4 reasons why some children have difficulty learning to read

Reading requires fundamental changes in brain organization, and there are four key processes to this

3. Developing brain areas for multisensory integration of print and speech.
Multisensory integration combines two or more senses to form a unified perception. This principle is used when the brain learns how to integrate visual information from print with auditory information from language. Not only do children need to be taught which sound goes with which letter, but practice is imperative so that access to sounds is automatic. Integration of letters and sounds is reduced in people with dyslexia, which research shows is a main cause of reading failure because this function is crucial in order to become fluent in decoding words.

4. Integrating and temporally coordinating all of this activity with other brain areas that are responsible for functions like attention, motor coordination, articulation, and memory.
A variety of brain networks need to work together and communicate to enable fluent reading. Looking at all these different networks, it’s clear there are many ways these processes can become dysfunctional. It is very important that early reading instruction gets the activation and communication between these networks working correctly in order to build a skilled reader.

Dyslexic individuals struggle with the recognition of sounds, and a lot of difficulties with individual word reading and spelling can be traced back to a disruption in certain parts of that network. While there are many methods of dyslexia intervention, research shows that multisensory methods (for example, having students touch letters while seeing and hearing them) is effective in making the connection of letters and sounds more explicit. “It is really quite an amazing process that, over the course of just a couple of years of intensive instruction, we can basically profoundly reorganize a child’s brain and help them become a skilled reader,” said Dr. Blau-McCandliss.

About the Presenter

Dr. Vera Blau-McCandliss is a cognitive neuroscientist specializing in brain bases of reading challenges and development, and the vice president of education and research at Square Panda. In her academic research she has focused on the multisensory integration of letters and speech sounds in the dyslexic brain. Blau-McCandliss is an Orton-Gillingham certified instructor and has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to curriculum for games and hands-on learning with children. She is currently driving Square Panda’s content development for digital games as well as user experience and product efficacy research.

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