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Sunday, December 4, 2011

The difficulties with the process of reading and writing

The door to culture and knowledge, without any doubt, goes hand by hand with reading and writing. However, because they are not part of the genetic package, unlike language and calculation, reading and writing depend on interactions with the environment to a better development (Dzib Goodin, 2011a).

The term used to refer to difficulties in the acquisition and development of process of reading and writing, has traditionally been dyslexia. which is a word that Etymologically comes from the Greek  and means difficulty or abnormality in speech or diction (Idiazábal Saperas Aletxa and Rodriguez, 2008) and has been attributed to the impossibility of reading comprehension, and it's applied to the lack of acquisition of writing too (Pallares Artigas, 2002).

It is worth mentioning that the term does not describe anything beyond a professional term, because it can not describe that part of the acquisition or consolidation that is not developing correctly. Traditional education and educational psychology, under the model to describe problems in the student away from working with the difficulties, highlights the problems without recognizing the chain of events involved.

That's why the neurocognitive view, seeks to describe the process, recognizing the necessary chain of events to consolidate the task, either reading or writing. But to speak of the difficulties in acquisition, it's worth a journey through the process.

Acquisition Process

It is a fact that both reading and writing are linked to language, but the difference is that there is no a genetic need of them, so they depend on the environmental shaping (Dzib Goodin, 2011B) and as mentioned Dehaene is linked to the culture (cited in Cook, 2010).

Based on this idea, reading and writing are based on written words, which are the graphical representation of speech sounds (Hickok, Bellugi and Klima, 2007).

The language-specific brain structures have developed from evolutionary processes that begin at least from the first Homo sapiens, while writing, as cultural necessity, has accompanied the man from the caves, drawing representations of events, but it was not until the development of printing which is positioned as a cultural asset. To writing became necessary to learn to reading, which, however, was not a skill available to everybody, until it appeared  school to consolidate it because of this, the brain has not required structures  genetically available  to develop them.

That's the reason reading and writing use part of language structures like the primarily region persilviana at the left hemisphere, area temporoparietooccipital, the set of mirror neurons and the cerebellum (Viñals, Duque Vega and Alvarez, 2003; Idiazábal Saperas Aletxa and Rodriguez, 2008; Hickok, 2010) .

But  there are more regions involved to create the relationship between the sound of a letter, known as phoneme and its graphical representation, called grapheme, for this, since is necessary an identification of speech sounds and recognition of the shapes of each grapheme and differentiation between them (Fisher, 2010; Cook, 2010).

The need for emotional understanding of the writing or reading, involving the corpus callosum in the process, this is because language in itself implies an intention that must be recognized and expressed graphically.

The recognition of sound involved into the language of course give it meaning. This is because the brain analyzes the sound differently (understood as any wave propagation through a medium), identifying differences between language, music and noise (Dzib Goodin, 2011b).

In this sense the words are recognized as a sequence of sounds that can be represented through limited sequences separated by spaces. To this is added the punctuation and all that make the written word (Carboni Roman, Rio Grande, Chapel, Maestu and Ortiz, 2006). Going from sound to meaning implies, however, neural networking to make each sound recognizable, which is why babies go from repeat guttural sounds, sporadic understandable language, words and eventually sentences.

The next step is to convert sounds into letters. This process is inherent in writing and requires two basic principles: first visual analysis of the shape of each letter and make the distinction between them because one p is not equal to a one q, and a v is not equal to one r. And, on the other hand, the motor recognition to process visual (eyes move to recognize the differences in shape) and in the case of writing, is the movement on the line depending on the differential point while performance (Sánchez, Wheel and Orrantia, 1989).

For an adult brain, with sufficient functional neural networks, the statement seems silly, but for a developing brain that gradually creates cognitive frame is a huge challenge. That's why at first, it's normal for the system to have mistakes, that psychologists and teachers call dyslexia, which should not be considered a problem until after the 8 years (Dehaene, Nakamura, Jobert, Kuroki, Ogawa and Cohen, 2010).

Once are made the necessary distinctions between letters, and in this case consider that the English alphabet has 26 uppercase and 26 lowercase letters and two ligatures, and it's necessary to make a difference between them properly, so it will pass to the analysis of the sequence of letters. What sounds make up the word?, Are there spaces between them?, and one more addition, some sounds are necessary to writing, for not for reading like Illinois or Lisle.

This is when the auditory, visual and motor processes are integrated into memory (Greene, 2010) which contributes to strengthening the management of differences of graphemes, and always the motivation is usually added, because as a cultural tool, this process must have a practical to implement brain networks because it works on the principle of cognitive economy.

Once that are  acquired and developed at some level all these  processes, it must be added to the equation, something that psychologists call lexical route, this  consists in the recognition of familiar words like mom and dad, and while reading and writing become simple because they are part of the personal dictionary, and on the other hand, the non-lexical route, which are words that have not been in the personal dictionary or nonsense words, however, may be read or written, when the process is already established (Sanchez, Rueda and Orrantia, 1989).

Once it's acquired all neural networks to hear, see and draw the different letters is then passed to the learning of words that open the door to culture. This door, however, should be widely promoted in the childhood.

