Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Comments in a dyslexia Forum & Lesson 34

Recently I had written some comments in response to a query by a member in a forum. A learned lady with a string of qualifications criticised my comment and went on to say the following:

Lady : “Dyslexia is first and foremost a difficulty with working memory which is generally accompanied by phonological processing problems (though not in all cases).”

Response: “I have written an article saying that dyslexia is not a phonological processing problem. No one has come forward to challenge me on this. There are many research reports besides the 6 in my blog to support my view. I have said that all my dyslexic students over the last 5 years can read in Malay and Romanised Mandarin with ease. The same thing is said of Italian, Finnish and Spanish.”

Why is it that the people with PhD’s and masters in Dyslexia write the same thing- that dyslexia is a language learning disability- over and over in articles all over the internet and do not do some extra research as to why dyslexics do not have a problem learning other languages?

Illiteracy level in the world will be greatly reduced if the learned just look into this one question and find a solution. I believe I have the solution in my blog and the wheel need not be reinvented.

Lady : “Undeveloped memory and auditory processing inevitably has a profound impact upon the acquisition of literacy skills however regular the orthography. Reading is about more than decoding: automatism and of course comprehension are important too.”

Response: There are five major components to the reading process. They are:
1. Phonemic awareness
2. Decoding
3. Reading fluency
4. Vocabulary
5. Comprehension

Vocabulary and comprehension come later in the reading process. All my dyslexic students can read anything written in Malay (Bahasa Malaysia) fluently; however they may not be able to comprehend because their vocabulary is not adequate. I can read fluently in Malay but I cannot comprehend many of the words and therefore the meaning of many sentences. The same goes with my reading in English. I can read almost anything written in English but cannot comprehend many bombastic words and have to look up the dictionary.

Lady : “Thus, if a person is able to read and, crucially, spell fluently in a language - even one that is orthographically logical - then any difficulties are unlikely to be purely of a dyslexic nature, if at all. Even in such regular languages as Spanish, learners with dyslexia will have problems with short-term working memory and organisation that affect their learning. If such difficulties are not apparent then it is unlikely that the person has dyslexia.”

Response: I have actually taught children who have been certified as dyslexic by experts in this field. All of them can read fluently in Malay. I have read articles, in addition to the 6 in my blog, where researchers say that children can read very well in Finnish, Italian, Spanish and Japanese but have a problem reading in English.

A friend of mine from Finland told me that Finnish is spelt exactly as it is pronounced, and is pronounced exactly as it is spelt. He continued that the concept of 'spelling' to a Finn means by syllable rather than by letter as in English. (This is exactly the same with Malay except for the letter ‘e’ which has two sounds.)

I have mentioned in my blog that there is no such thing as a ‘spelling bee’ in Malay as almost all children who have finished primary one will be able to spell almost all words in Malay.

Once you grasp the basic idea of how Malay works, it is an easy language to teach yourself from books, because there is never any doubt about how to pronounce words. You just follow the rules, and you will be right every time.

This lady is the only learned lady who has said what she said in so many words. There are many “experts” who just do not even reply to my e-mails. My comments in articles are almost always deleted.

If the experts on dyslexia, research universities and dyslexia associations do not even want to keep an open mind and look at what I have in my blog and research reports from various countries than how can they find a solution to eradicating illiteracy?

I sometimes feel that I am barking up the wrong tree. Am I naive in thinking that the experts, research universities and associations actually want to find a solution?

For Lesson 34 click here:


Liz Ditz said...

Dear Luqman,

Comment #1:

I continue to enjoy & be challenged by your writings.

Here's an abstract* I'd like your opinion on:

Adults with dyslexia are impaired in categorizing speech and nonspeech sounds on the basis of temporal cues


Developmental dyslexia is characterized by severe reading and spelling difficulties that are persistent and resistant to the usual didactic measures and remedial efforts. It is well established that a major cause of these problems lies in poorly specified representations of speech sounds. One hypothesis states that this phonological deficit results from a more fundamental deficit in auditory processing. Despite substantial research effort, the specific nature of these auditory problems remains debated. A first controversy concerns the speech specificity of the auditory processing problems: Can they be reduced to more basic auditory processing, or are they specific to the perception of speech sounds? A second topic of debate concerns the extent to which the auditory problems are specific to the processing of rapidly changing temporal information or whether they encompass a broader range of complex spectro-temporal processing. By applying a balanced design with stimuli that were adequately controlled for acoustic complexity, we show that adults with dyslexia are specifically impaired at categorizing speech and nonspeech sounds that differ in terms of rapidly changing acoustic cues (i.e., temporal cues), but that they perform adequately when categorizing steady-state speech and nonspeech sounds. Thus, we show that individuals with dyslexia have an auditory temporal processing deficit that is not speech-specific.

