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Reading Specialist, Reading Vision

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Dyslexia; Is it a neurological or visual issue?

Current research on Dyslexia suggests that it is a deep-rooted neurological based issue that is difficult to solve. However, dyslexic peculiarities can easily be resolved simply by placing the reading material in a position where the words become clear. If the words can be made clear and instantaneous improved reading occurs, is the problem neurological, or is it visual? Could it be that poor visual input causes poor neurological function, sort of like, "garbage in, garbage out?" Here is a simple test to use with someone who demonstrates reading problems such as dyslexia. You can use regular reading material or nonsense words. Place the reading material flat on the desk. We call this position "A". Have the person sit up straight in their chair and read the information. Most likely they will demonstrate, choppy reading with many errors. They will make up words, skip lines of text, and have trouble sounding out new words. Then have them hold the book or paper with both hands and bring the paper up slowly in an arc until it is directly in front of their face. We call this position "C". Make sure they don't extend their arms too much. Now have them tell you if the words are more clear. If they are, have them read again. You will see a noticeable improvement in their reading speed and fluency. Have them continue to move the paper up in this arc so they are looking slightly up. This is position "D". For many, this is the best position. If this is the most clear position for them, have them read the text or nonsense words. Again you will see an amazing improvement in their reading. So the question remains: Is dyslexia a neurological issue or a visual issue? Or, is it a neurological issues caused by a visual issue? I believe it involves a mis-alignment of stereopsis while looking down that is corrected while looking straight ahead or slightly up. I can easily get students out of their dyslexia with a stereoscopic eye exercise and new focusing point while reading.

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    Mar 6 2014: It is more neurological than it is visual, as visual impairment does not cause dyslexia (it does decrease your ability to read at all), nor do glasses improve or cure dyslexia.
    (note: if "visual" is the functioning of the eye up to the cones and staves, then it definitely isn't visual... I would say that it must lie in the further regions of visual processing; at least after V1-V4 cortical processing)

    However: Improving reading can help, as the problem with dyslexia implies the difficulty to process letters into words. If you look at Chinese signs, one notices dyslexia poses less problems, as the reading of symbols is processed differently.
    • Mar 6 2014: It's true that the people I work with have normal vision when tested by an eye doctor. However, they are only tested typically while looking straight ahead, not while looking down. Some eye doctors put prisms in glasses to attempt to fix the "fusion" problem as they call it.

      These questions still remain; why can I make dyslexia go away by changing the angle of the book? Why can a dyslexic read and comprehend nonsense words while holding the book up at eye level or slightly higher, but not while looking down at the book at the desktop level?

      My theory is that it has to do with improper eye alignment during cyclovergence. In order to acheive proper stereopsis the image has to correctly align with both eyes. What I have also found in helping dyslexics read is that they are very one-eye dominant. By placing reading and writing material toward their non-dominant eye side also seems to help.

      I don't know if visual is the correct term, but I'm not sure that neurological is either. It seems to be due to poor input. I have students do a stereoscopic eye exercise using two pennies placed slightly to their non-dominant eye side, and then help them find a clear spot while reading that builds upon this eye exercise. Their words read per minute will double instantly. The eye exercise has to be done daily. If they stop doing the exercise after a week or two their dyslexic peculiarites will return.
  • Mar 5 2014: I have Dyslexia myself. In all honestly I think it is more neurological then it is visual. Yes it works by rearranging your position but you left out the more important part about dyslexia that it also ties into how you speak and type/ write also. I often have to re-correct myself a few times while speaking before i pronounce a word correctly, and if it wasn't for spell check, every one on the internet would think I am an idiot because I can never spell anything right. When I went through "therapy" or "treatment" for it they did not even start with reading until the third or so meeting. It was all focused on pronunciation and spelling.
    • Mar 6 2014: I run into that with the students I work with. Their pronunciation, penmanship and spelling also improve with the stereoscopic eye exercise and new focal point used while reading and writing. A good example of this is their ability to correctly read and pronounce nonsense words. Once the words are made clear their reading words per minute usually doubles. I don't focus on pronunciation and spelling, only on making the words clear. What type of therapy and treatment did you receive? The system I am referring to was developed by a dyslexic and is unknown except for in the small town where we live. You can see some videos and examples at www.readingvision.net.
      • Mar 6 2014: I dont know how to spell it but it was orton gillingham or something like that
  • Mar 14 2014: There are many forms of reading and learning disabilities. You may well have found a treatment for a visually base reading difficulty. Children with this difficulty may be suspected of be dyslexic. If you have them tested for dyslexia and are found to have it, I'm fairly confident this treatment will be of limited help by itself.
    • Mar 14 2014: Actually it helps students who have been diagnosed as dyslexic. The eye exercise we use also provides relief for people who suffer from migraine. Watch this person as he is being shown the reading method for the first time. http://youtu.be/bVPL9LLIt5Q
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    Mar 10 2014: Under regular lighting conditions, facing downwards usually reduces the received light on the retina to some degree, as long as table tops aren't bright or even reflective. So if contrast would have something to do with it, maybe a few more degree in contrast, could already improve the clarity of an falsely effected area by visual 'interpolation'?

