Monday, August 21, 2023

Union Reception - Neuroscience news - Part 2


Here is my email to Professor Taeko Wydell after reading the 5 research reports she forwarded to me. I hope she will respond soon.

Dear Professor Taeko Wydell,

Thank you very much for the 5 research reports you forwarded. I read them all and have a few comments which I hope you can clarify.

In a number of the reports, you have spoken about phonological awareness as the single most potent variable in literacy acquisition. 

Professor, I am not a trained teacher and was cajoled into teaching a kid who had gone to school for 2 years and was unable to read a single sentence in English.

I was curious as to why such a smart kid was unable to read in English and decided to research and taught more than 80 similar kids on a one-on-one basis to learn why they could read in Malay but were certified as dyslexic when it came to English.

After 6 years I decided to write a blog to share what I had learnt from teaching more than 20 such kids, at that time.

I wrote extensively on social media about why I disagreed with the more than 35-year-old theory, at that time, that phonological awareness deficit is the cause of kids being unable to read in English.

My reason for not agreeing with that theory is:

           If phonological awareness deficit is the cause of kids being unable to read, then how is it possible for my students to read in Malay and Hanyu Pinyin which use the same letters.

           How is it possible for these students to become good readers within 4 months of 2-hour teaching per week and become top students in their classes.

I observed and interviewed my students to learn why they were unable to read when they first came to me. I have elaborated on the reasons in my book – Shut Down Kids. Please get a Kindle copy and read it and ask me any questions you may have, based on what I have discovered.

Professor, in 2011 I wrote a long comment on Dr. Sally Shaywitz’s article on the Yale website re: phonological awareness deficit being the cause of dyslexia. The article sat there for a few years without any reply until the whole article including my comment was removed after a few years.

Similarly, Dr. Timothy Shanahan disagreed with me in his blog post. You may read what he said in 2015 and then in 2017 in my blog post below. LINK

I will write about my other observation in my next few emails to you.

Below are a few extracts from your research reports.

Thus, these results were in stark contrast with many studies in English, where phonological awareness is typically shown as the single most potent variable in literacy acquisition. [e.g., 37, 38]. Ziegler and Goswami [39] further stated that many studies [e.g., 40–44] have shown that while good phonological awareness skills are the foundation for becoming good readers, poor phonological awareness skills characterize poor readers.

There seems to be a consensus amongst these researchers that dyslexia manifests itself as a phonological deficit, and thus the phonological deficit hypothesis in particular a phoneme awareness deficit for DD has become prominent in the alphabetic languages.

There seems to be a consensus among researchers that DD is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin (Eden & Moats, 2002) and is highly heritable with a genetic link (Fisher & DeFries, 2000).

A definition of DD which is in current use in the UK was proposed in the Rose Review (2009) as follows:

"DD is a learning difficulty (LD) that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed".

The phonological deficit hypothesis has been pre-dominant for 30 years to account for developmental dyslexia in alphabetic languages (e.g., Ramus, 2003; Ramus et al., 2003; Shaywitz et al., 1990; Snowling, 2000) over the visual deficit hypotheses such as Stein's Magnocellular abnormality (Stein & Walsh, 1997) or Valdois' Visual Attention Span deficit (Bosse et al., 2007).

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