Sunday, February 23, 2014

What is Dyslexia? What isn’t Dyslexia?

By Tracy Paskiewicz, Ph.D.
Do you know a Jordan?  Jordan is one of the brightest children in his second grade classroom.  He has an extensive vocabulary and knows many facts about science and hockey, his favorite sport.  He can even tell you about the last several Stanley Cup playoff games, and who won each year.  But when it comes to reading about hockey—or anything else—Jordan has a lot of trouble.  It takes him a long time to read each word, and even longer to read full sentences.  He often takes a guess about how to pronounce a word, and his guess is often wrong.  Reading out loud is very stressful for Jordan.  He gets embarrassed and may start to cry when his teacher calls on him to read.

Reading ability is often taken as a marker of one’s intelligence.  Most people assume that if someone is smart, motivated, and properly instructed, she or he will learn to read.  However, decades of research has shown that even some very smart people who do well at many things, have trouble learning to read.  This difficulty with reading is called dyslexia.
Contrary to popular belief, dyslexia is not a disorder of the visual system.  Traditionally, letter and word reversals were thought to be typical of dyslexic reading.  Eye training was often prescribed to overcome these alleged visual deficits.  But, modern research has shown that children with dyslexia are not unusually prone to reversing letters or words and that the cognitive deficit responsible for the disorder is related to the language system.  Specifically, dyslexia reflects a weakness in the processing of the distinctive linguistic units, called phonemes, that make up all spoken and written words.  Current linguistic models of dyslexia now provide an explanation of why some very intelligent children have trouble learning to read and performing other language-based tasks.  Deficits in the processing of phonemes can impair decoding, preventing word identification and recall. 

Many individuals with dyslexia explain how tiring reading is for them, reflecting the enormous resources and energy they must expend on the task.  In dyslexia, the brain takes longer to make phonological connections, and it does so in more steps.  For example, the brain might have trouble matching the letters on the page with the sounds those letters and combinations of letters make.  When someone has trouble with this initial, lower-level step, it makes all the other steps harder.
Dyslexia is not rare; estimates suggest that between 5-10% of the population has some form of dyslexia.  Sometimes several people in the same family have dyslexia.  Older kids and adults can also have dyslexia.  There is no cure for dyslexia, nor can you “grow out of it.”  However, early identification and appropriate intervention can ameliorate its effects.  Individuals with dyslexia often learn to accommodate, or learn to develop strategies, to overcome this disorder.  Many people achieve academically and go on to higher education.  Some people with dyslexia have special talents or skills, including creativity and problem-solving skills.         

This article is based on content from Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz, M.D.

Lifestyle Changes for Everyone

My name is Tracey Smith and I am the owner of Wellness W.R.K.S. LLC. I have been a member of the resiliency center for five years. I am a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist providing group facilitation for teens with the following titles: Teen Resiliency-Wellness and Leadership, Teen Esteem–Wellness Leadership, Woman’s Group for Woman of Color, and Professional Staff Development Training Program. Recreation is my therapy. I teach practitioners concrete strategies to help bring creativity and fun into ones work with groups and families. I have written two newsletters: 1) Teen Resiliency and 2) Reflections of the Million Woman March 10th Anniversary.

Wellness W.R.K.S. LLC was born out of the need to integrate strength based, interactive holistic programing into the behavioral health/healthcare healing processes, as well as providing wellness education to the community. As a Recreational Therapist, I have extensive experience in behavioral health and healthcare. In various settings there was an observable imbalance in the medical model treating ‘patients’ as their illness and not as a person with particular symptoms. In other words, we treat the whole person. Instead of using the illness/recovery model, wellness W.R.K.S. LLC and associates utilize wellness/recovery principles that merge recreational therapy, wellness education and restorative practices. This provides a holistic experience for participants and allows them to achieve personal growth. The creative experiential workshops engage even the most resistant participant using this integrative approach. Oftentimes leisure and recreation are discounted for their therapeutic benefits. The use of recreation and play in wellness, healing and recovery can serve everyone. Recovery is not a term used only for drug and alcohol participants. For our purposes, it is for anyone wanting to recover his/her authentic self and achieve as sense of wholeness.

The primary components of this work are: Wellness Education, Recreational Therapy and Restorative Practices.

·         Recreational Therapy uses recreational activities to tap into the “Playful Spirit.”  It enhances a healthy lifestyle and improves the way participants handle personal challenges. It is a non- threatening, non- invasive means to address behavioral health challenges. 

·         Wellness Education introduces participants to a holistic approach to self-care. It addresses the mind, body, and spirit, providing balance between work, home, relationships and play.

·         Restorative Practice is a collaborative, nonviolent form of communication that promotes conflict transformation. Participants develop a basic skill that reduces miscommunication and creates the opportunity for constructive change. 

The populations served include men and women in transition, adolescents in the school and/or legal systems. It also serves people negotiating parenting and other choices related to sexuality and the adoption of children. The workshops are also available for focus groups, staff retreats, participants with recovery challenges, people of color, and professional development training. 

With enthusiasm, creativity and passion, we are committed to promoting wellness, recreation and conflict transformation though the creative and healing arts. Our desire is to empower participants to make desired lifestyle changes. The vision of Wellness W.R.K.S. LLC is to assist participants in increasing their awareness of healing strategies and techniques for different levels of burden. We do this through workshops, trainings and individual transformation sessions. These services have been provided for municipal, state, profit, non-profit, small business and healthcare agencies. We have developed a variety of curricula but each workshop is tailor made for the audience. Ideally the curriculum has nine modules that are culturally and trauma sensitive. It promotes a “safe place” atmosphere where participants can explore their own issues of healthy living. The modules address: depression, stress/anger management, self–esteem, self-care, trauma, life skills, sexual health, and other recovery/behavioral health issues. The modalities used include, but are not limited to: social activities, character development, conflict transformation, empowerment assertiveness training, violence prevention, aroma therapy, reiki, tai chi, yoga, physical fitness, relaxation therapy, poetry, music, journaling, goal setting, decision making, anger/stress reduction activities, spiritual growth and creative/emotional intelligence.  We are in the process of developing a staff training manual and participant workbook for this curriculum. Training other professionals and hiring consultants has helped to expand the scope of my practice. We even have a Zumba instructor! Participants in the program become ‘wellness ambassadors’ as they share their knowledge with families, associates and communities. Wellness W.R.K.S. LLC works in the community with the understanding that we are all connected. We are connected to the community of humanity. With this being said participants are encouraged to practice techniques and principles to heal one’s self, family and community. This can in turn help us to be better friends, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, co-workers and neighbors. Here is what some participants have said: “The calming atmosphere here at The Resiliency Center helped put my mind at ease.” “Since your workshops, I am able to manage my anger better.” “The 40 Developmental Assets helped me feel better about myself.” Here is how some of the participants responded to the wellness self-inventory after participating in the ‘wellness in the workplace professional development training.’ “I am going to start taking care of myself.” “The playful spirit helps people manage their lives.” “The playful spirit helps with depression and boredom.” “The playful spirit helps create peace and non-violence.” “The playful spirit is important to our overall well-being.”