Overcoming Reading Difficulties: Where to Start

Love it or hate it, reading is an essential life skill and one that as parents we actively promote in our children. For some, reading takes us on adventures, evokes emotion and leaves us with memories of unforgettable characters from stories that remain deep within our psyche. For others, it becomes a battle of wills fighting frustration, fear and self-doubt with ripple effects across all areas of our learning potential.

What Causes Reading Difficulties?

Reading starts many years before we actually learn about the letters and words on a page, and is established within the very foundations of oral language skills. Dyslexia, the most commonly known reading disorder, presents as difficulty in one's ability to process words or numbers. These difficulties often occur during crucial language developmental years (0-4 years) and have the potential to significantly affect higher-order auditory processing skills. An insufficient imprint of sounds on the specific language centres of the brain affects our auditory processing and may be caused by genetics, birth trauma or immaturity of the central nervous system. However, chronic ear infections and glue ear are amongst the most common causes of auditory, speech and language delays.

A boy is guided by a parent as they complete maths homework successfully following help in overcoming their reading and processing difficulties with The Key Clinic
Dyslexia, the most commonly known reading disorder, presents as difficulty in one's ability to process words or numbers and therefore is commonly picked up on in schools.

The link between Reading Difficulties and Phonological Difficulties

Many researchers in the field of dyslexia agree that the core issue stems from a difficulty in the brain's ability to decode phonemes. Most people with reading difficulties or dyslexic traits struggle in recognising phonemes, the basic sounds of speech, and in turn, struggle to process (make the connection) between the sound at an auditory level and the recognition of the sound as a visual symbol or letter. Sally Shayitz, a renowned expert on dyslexia and the author of “Overcoming Dyslexia” says, “Phonological difficulties are the most significant and consistent markers of dyslexia in children”.

A woman reads a book outside, illustrating how she has overcome a difficulties in reading with The Key Clinic
Many people have overcome reading difficulties by targeting underlying causes.

It seems auditory processing has more to do with the brain than it does with the ears. Surprisingly, many learning interventions typically follow a “top-down approach”, unravelling each layer by reinforcing their key learning areas without building on earlier ones. At the Key Clinic, we believe that “building from the bottom up” solidifies the essential pathways, concepts and confidence required for potential change. Understanding the building blocks of how the brain processes information, allows for barriers to be addressed and changes to be made at a fundamental level.

Using Auditory Therapy to Help Overcome Reading Difficulties?

Regular hearing tests assess hearing loss but do not tell us much about how someone may be hearing. At the Key Clinic we aim to understand the underlying cause of auditory processing difficulties and so test across 11 frequencies that tap into the sounds/phonemes of the language, to get an indication of the individualised auditory profile which indicate one of three auditory issues;

  • Hypersensitive hearing makes children distractible as they can’t filter out background noises.

  • Distortions in hearing means that a child cannot hear all parts of language at the same volume. This directly impacts their ability to differentiate between the sounds and phonemes necessary for language development and later reading ability.

  • Dyslaterality refers to the switching focus from one ear to the other to tune into different sounds/ parts of the language. This has the effect of jumbling up the order in which sounds/phonemes are heard and processed thereby impacting spelling and overall processing speed.

A young girl in the audiology booth preparing for a hearing assessment with The Key Clinic as part of the programme to overcome her reading difficulties.
Our hearing tests don't test WHAT you hear, they test HOW you hear it.

How Neurodevelopmental Assessments can Help Address Reading Difficulties

While understanding the auditory process is essential, it is also important to establish whether the central nervous system as a whole is “learning ready”. 90% of children diagnosed with dyslexia present with primitive reflexes and it is these immaturities within their central nervous system that cause their eyes to ‘jump’ when tracking across a page. By inhibiting the primitive reflexes we can support the visual system, improve tracking ability which affects reading potential.

 A model of a brain illustration the importance of how the brain work in those experiencing reading difficulties.
Looking at how the brain is working is key in understanding reading difficulties.

By removing the “obstacles” associated with processing either auditory or neurodevelopmental in nature, we allow the brain a second chance to “re-wire” and catch up on missed cognitive & reading skills. Recent studies in neuroscience and brain plasticity have shown that the brain can be retrained to improve on language processing essential for good reading. At The Key Clinic, we are proud to offer Fast ForWord® a revolutionary, neuroscience-based programme that builds the brain's learning capacity, making learning easier and faster. It is an evidence-based, adaptive reading and language programme that typically delivers 1-2 year reading gains in 40-60 hours of use for any struggling learner.

Overcoming Reading Difficulties Using Fast ForWord®

The Fast ForWord® product prepares the brain for reading by improving weak language and cognitive skills specifically targeting memory, attention, processing speed and sequencing (MAPS). Using scientifically-based neuroscience principles strengthens the brain “from the bottom up” building muscle memory, through repetition, much the same way an athlete would. Each day the student is prompted to answer hundreds of increasingly more complex exercises in quick succession offering intensive practice on a wide variety of language and reading skills—more than any other approach or intervention.

A young girl enjoys her learning session using Fast ForWord, a software to help overcome reading difficulties that is accessible through The Key Clinic.
Fast ForWord is a provided through The Key Clinic for support at home in overcoming reading difficulties.

Protocols vary by age, student needs and goals. Typically, older children need less time to close the cognitive skill gaps and so can spend more time on reading comprehension. This is even truer for adults. Neuroscience proves that it is never too late to ‘rewire” and achieve one’s reading potential and by removing the “obstacles” we can support you in doing so.

Overcome Reading Difficulties by Targeting the Root Cause

The journey to becoming a good reader relies on phonemic awareness, phonics and other language skills. Focus, attention and memory all further contribute towards an easier journey however are all impacted by neurodevelopmental immaturity. It is therefore a combination of all these systems that should be viewed from the “bottom-up” to improve self-confidence and esteem. It is this that makes for good reading!

If you are experiencing reading difficulties or know someone who is, you can give our friendly team a call on 01635 761565 to discuss your situation and the options available to you.

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