So far, it has been done a tour of the normal development and needs to acquire the process of reading and writing, however, difficulties sometimes arise from the consolidation of the same, they are mainly due to two situations to consider: problems neural development and problems of cultural deprivation.

The neuronal difficulties

Brain development begins even before birth, and it can determine difficulties in the processes of language, in this sense, we can mention genetic alterations that result in various neurological conditions, for example Down's syndrome, autism spectrum disorders speacially those with more profound side effects (Etchepareborda and Lazaro Lopez, 2005).

Genetic alterations such as those presented in the FOXP2 gene, which cause malfunctions in the language that, will certainly hinder the acquisition of reading and writing process (Haesler, 2007).

To all this must be added prenatal alterations, for example intake of drugs  during pregnancy, poor  nutrition,  intrauterine trauma, fetal distress and of course, after the birth any kind of brain trauma and there is evidence that epileptic focus can damage surrounding neurons (Lozano, Ramirez and Solis Ostrosky, 2001).

Visospatial disturbances may occur in the parieto-occipital area, or alterations of the corpus callosum that will make difficult the relationship between the two cerebral hemispheres (Etchepareborda and Lazaro Lopez, 2005; Carboni Roman, Rio Grande, Chapel, Maestu and Ortiz, 2006).

Traditionally, psychology has seen brain differences as a way to separate into the continuum of learning and find children with normal learning. But neurocognition reminds that the brain is plastic and capable of creating functional neural networks under the right conditions, that is why is so important to work with the neuro modulation from an early age so that children are able to acquire skills that though not be compared with those of a structural brain damage-free, if they allow management of the environment.

It's also important to be mentioned that while neural networks are consolidated, there will be noticed errors that should be considered as part of the development process. This is obvious especially with the language and calculation. Children are not born speaking as adults, even when there is a pre genetic programming; the system has to make functional application that lets you develop the best way language along with speech

An example of this is the called dyslexia, to which has been associated with errors in mirror writing. Recent studies show that mirror in writing or reading is a normal property of the primary visual system, which only indicates a difficulty in writing if it is prolonged beyond 8 or 10 years (Dehaene, Nakamura, Jobert, Kuroki, Ogawa and Cohen, 2010).

Difficulties due to cultural deprivation

If  anybody  ask an adult over 60 years old  to get an account in facebook using an Ipad and begin tweeting all his or her activity, probably just give up with trying to turn on the gadget.

Something similar happens to a child who has never been submerged in the sea of reading, maybe has never seen a book or taking a pencil. The difficulties in the acquisition process are reflected in a delay in the development of reading and / or writing.

And, of course, it always will have to be considered the strategies of teaching, because traditional school does not encourage a taste for writing and reading, except as part of the compulsory schooling. Culturally, those nations who see these works as a cultural tool, have been more successful in reducing, and in some cases eliminate illiteracy, even can add the bilingualism as a tool, and this produces the appearance of specific neuronal networks strengthened and brings enhanced cognitive development in general (Joss and Virtue, 2010).

The place  where  people proficient in at least two languages, it's far in the case of some countries, specially in Latin America,  if efforts are few  at  the case of the difficulties of reading and writing, bilingualism is an even more distant goal, although it is clear that scientific and cultural borders can open immediately.

If it is assumed that the brain learns from experience, which creates networks that depend on use and management of information, it is able to learn under the right programs, and enjoy achieving goals, there shouldn't be a way to talk of school problems. But educational psychologists have attributed differences of learning as the standard and deciding who is at one side or the other of normal curve of learning, and this labeling has only damaged and many children.

The brain learns under the right programs, building new knowledge on what it knows and under own resources, different in each person. This idea of the problem of school, it's saying to the students he or she is guilty of not learning correctly, eliminating errors of teaching curriculum. This can be very easy and cheap for a nation to accept that their children are the problem.

Children learn by playing, with motivation, trying something again and again and also from their mistakes, rather than from their successes (Roediger III and Finn, 2010). Effective education is notorious when it benefits those who can not do something and the same time that praises the gotten goals if doesn’t matter if needs little or a lot of support. It is worth investing time and patience to open to a child or an adult, the door of the reading and writing. It not only taught to read and write, gives him a different world for the rest of his life.

Under this principle, when we say that a child or adult has a problem in reading and writing and write, it's not enough information. The question are: what is the problem into the process?, What is the chain of events in the process of acquisition or consolidation failing, is it a problem in the auditory recognition of speech sounds?, Maybe is a particular phoneme?, is it about  the speed of reading or writing?, maybe is the recognition of shapes?, can be recognized all the letters?, does student have enough motor skills to take a pencil?, does it have viso-spatial difficulties?, does student confuse the order of the letters?, does student  know the words?, does student understand what is reading?, does student remember what is reading? ... Every problem into the process is different and of course, it can be solved in different way.

There must be added some cultural mistakes such as bedtime reading, which creates a relationship between reading = to sleep (are you still awake reading this text?) Or, if you do not behave you do 20 pages of something, which implies writing = a punishment.

Every time a psycho-educational intervention is successful, is because the learner is encouraged to try to do something that others said would never amount to, it opens the door to:  YES, you can.

Alma Dzib Goodin

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