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Dyslexia: early test for three-year-olds should reveal reading and spelling weakness
In Germany around 35,000 children with reading and spelling difficulties are enrolled every year. Parents and teachers often only learn about dyslexia during school when the children mix up letters and have difficulty reading. Leipzig scientists have now launched a research project that deals with the development of an early test for three-year-olds to identify reading and spelling weaknesses.
Weak reading and spelling problems can be seen in the brain
Thanks to previous studies in this area, it is now known that the brains of children with reading and spelling difficulties process speech differently. Affected children find it much more difficult to correctly write down and read what they have heard. Unfortunately, parents and teachers generally only learn about their children's difficulties at school if they do not make any progress in reading or writing despite special lessons and tutoring. School failure can result. To counteract this, appropriate therapies should be started at an early stage.
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology have now launched a joint research project. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) are to be used to examine the brains of small children in order to provide future dyslexics with therapy before they start school. Children could make great progress in kindergarten and significantly reduce their handicap. According to the Leipzig researchers, it should be possible to make a reliable diagnosis before the child starts reading and writing. “With our early test, we would be able to identify a dyslexia risk at the age of three. That would be a big step forward, ”explains Jens Brauer, neuropsychologist at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig.
Speech processing in the brain starts very early Scientists have long known that dyslexics process speech differently. Speech processing begins very early in the human brain and is partly hereditary. The Leipzig scientists now want to search the brains of toddlers for neuronal signatures and genetic patterns that are similar to those of schoolchildren and adults with dyslexia.
A team of researchers from Boston published their study results at the end of last year. According to this, reduced metabolic processes take place in certain regions of the brain in children from families with poor reading and writing skills. For this study, the Boston researchers used MRI to scan preschoolers while they were doing listening exercises. The result confirmed the observations of educators and therapists: some children have difficulty processing speech, but this is not related to hearing. Thus, the test subjects sometimes had problems with rhyming and rhythmic word decomposition.
Dyslexia is not recognized as a disease in Germany The Leipzig scientists will investigate whether the three-year-old subjects develop reading and spelling difficulties later in life. Psychologist Arndt Wilcke from the Fraunhofer Institute in Leipzig explains how this works: “We expect to be able to use a certain component in the EEG as a prediction symbol. This component is an automatic reaction of the brain if it differentiates between two stimuli. "Holger Kirsten, geneticist, adds:" In cooperation with additional genetic markers, we want to use it to develop an early test that is easy to establish. Such a screening process would ideally be open to all interested parents. "
In contrast to the Boston scientists, the Leipzig researchers will not only consider blood flow to the brain in certain areas, but will also take anatomical images to determine the degree of maturity of the nerve fiber connections. If the Leipzigers succeed in physically proving their learning disabilities, this would mean that health insurance companies would have to pay the therapy costs in the future. So far, they only covered the diagnosis costs at the psychiatrist. The World Health Organization (WHO) has long listed dyslexia as a disease in its catalog. This is still pending in Germany. Parents now hope for the Leipzig scientists.
Special therapies for children with dyslexia School psychologist Barbara Klemm-Röbig reports from her everyday school life: “The schools should support dyslexics. But the teachers are not trained for this during their studies and have little time. That's why I organize further training for teachers so that they can help better. ”In addition, in cases where the funding is insufficient, therapy with specialists is necessary. The school psychologist further reports that the youth welfare office pays for such therapies, but only after a year of unsuccessful help from teachers. However, that was wasted time.
There are already exercise programs for kindergarten children, but these have not yet been compulsory and require qualified and committed educators. The Würzburger program includes, for example, precise listening as well as rhyming and word formation. This type of support can help children with reading and writing difficulties to reduce their weaknesses early on.
By developing an early test for dyslexia, children could start special therapies and support programs before starting school. This could save you a difficult start at school. Dyslexics often suffer psychologically from their weakness, have little self-confidence, which can continue into adulthood. Ultimately, it is society's task not to exclude people with handicaps, but to promote and support them. Graduate pedagogue Sebastian Bertram from Hanover reports: “Special therapies and training are important for dyslexics in order to have the same opportunities in the professional as well as in the private sphere. A lack of self-esteem, from which sufferers often suffer, has a massive impact on their mental state. Dyslexia is not a sign of lack of intelligence. It is simply a reading and spelling weakness that can be treated well if it is started in time. ”(Ag)
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