We recently had the pleasure of interviewing John Gabrieli, director of the Martinos Imaging Center at the the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, with a focus on the brain basis of dyslexia, and other neurodevelopmental disorders such as ADHD and autism.
Professor Gabrieli is the keynote speaker at the Reading the City conference on April 9 in Denver, Colorado, and gave us a preview of some of what he will share in his keynote.
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us today! I know your keynote is about dyslexia and the reading brain; can you give a few more insights?
The overall theme of my talk is "What do we know about the brain basis for reading difficulty and dyslexia?" Within that, I'll be breaking it up into two specific pieces. The first half will deal with the current picture - primarily from brain imaging - on what's different between a brain that struggles to read and one that does not. We've actually made a fair bit of progress in that in terms of understanding the specifics!
The second part will look at ways in which this kind of knowledge might turn out to be useful in helping children, educators and parents.
What are your hopes in how this type of information will help?
Our big hope is that our knowledge about how brains vary from child to child will allow us to know much better how to personalize their educational experience. We need to move toward an individualized education.
There is increasing evidence that it can be helpful to have early identification and prognosis. By prognosis, I mean knowing which children will make the most progress with a certain type of intervention.
What are your thoughts on the Orton-Gillingham methodology?
Orton-Gillingham is an excellent program - there’s a lot of evidence that these are beneficial programs. But children vary in how much they benefit from any program, including OG. We hope that brain imaging can help us better predict which child will benefit from which program, or receive additional supports.
Sometimes we'll see articles coming out stating things like "dyslexia isn't real." Do you have thoughts there?
Brain imaging has shown that there are great differences in the brains of kids who are dyslexic and non-dyslexic. These images are apparent before a child gets their first reading lesson in school. The majority of the children are struggling due to brain differences.
Early identification before reading is greatly moving forward, and we're also moving forward with predicting before a child embarks on a program of remediation which child is highly likely to benefit from that.
Since we are obviously big fans of audiobooks, I was wondering if you have any thoughts there.
I’m personally convinced that audiobooks are a good way for kids to keep up on expanding their knowledge and vocabulary, which will help them with everything in life - including reading. One of the biggest fears in reading is that kids read less and pick up less information overtime, so audiobooks are a great tool to prevent that.
You can hear more from John Gabrieli in person at the Reading in the City Conference in Denver, Colorado on April 9th. Learning Ally is co-sponsoring the conference with the IDA Rocky Mountain Branch and Denver Public Schools. You can find more information here.