*I've only got the abstract so far as it's not worth $10.00 to me.

Anonymous said...

Hi Michel,
I have noticed your frustration of researchers and academics who appear not to understand your perspective teaching and learning within the sphere of dyslexia.

There are sveral factors which influence research results. It would depend on who is funding it and what the key purpose for that particular research is. There are seveal controlling and constraining factors.

The doctor who was struck off the Medical Council Register for the skewed research results of the MMR vaccine is a fine example OF RESEARCH REULTS THAT HAVE BEEN CHALLENGED,although previously deemed valid.

Action research or a retrospective study of your results may enable to validate your claim. So do not be despondent.I am confident that at some point in the future an organisation may pay heed to your claims and recognise feasability of such an exploration and commission a study.

The process may be long winded but hopefully results will be achieved in the long term. Just hope that the movers and shakers of powerful organisations become aware for such a study.


Luqman Michel said...

Dear Liz,
Thank you for your kind and inspiring words. I can't quite give you an opinion, as I have read the whole excerpt and can't really comprehend the intended meaning. As the contents are a little too technical for me, I think, its best to refrain from any comments, at this point.

However,I think there is a misrepresentation of what dyslexia is.The society of learning disabilities US defines dyslexia as one of the learning disabilities and I agree with that definition. For sometime, I could not understand why there were so many symptoms described about a dyslexic that I did not see in any one of my dyslexic students. Since they were written by "experts" I was disturbed until I came across the topic on Irlen syndrome discussed in Face Book. Only then did it dawn on me that many of the articles written on dyslexia include many symptoms that are not related to dyslexia. I have written a few articles on the other learning disabilities and will be posting soon.These articles are written just to point out to parents as to what dyslexia is not. In these articles I have clearly said that I know nothing about these learning disabilities and my reason for writing on them is only to point out that the symptoms are not related to dyslexia.
Please read them next week and give me your valued opinion.

Unknown said...

Hi Luqman:

I have found that there is an orthodoxy in relation to dyslexia in the English speaking world. The Lady has done a very good job of expressing it and I actually appreciate that it so well articulated. It seems fairly academic and sterile. It explains the approach institutions take to resolving some of the issues. But it does not address the real problems that are so often experienced by the dyslexic. It does not explain or give a road map on how to resolve the issues such as “to”, “too” and “two”, is it an auditory problem that explains why I mix up “there” and “their” or does it tell me why “knight “ and “night“ are not equal? It places the fault on the individual that is afflicted, it diverts attention away from the lack of consistency of the language and the need to rationalize it. It places a lot of emphases on inappropriate professions. Really, should we replace reading teaches with speech pathologists? Will that resolve my problem with working memory?

Working memory is definitely a problem for me. When I was young someone thought that my problem was related to phoenix and so I was given a school box set of phoenix cards to study. I was also made to take 4 months of intensive phoenix study instead of English. I was given an English test before, I had my hearing tested, and when it was over I was accuse of trying to sabotage the process because my English skill were worse then when we started. Come on folks 40 years ago this approach was a failure why do we stick to this orthodoxy?

I am not sure where the problem originated but somewhere a great stumbling block was erected that does not seem to move in spite of research and evidence. “I have my mind made up do not confuse me with the facts.” I dare say that because I know I am unable to confuse, educate nor dissuade the professional dyslexic community. But I believe changes will come and so for a different perspective from another age I offer:

Isaac Newton 1643-1727, 84 years, and is touted as one of the most influential intellects of all time. He was a physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist and theologian. He was an arrogant, paranoid and pious egomaniac who was the walking embodiment of orthodoxy. He had the power and on his word science was published or suppressed. Many a young and aspiring scientists wrote to him, to get a feedback or stamp of approval. His intellectual prowess waned in his 30’s as it does for most of us. For more then 50 years Isaac Newton was the biggest stumbling block to scientific advancement. When he died many a scientist that had been dismissed were free to publish and the industrial revolution began in earnest.

Luqman Michel said...

Dear JA,
Thank you for your encouraging words. You have written to me asking me as to why I don't write to research universities and dyslexia associations. In one of my earlier articles I wrote that I have actually written to 25 research universities and more than 25 Dyslexia Associations around the world. Most of them do not even bother to reply.The few who wrote with very encouraging initial response just do not respond to subsequent e-mails to them. The question is "WHY". I guess I know the answer and I am sure you do to.Just last month I wrote twice to a dyslexic association on the request of a reader. There was no reply from the association and strangely the reader who asked me to write doesn't reply my mail either.

Like you said I just hope that someone who is not interested in money looks at what I am writing and makes way for me to talk to schools, teachers and parents of dyslexic children.

