields—and the work that lies ahead.

(View the video of the panel discussion below.)

Guinevere Eden, a leading neuroscientist, shed light on cutting-edge brain science and the direction it’s going in. Researchers have started to use brain imaging, or fMRI scans, to look at the strengths of people with dyslexia.

“Brain imaging is beginning to play a role in those studies, which is very exciting,” said Eden. “Because with the imaging, we can ask … ‘do we see a difference in the brain during the processing of those kinds of tasks?’ We can actually do rigorous studies and measure those strengths and identify those strengths … and see how they can be used.”

Eden also talked about how the field of dyslexia research is changing—for the better. Scientists with different types of training are coming together and bringing different tools to the table. The result is a more holistic understanding of dyslexia.

“The research is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary,” said Eden. “You’re beginning to see the merging of genetics research with brain imaging research with behavior research.”

But the panelists agreed that the knowledge we’ve gained about dyslexia hasn’t made it into every classroom. There’s still work to be done.

“There is a way to teach a child who is dyslexic how to read,” said panelist Barbara Wilson, cofounder of Wilson Language Training. “We know that from research. We know that from experience.”

Dyslexia laws are a good step toward getting students the support they need. But the laws haven’t always translated into results. There’s a gap in implementation, according to Wilson. “You fight and get the laws into place. But why is it we don’t necessarily see that transfer to the outcomes that are intended by the law?”

Any time a law is passed, in-depth teacher training is critical, according to Wilson. “Training has to be ongoing. It can’t just be ‘one and done.’”

Panelist Rachel Vitti, a mother whose gifted son has dyslexia, echoed that thought. A former teacher, she said she tried to help her students with dyslexia, but didn’t have the training.

That’s why it’s so important to raise awareness about dyslexia in schools, added Vitti, who is an advocate for twice-exceptional students. In the past, parents and organizations have operated in silos. With the knowledge gained by research, she has seen a movement for change.

“I’m excited that the legwork has been done, and we have finally been given a platform to share the research, and people in policymaking decisions are finally taking us seriously.”

About the Blogger

Understood Team Graphic

The Understood Team is composed of writers, editors and community moderators, many of whom have children with learning and attention issues.

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