Dyslexia – or inner ear problem?
Dyslexia is a widespread diagnosis amongst learners who struggle with reading, spelling and/or or writing. Teachers and parents are often surprised when Integrated Learning Therapy (ILT) practitioners take little notice of the diagnosis and instead turn their attention to the individual’s inner ear functioning.
The part of the inner-ear so often found responsible for the problems associated with dyslexia is called the vestibular system. This little system has enormous implications for our learning and functioning – something which is only truly understood by those of us who have suffered from health conditions affecting the vestibular. To their surprise, irregularities brought about by inner-ear infections and similar prevent them from carrying out their usual daily routines altogether.
The vestibular system has several functions, beautifully described by Dr Harold Levinson in his books (see www.dyslexiaonline.com). Here are some, briefly summarized:
- The vestibular guides our eyes, hands, feet and various mental and physical functions in time and space. We need this for our eyes to fixate and sequentially track letters, words and sentences; to be able to write on the horizontal in a neat fashion; to pronounce words accurately as we speak.
- The vestibular fine-tunes all motor responses that make our movements coordinated and balanced. If dysfunctional, we show delayed speech; impaired ability to walk; difficulty tying shoelaces, buttoning buttons; holding and using pens and pencils. We may also take long to toilet train and show symptoms such as bed-wetting, soiling and more. This find-tuning function also makes it difficult to concentrate and remember what is seen and heard. You could compare this to the tuning function on a TV. Imagine how difficult to watch a programme if the picture and sound are fuzzy, indistinct and blurred out.
- The vestibular also has a compass function. It allows us to be aware of spatial relationships such as right and left, up and down, front and back, east and west and north and south. If the compass system isn’t working efficiently, the brain has to compensate by finding methods such as wearing a watch on one hand, or remembering which hand is which by the presence of a scar, etc. This compass system directs all body functions: sensory, motor, speech, thought, even biophysical patterns. It isn’t always true that all functions will be dysfunctional. One sequence may be misdirected or scrambled while another remains unaffected.
- The vestibular acts as a timing mechanism. If it isn’t functioning as it should, a child may have difficulty in learning to tell time and sensing time. Often, so-called dyslexic learners do not understand the difference in meaning of before and after and can’t sense whether a minute, an hour or several hours have gone by.
Impaired functioning of this very crucial sensory-motor system explains why such learners struggle to learn to read, write neatly and with clear meaning, reverse letters and words and more.
Take note that the vestibular system is located in the inner ear. This part of the ear is prone to damage through various avenues, including but not limited to ear infections. For this reason, ILT practitioners always ask about health history, because just one severe ear infection might underlie later problems in school.
So before treatment begins to help such learners overcome the symptoms they are displaying, it makes perfect sense to ensure that their vestibular systems are helped to restore functioning. A perfect example of why looking for the underlying cause of symptoms is often a quicker and more efficient way of helping those with learning difficulties.
Visit our website at www.ilt.co.za to learn more about our approach. We do list practitioners who are ready to help you or families that you want to refer. We also offer training courses to help teachers improve your understanding of brain development and function and how to recognise and help signs of difficulties you see in your learners.
The courses are accredited with SACE for CPTD points and with ETDP-SETA for credits towards further qualifications.
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