I have approached the education department here and awaiting their reply.I hope to visit schools here in Sabah and speak about what I know of dyslexia.I do so much want to help parents of dyslexic children.It is so easy to reduce illiteracy level by just teaching dyslexics in a way appropriate for them.

Just ask yourself, how is it that these dyslexics who have a phonological disorder suddenly become famous authors. How is it that a dyslexic who fared so badly in his school write as well as he does in the comment just below yours.

If Bit who wrote that comment had been taught the proper way in school I bet you he would be somewhere high up in a big organisation.

I have readers who are very encouraging and if I can help even a few dyslexic parents it is well worth my time doing this blog.

Anonymous said...

Hi Michel,
Bits experience demonstrates very clearly that misdiagnosis led to him being subjected to the wrong teaching methods.
The consequence of that was a further erosion of his confidence and a limiting effect on learning.

This emphasises how crucial it is in the first instance to make the correct diagnosis and then to follow on with the most appropriate method ensuring that it is holistic and meets the individual needs of the child.

From your blog you seem to adopt such an approach hence the successful outcomes and your insistence on the correctness of your approach.

That is why sharing of unconventional methods by your followers is a progressive way of keeping the discussion and debate alive with the ultimate aim of influencing change.


Unknown said...


Don't feel bad if the experts don't listen to you. I am not really happy with these "experts" because they can not get many of their theories incorporated into the U.S. Schools where it counts. If the EXPERTS were so smart, their THEORIES would be INCORPORATED into the U.S. educational system. Only TWO of the 50 STATES offer true programs that help dyslexic elementary students learn to read and spell English in the format they learn best. AND, IF the experts were so SMART, they would have more people in the U.S. know how to diagnose dyslexia! In my town of 400,000 their is ONE person who can diagnose dyslexia, and my state's school system will not recognize her Masters in Speech, Language Pathology Credentials because she does NOT have a Masters in Education! We have doctors trying to diagnose dyslexia here because the schools will only send kids in the bottom 10% to their "educational specialists." The doctors always diagnose as ADD/ADHD. THey look at behavior only, and not at where the person is struggling in academics. Dyslexics definetly have a working-memory problem. That is why they can't sequence very well. It is also why they probaby show attention problems in school, and thus get diagnosed as ADD/HD. And, ADD/HD definetly is a co-existing condition with dyslexia.

I would love to conduct a study as to how many high school drop outs in the US actually have dyslexia! I bet it higher than average.

I agree with your theory about the English language. It is very illogical. Even with 3 years of spelling tutoring, my son misspelled Police the other day as "Polece." He used the correct "rules" to spell Police. Why does the i in police sound like an long e? It's an exception, and one the dyslexic processing system will not like to adopt.

I don't know what to say, except keep on plugging away. The race is not always won by the fastest, but the one who perserves.

Luqman Michel said...

JA, as usual you are so encouraging and it is so good to hear such encouraging words.

I completely agree that early diagnosis (for want of a better word) and early intervention can definitely reduce illiteracy rate in the world.

Let us do our part in trying to make this a better place for all and especially for dyslexics.

Luqman Michel said...

Thank you for your inspiring words. I am sure, given a chance, teachers can easily identify dyslexics. I don't understand how a doctor diagnoses a dyslexic.

Yes, without some paper qualification, most of the people who can do the job are not allowed to do it. Most of those with papers don't know what they are doing! Why are institutions so sticky about paper qualification!

I agree that dyslexics have a working memory problem and I have written 3 articles on the problem they have with sequencing.

I am not sure if I see eye to eye on your statement :"And, ADD/HD definetly is a co-existing condition with dyslexia."

There were a few of my dyslexic students who I would have guessed had ADD/ADHD but many did not have any symptoms whatsoever of ADD/ADHD.

As for spelling most of the spelling of dyslexic kids makes more sense than the actual spelling.lite for light; circul for circle; and minit for minute.

With people like you and JA and Bit encouraging me it is hard not to persevere.

Kildonan Private Dyslexia School said...

Thanks for an inspiring post. I will agree with both you and JA that early diagnosis and intervention can reduce the illiteracy rate. This is my first time on your blog and I have to say, i'm impressed!

Unknown said...

Just saw your link to Dr. Selig's book again, and I clicked the link to browse the book again. In his appendix he recommends the Wilson Language Program that my son took and was so successful with.

It's a GREAT program for struggling readers if you can afford it!!!!

Luqman Michel said...

Thank you for the comment from Kildonian Private Dyslexia School. I wish you success and pray that many dyslexics will benefit from your school.

Heidi, I have heard a lot about Wilson Language programme.When you recommend it I am sure it must be a good programme.