You’ve known for a long time that your child is bright. Perhaps he’s a gifted builder. Perhaps she’s a gifted storyteller. The amazing way your child sees the world sometimes takes your breath away.
And yet the learning piece is, well, not missing exactly. It just doesn’t seem to fit the educational system that your child is expected to thrive in. Not only that, but the academic challenges your child faces do not fit what you know about your extremely bright child. How can someone so smart fail so miserably in school?
You learn all you can about Dyslexia and other learning challenges. You learn that the Dyslexic brain can be inherently gifted in spatial reasoning, or in seeing the big picture. Your child might be gifted in art, or sports, or communication, for example.
Reading and Learning Intervention on the Brain
Whatever combination of talents that your child was born with, what happens to them if you tinker around in that brain? What happens if you apply strategies and techniques that allow your child to read and learn like others do? To see the world as strong learners do? Will your child lose all of those gifts?
One of the buzz words of the last decade or so seems to be neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity tells us that our brains aren’t fixed. We can change how we think, how we learn, how we see the world. And we can do this at just about any age.
Along with neuroplasticity we also hear the phrases “neural pruning” or “synaptic pruning.” It’s basically our brains’ way of cleaning house, so to speak. Any extra neurons and synapses lying around that we haven’t used in awhile are cleaned out to make way for new ones.
You might guess, then, that when you try to teach your child to see letters and words and numbers the same way that strong learners do, your child’s brain would start to look the same as those strong learners, right?
Okay, maybe you’re not actually thinking about what your child’s brain would LOOK like, but you get what I mean.
In case you’re worried that cognitive retraining will take away all of that unique talent, the research on this matter (you’ll understand the pun in a moment) has some good news for you.
According to a University of Washington study (E. Huber et al, 2018),
“A number of recent studies highlight the surprising malleability of human white matter in response to short-term training, including training of reading and related skills.
… However, these effects do not follow the trajectory predicted by a normalization account, in which remediation of reading difficulties could be expected to eliminate differences in the white matter between children with dyslexia and typical readers. …Our results are compatible with the idea that remediation may be accomplished through compensatory mechanisms that differ from those supporting the acquisition of skilled reading in typical children.”
In other words, intervention may change the brain, but does not make a dyslexic brain look just like a non-dyslexic brain.
Of course, this is just one study. And I may be oversimplifying the interpretation here. But it looks like when dyslexic learners learn to read, they don’t do away with old neural pathways. They simply create new ones, which happen to look different than the neural pathways of their non-dyslexic peers. More specifically, their pathways chose a different direction to reach the same goal.
Innate Gifts vs Learned Talents
We all know that when we stopped playing that instrument or stopped practicing that second or third language, we started to forget what we learned. That’s synaptic pruning. That happens to all of us.
However, it’s my belief that dyslexic learners and other learners that appear to be born with different innate gifts other than reading are still at a distinct advantage over their peers who don’t struggle to learn.
With intervention, not only are those innate gifts still innate and intact, but now your child can read, too. And overcome all sorts of adversity. And feel confident in themselves again. And…
Well, you know that I’m a cheerleader for learning intervention.
Are you interested in becoming your child’s own personal intervention hero? Be sure to learn how here: