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    Reading skills in children with dyslexia not linked to IQ scores

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    All children with dyslexia, or developmental reading disorder (DRD), should be eligible for special education services that will help them learn to read, concludes new research from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) of the National Institutes of Health.

    The findings suggest that the traditional discrepancy model used as the criterion for classifying a child as learning disabled is no longer valid to determine which children will benefit from specialized reading instruction.

    The discrepancy model describes dyslexia as a significant gap between actual reading skill and the level expected for a specific IQ score. Originally, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act required that schools use the discrepancy model to identify students who needed assistance for a learning disability. However, studies in the 1990s showed that children who had difficulty learning to read demonstrated impaired phonologic awareness (matching printed letters to the speech sounds the letters represent). A reauthorization of the Act in 2004 dropped the requirement; however, many systems retained the model and use it to classify those students who need special education services for reading.

    In the NIH-supported study, researchers measured the brain activity of 131 average and poor readers aged 7 to 16 years with functional magnetic resonance imaging scanners to determine the differences in brain activation when the children engaged in tasks involving phonologic awareness.

    The investigators found that children with dyslexia who exhibited poor reading ability but who had high or typical IQ scores (discrepant readers) and the children with dyslexia who showed poor reading ability and had low IQ scores (nondiscrepant readers) showed similar patterns of reduced brain activity in the left parietotemporal and occipitotemporal regions during specific rhyming tasks. The patterns occurred whether the poor readers had high or low IQ scores in relation to their reading abilities.

    “There is little reason to rely on the discrepancy model in the classroom any longer,” said lead researcher Fumiko Hoeft, MD, PhD. “All children with dyslexia should be eligible for support in learning to read.”

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