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Reading Lessons Help Dyslexic Kids

Phonics Programs Activate Language-Processing Brain Centers
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Feb. 24, 2003 -- Specialized reading programs can help a dyslexic child improve his or her reading ability. These programs work because they increase brain activity in areas of the brain involved with language processing, a new study suggests.

The study appears in this month's Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).

An emerging body of research points to difficulties in language processing as one of the problems of dyslexia, writes lead researcher Elise Temple, MD, a researcher with the Keck Center of Integrative Neuroscience at the University of California, San Francisco.

These difficulties primarily involve phonics, which are speech sounds, she explains. Children who are dyslexic have trouble recognizing and manipulating the sound structure of words. The dyslexic child is impaired in skills like rhyming, syllable counting, and sounding out words.

Temple and her colleagues looked at how reading programs help dyslexic kids by using functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure brain activity of normal and dyslexic children while reading. They looked at brain activity before and eight weeks after the dyslexic children started a popular remedial reading program.

In the dyslexic children, activity in sections of the brain that are involved in language processing and speech measured at near normal levels, reports Temple. And the dyslexic children scored near normal levels in testing oral language and reading skills.

Bottom line: With phonics programs, children with dyslexia between 8 and 12 years old can improve their reading and language abilities, she writes.

SOURCE: Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, March 2003.

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