Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dyslexia Resources

Cindy Baumert is the Executive Director of Dyslexia Solutions, Inc., a not-for-profit 501c3 corporation that supplies RAD Prism glasses to people who struggle with dyslexia. I talked to Cindy after she read an article on my blog about vision therapy.

Dyslexia is often misunderstood and most people assume that it refers to transposing some letters in a word. According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities, dyslexia is the most prevalent learning disability (LD) and is a neurological problem. The formal definition as identified by the International Dyslexia Association is “characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

According to the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, some early signs of dyslexia include:
• Trouble learning common nursery rhymes, such as “Jack and Jill”
• Difficulty learning (and remembering) the names of letters in the alphabet
• Seems to be unable to recognize letters in his/her own name
• Mispronounces familiar words; persistent “baby talk”
• Doesn’t recognize rhyming patterns like cat, bat, rat
• Reading errors that show no connection to the sounds of the letters on the page—will say “puppy” instead of the written word “dog” in an illustrated page with a dog shown
• Does not understand that words come apart
• Complains about how hard reading is, or “disappearing” when it is time to read
• Cannot sound out even simple words like cat, map, nap
• Does not associate letters with sounds, such as the letter b with the “b” sound

They also mention some strengths that are common in people with dyslexia that include a larger vocabulary for the age group, a great imagination, excellent problem or puzzle solving ability, and excellent comprehension of spoken stories, among other things.

Cindy, how did Dyslexia Solutions Inc. get started and how do the prism lenses work?

The RAD Prism came about from years of investigation by Dr. Robert Dahlem, DVM (yes, a veterinarian) in his quest to help his son who was diagnosed severely dyslexic who continued to struggle with learning how to read despite high levels of intelligence and attending a private school specializing in instructional methods for dyslexia. What Dr. Dahlem discovered in observing the population of students at the specialized school was a high rate of facial asymmetry, specifically that the left pupil placement was closer to the nose than the right. Dr. Dahlem also investigated every biological system in the human body to try to trace the symptoms of dyslexia and it’s cause.

Upon experimenting with the phenomenon of facial asymmetry and it’s affect on how the brain interpreted information, Dr. Dahlem discovered that by placing a prism of a specific base size in the right eye only helped his son, who had normal vision and eye functionality, to perceive the written word correctly and be able to read fluently. At that point, Dr. Dahlem considered his investigation a success, pleased with the results that his son was receiving from his invention he looked forward to concentrating on his veterinary practices.

But the story did not end there, for friends of his son who were plagued by the same symptoms asked to try the prism and they saw the same improvement. Through word of mouth, Dr. Dahlem started to see individuals who would come to his veterinary hospital to find out if the prism would also help them or their child. When the number of people reached in the hundreds, Dr. Dahlem decided that this invention might not be a fluke that only helped his son and formed a non-profit in 2006 for the mission of evaluating the effectiveness of the RAD Prism in the general population.

In 2008, I became the Executive Director of the non-profit and Dr. Dahlem returned to being a full time veterinarian at his animal hospitals. We developed a website for the general public to have access to the RAD Prism to evaluate and give us feedback.

I did an article on vision problems and vision therapy recently. How is this approach similar and different? Do you help different populations?

Anyone who wants to evaluate the RAD prism may do so. I don’t know how the RAD Prism compares to vision therapy, but to my knowledge vision therapy is meant to correct visual deficits such as convergence insufficiency. We encourage anyone who is going to try the RAD Prism to first be evaluated by an eye-care professional to rule out any issue with the eye that might be causing reading difficulty.

How can low-income families afford the glasses?

Low-income families who cannot afford the fee are encouraged to work with their local civic organizations such as the Optimist and Lions Club, as well as school PTAs and family resource centers. We do charge a fee to receive the RAD Prism to cover the cost of the manufacturing and distribution of the RAD Prism, but we refund anyone who wants to return the prism for any reason, we replace broken frames free of charge and we trade sizes of RAD Prism free of charge.

Can schools get the glasses to help identify students that are dyslexic, rather than mentally or visually impaired?

In addition to the PTA or other fund raisers, schools have used federal IDEA funds to cover the fee.

For more information on the RAD Prism glasses from Dyslexia Solutions, go to:

Another great resource on dyslexia, including more early signs, strengths, strategies, reading lists, and much more, visit the website at Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity

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