    Also your observation of adding a different 'focus point' would align to my given, vague hypothesis, which by no means is based on any medical or neurological knowledge of mine, but pure fiction, as I am a mechanical engineer by education and no medical doctor nor medical scientist.

    Have you considered to contact specialists on this matter?

    Have you ever experimented with different forms to present text? Maybe inverted - white text on black background? Or computer screen reading with active back-light? Or different color-schemes in text and background? Or did you check your students 'blind spots'?

    http://www.evolutionevidence.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/blindSpot768x1024.jpg

    http://www.bio.miami.edu/tom/courses/protected/ECK/CH07/figure-07-37.jpg

    Your observations are certainly interesting to investigate further, as your stated results seem to appear to have to high an impact to remain unclear in what is causing it.

    Have you considered to contact specialists in this matter?
    • Mar 10 2014: Hi Lejan. People have been interested in contrast as both cause and effect problems. However, with our method the problem corrects almost all peculiarities due to dyslexia. What you described is the basic problem in reading that is the white overwhelms the black letters. This clears with our method. You mentioned the dark spots. I am not certain as to just exactly what you mean, but you appear to describe the Scotomata that we find in about 20% of the dyslexics we work with. It is a retinal eye area suppression that can be as small as a dot to as large as a obstruction. It occurs when the two eyes are not aligned properly. You mentioned the problem with reading music. Our findings suggests that nearly all dyslexics experience music note reading. They frequently say that the notes will not come out of their fingers and they play by ear. These individuals merely need to use a simple focusing point that we teach. We frequently describe to adults that after they use this method they are going to feel like they have been cheated. Their life-long struggle is due to a correctable visual problem and it produces all of the confounding problems of dyslexia.
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        Mar 11 2014: You described Scotomata as a matter of eye alignment, which in the brain would cause an overlapping of visual images in relation to their mismatch in alignment.

        What I was trying to describe is different from that.

        Any eye has a natural 'blind spot', which is the region in the retina where the visual nerve is attached to it. At this 'junction', no light receptors exist, thus no visual information can be collected. This is a natural phenomena and caused by the way our eyes are designed.

        Even though both of our eyes have one 'blind spot' each, no one normally notice them and this is because the missing visual information is automatically substituted by the visual cortex in our brains and this in 'real time', thats why we are incapable of noticing it.

        So the visual information, which isn't there, is generated in our brains by a process similar to 'interpolation' in mathematics, by which missing values in between two numbers are calculated by a weighted addition of the numbers existing.

        For instance, a missing value in between 5 and 6 would be 5.5 by which the interpolation calculates by adding 5+6 and dividing by the number of used data points, which is 2 in this case. The result is a smooth average, as both existing values are weighted 50% each in this example.

        Something similar does our brain to the missing visual information of both 'blind spots' of our eyes, and to do this, it has to cleverly 'choose' existing visual information to interpolate from so that the 'calculated' information blends in as smooth as possible.

