Unlocking the Mysteries of Reading: Insights from the International Dyslexia Association Conference

I was invited to attend the 10th International Dyslexia Association conference hosted by the Los Angeles Branch (IDALA) at the University of California, Los Angeles, on March 4, 2023. Elizabeth Lutsky, MA, BCET, A/OGA Advisory Board Member, and past President of IDA Los Angeles, a colleague, invited me to engage with educators and connect with educational leaders locally and across the country.  Liz is an Educational Therapist and passionate educator specializing in reading and language (receptive and expressive) based learning strategies and skills to support every child to be confident, independent, and life-long learners.

The IDALA Keynote Speaker, Jan Wasowicz, Ph.D., CCC-SLP, BCS-CL, founder and researcher of The Language Literacy Network: A New Twist on the Reading Rope to Advance Literacy Outcomes, studies the many language components that unify into skilled reading and writing.  She further examined the Reading Rope, founded by Dr. Hollis Scarbough in 1992, which illustrated many strands woven into a rope, representing skilled reading with language comprehension and word recognition. 

The Reading Rope was the first reading theory of its kind. I was ten years old, working on my reading skills, probably with a reading specialist, and working with the Reading Rope model. 

We have come so far, yet have a long way to go. From 1992 to 2021, we have a wealth of information, and research continues to need more funding while politicians make educational decisions, not educators or teachers. This impacts all of our goals for student learning and engagement. Dr. Wasowicz’s approach to understanding reading from speech to print, multi-linguistic and meta-linguistic, makes a difference in student outcomes for the oral and written language. We know literacy is reading and writing, which is the language process. 

We have access to brain imagining that shows the neurofunctional activity for many language components in skilled literacy. This has contributed to education and treatment for intervention and supportive methods for language and literacy. Dr. Wasowicz’s analysis shows that metalinguistic skills extract the meaning to gain reading comprehension. Integrating metalinguistic skills requires a robust lexical representation for integrated linguistic skills. 

Many high school students can decode language but do not understand what they’re reading. We know that one in three students in the 4th grade (36%) need to improve their reading comprehension skills as they’re functioning below average. The concept of understanding requires incredible effort, a cognitive mental load that requires a process of a thousand things happening simultaneously (i.e., extracting meaning, interaction, constructing meaning, and written language). Word recognition with language comprehension is needed for successful reading comprehension. 

Successful readers incorporate these skills during the reading visualization, clarity-summary, questions, prediction, connection, and evaluation, all with the text. One significant measure of support for all learners with reading comprehension skills is to learn with multimodal access to learning, as 14% of students will increase their reading comprehension skills with VARK: visual/auditory, reading (writing), and kinesthetic learning environments. It is important to remember that reading comprehension occurs before, during, and after reading the text. It is critical to discuss and collaborate, as the hope is to transform knowledge into different formats. Additionally, students with neurodiverse learning profiles need up to 35-40 exposures to learn a word before they know it (stored in long-term working memory). In contrast, a neurotypical student may only need three exposures. 

The power of literacy allows us to be human. We can fully participate in our lives  with the understanding and expression of our own ideas, beliefs, and opinions. Much more – literacy is the center for connection and communication. Collaborating with parents and outside professionals, like Liz, for Educational Therapy allows us to cultivate a  student-centered approach of harnessing learning strategies with effective tools to reach their goals. If students understand their learning profile as they build their “toolbox” each year as a learner, they become empowered and confident in 

To learn more, you can visit www.dyslexiala.org 

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