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Physical Anthropology (Human Origins)

Final Paper
Kate Hickam
July 30th, 2013
Dyslexia Research From the 1950s to the Present
Most recent research shows that twenty percent of the population has Dyslexia. That
means, in the average classroom one in five students struggle with reading and writing. Putting
almost every one of the affected students at risk of being more than one grade below when it
comes to reading, writing and comprehension. In some students Dyslexia can affect their math
and number skills as well. Most disabilities, whether physical or mental, that have that wide of
an affect on the population are very well researched; Dyslexia is one of the exceptions to this
rule. It was not until 1976 that dyslexia was identified as a learning disability rather than
something that is caused later in life due to head trauma or created by children psychologically.
Dyslexia is now known as a learning disability that affects a persons ability to read or
write despite adequate or above average intelligence. Dyslexia makes reading comprehension,
pronunciation and spelling of words extremely difficult. You often hear about people with
dyslexia mixing up the letters b and d or the numbers 6 or 9. A lot of times the numbers and
letters on a page will seem to move around or mesh together. Because of these symptoms it takes
longer for a dyslexic person to read. They tend to be giving extra time on test to help compensate
for this. Dyslexia like most disabilities range in severity, some people can go most of their lives

without being diagnosed. Although the symptoms affect them it might not be severe enough to
get a diagnosis. Most dyslexics now get diagnosed as soon as they enter school. This is when it is
a easiest to see where the child is at developmentally in comparison to the students peers as well
as how quickly the student learns new material. How the public school system is set up in the
United States it is hard for teachers to recommend testing a child, so many go undiagnosed.
In the 1950s dyslexia was looked at as a physiological problem. It was thought that some
children were holding themselves back and that is why they couldnt read or write very well.
They believed that is was a complicated disorder but not because of anything physically
happening in the childs brain. Basically the causal factors may be classified as: physical,
emotional, and educational (Park, 300). Many researchers associated the symptoms with head
trauma or the child subconsciously wanting to hold onto their youth because of a traumatic event.
It was believed that with the proper physiological treatment this form of dyslexia could be cured.
In the 1960s researchers began to study the idea that dyslexia may not be a disorder based
on outside forces but instead it was something you were born with or could develop. This change
was because of testing that showed children with dyslexia were struggling with the way words
looked on the page. Dyslexia became known as a visual impairment. Even though this statement
is now known to be false it was the first time coping was brought up instead of curing. They had
also begun to look into ways to diagnose dyslexia and categorize it. They had not completely
ruled out the possibility of dyslexia having other outside causes such as head trauma; the
difference was now researchers were breaking down those theories in some of the first attempts
to determine the differences between dyslexia and learning difficulties. More importantly they

were looking at what methods of teaching would be most effective for those students.
From the late 1960s through the 1980s research changed and began to take those early
categories and narrow down what was dyslexia. In the late 1960s and 1970s most of the external
forces had been ruled out. They no longer said that it was a physiological condition. Based on the
extensive research it became clear that dyslexia was more than a fancy word for reading
problems (Hynd). It wasnt until 1976 that dyslexia was classified as a learning disability and
they didnt have a concrete definition of what that meant in terms of dyslexia until the mid
1980s. In the 1990s is when the definition that is commonly accepted today was made concrete.
During this time there was a huge increase in interest and breakthroughs in the neurological
aspects of the disorder. Making those few decades were some of the most important for dyslexia
In 1968 there was a study done focused more on the students which went over three different
teaching methods to see which worked best with dyslexic students. This study was based on
dyslexia being caused by visual impairments and outside forces but by 1984 those thoughts were
completely outdated. By 1984 dyslexia was no longer viewed as a homogeneous disorder
(Hynd). In the paper George W. Hynd and Cynthia R. Hynd wrote they talked about the fact that
research on a neurological disorder was difficult anyway during those years. They also state that
within the past two decades researchers in the neurosciences recognized the inherent difficulties
in defining a disorder according to its symptoms, especially when so much variability among
dyslexics exists (Hynd).
By the mid 1990s dyslexia had the definition we know now. Now that we have a greater
understanding of the disorder and understand that it is caused in the brain the research has turned

once again. The main focuses are how to cope and where in the brain this is happening. The
answer to how to cope is a difficult one because of the large spectrum dyslexia occurs on.
Incorporating things that the student excels at unsurprisingly works the best. For students who
struggle to communicate on paper most the time they are highly advanced in speech and can do
much better on oral exams than written. Those who struggle with reading speed and
comprehension work best if they have extended time on tests. This allows them to take their time
and comprehend everything they are reading. Students who have a hard time spelling,
manipulating and breaking down words spelling them out using clay can help. This takes more
time and in a sense allows the student to create their own words. They are able to take time and
break them into the syllables their brain understands.
As far as where in the brain this is happening there are two main schools of thought. One
is that in the part of your brain where you process language there is a short. Essentially making it
so the letters appear upside down or rearranged and also slowing down processing and
comprehension. The other thought is the place where a person without dyslexia processes
reading and writing information is in a different lobe. therefore making it take longer for the
information to process. These two ideas are not mutually exclusive so it could be a combination
of the two ideas.
These ideas are still very new, and researches are still trying to find other ways to
pinpoint what and where the disorder is going wrong and how to cope with it. Because these
ideas are so young they havent made their way into the classroom yet and many children are
still struggling to make it. But improvements are being made everyday. If dyslexia, which is one
of the only learning disabilities that affects twenty percent of the population, has had so many

misconceptions and within the last thirty years been thoroughly researched it makes me wonder
about other disabilities. What misconceptions and wrong paths have we gone down to label
people before researchers even know what the label means.

Works Cited

-The Brain Basis of the Phonological Deficit in Dyslexia Is Independent of IQ

Hiroko Tanaka, Jessica M. Black, Charles Hulme, Leanne M. Stanley, Shelli R. Kesler, Susan
Whitfield-Gabrieli, Allan L. Reiss, John D. E. Gabriell and Fumiko Hoeft
Psychological Science , Vol. 22, No. 11 (NOVEMBER 2011), pp. 1442-1451
Published by: Sage Publications, Inc. on behalf of the Association for Psychological Science
Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41320051

- Growing Up In Reading, George E. Park Elementary English , Vol. 32, No. 5 (MAY, 1955), pp.
299-304 Published by: National Council of Teachers of English Article Stable URL:

- Dyslexia: Neuroanatomical/Neurolinguistic Perspectives. George W. Hynd and Cynthia R.

Hynd. Reading Research Quarterly Vol. 19, No. 4 (Summer, 1984), pp. 482-498, Published by:
International Reading Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/747919

- Clinical Teaching and Dyslexia. Margaret F. Willson The Reading Teacher Vol. 21, No. 8,
Programs for Disabled Readers (May, 1968), pp. 730-733 Published by: International Reading

Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20196013

- Reading Disability: Progress and Research Needs in Dyslexia by John Money Review by:
Dorothy Light Journal of Reading Vol. 8, No. 3 (Jan., 1965), pp. 180-181 Published by:
International Reading Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40014856

- My Science Academy. What is Dyslexia?