        Technically, it would gather all existing visual information of the light receptors right around the perimeter of the 'blind spots', to have the closest data possible to the missing ones in this areas to interpolate them. And after this 'calculation' is done, it has to exactly place and orient this 'new' data at the right place in our mental representation of our sight.
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        Mar 11 2014: My question now is, can this 'interpolation module' in our visual cortex malfunction in a way, that it not only fills in the missing information at exact and defined locations, but also, maybe, distributes this new data onto other areas as well, to cause visual 'overlapping' at places where this additional information would distort the original one.

        If this was possible, its cause would be purely neurological, as it would solely effect the 'image processing' within our brains independently of the 'quality' of our eyes, which are nothing but 'plain' light receptors anyway.

        By this, even perfectly aligned eyesight could be distorted in the later process of 'mental visualization' and it could cause all sorts of poor sight and visual artifacts in direct relation to the individual malfunction this 'interpolation process' would produce.

        Imagine what overlapping ghost images in our visual focus points would do to the clarity of our sight if our brain was having problems to correctly 'map' the right data at the right places...
        • Mar 11 2014: What you infer can be explained through an incorrect visual input producing an incorrect input into the occipital lobe V1 visual center. Here the interpretation allows for the correct distribution within the brain.

          Are you interested in learning more about our system? I can send you a code for a free download of our book, Dyslexia Solved. If so, send an email to me at jdebraga@readingvision.net
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        Mar 11 2014: Thank you very much for your kind offer, Joe, yet as I grew out of my dyslexia many years ago and have no one close suffering from it, the free book is more useful for someone in need.

        Inspired by your report I was just thinking out loud here.

        In any case I wish you all the best for your further work in helping dyslexic people!
        • Mar 11 2014: Thanks for the great conversation. You gave me a few ideas to think about as we continue to improve our system.
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    Mar 10 2014: While reading your interesting topic I wondered, if what you describe could be related to the way a dyslexic brain interpolates the missing information of the blind-spot in the retina and if a change in 'contrast' could have an impact on its results.

    Although the blind spot is not within the focus point of our eyes in its visual axis, luckily, it does intersect with our optical axis and disappears visually only by 'interpolation algorithms' of the visual cortex within the brain.

    Now how does the visual cortex actually 'know' which existing signals have to be interpolated to fill this gap and could it interfere with other areas of the retina as well by false 'connections'? What if parts of the focus point would as well be interpolated, wouldn't this highly reduce its true informational content?

    Thanks to you this is the first time I make a link between dyslexia and visuals myself and found, that the following could align to your observations. In elementary school I was diagnosed dyslexic too and 'grew' out of it naturally somewhere between 5th and 6th grade. Yet what remains till this very day is my given difficulty reading notes. There I do 'see' the notes and do 'see' the lines, but in between the top and bottom line I have problems to be certain about exact locations.

    I started to learn the piano around the time my writing and reading problems disappeared, yet I never managed to play a song 'off the sheet' and always played by heart. The training was difficult though and included a lot of 'line counting' to get the position of the notes right for me. At that time until now my visual sight has always been diagnosed as 'average good' according to my age, so this can not be the reason for this given inability of mine.

    Have some of your students reported similar difficulties with reading notes?

    Given your observations, could it be, that contrast has some part in improving reading results in relation to the head position?
  • Mar 4 2014: Define a good differentiation between "visual" and "neurological".
    • Mar 6 2014: I'm not sure I have a great definition since I am an educator and not a scientist. I have been working with dyslexics using the Reading Vision system. By neurological I am referencing research by people like Sally Shaywitz who had MRI scans done comparing the areas that light up in a dyslexic's brain vs the areas that light up in a non-dyslexic's brain while reading. I am also referring to research that suggests that a dyslexic's brain struggles with interpreting phonemes, causing them to struggle with sounding out the words.

      By visual I have found that when I have a person read at the desktop level and then have them hold the reading material in front of their face or even where they are looking up slightly, they can easily read and pronounce words clearly, including nonsense words. This causes me to believe that they actually have normal brain function, but their eyes aren't aligned properly which in turn causes the words to blur, pul apart, blink, push together, dance, etc.

      I am hopeful that a neurologist might have an explanation for this. Any ideas?