Dyslexics need over 1,500 repetitions of a new concept before it becomes automatic. As a Dyslexia Therapist, in order for my students to become successful in the learning process, I must give cues in an effort to allow them to ‘find’ and access information stored in their memory. However; this is helpful with most LD students.
In researching articles, books & podcasts about Executive Functions, I find these phrases consistently in describing its role in reading and reading comprehension:
“cueing and directing”
“cueing and coordinating”
“cueing and sustaining”
Cognitive flexibility is an executive function process which is the ability of the brain to shift approaches when, for example, reading, comprehending or working a multi-step math problem. It is the ability of the brain to — ‘direct’, “coordinate’, “sustain” and “cue”.
So, why is cognitive flexibility important?
Reading comprehension requires a student to go back and forth between major themes, supporting details & to determine, hold onto and sort out information as they read.
During reading, the brain is cueing attention for accurate letter/word perception and discrimination, the use of phonological and orthographic processes for accuracy of word pronunciation and fluency.
Cognitive flexibility is only one of the many EF processes in play during reading. But it is clear that flexibility is important for successful reading and comprehension. If this process or others are not working effectively, a student will struggle when reading and comprehension will suffer.
Executive functions for reading are like what wheels are for a car. Wheels allow the car to move, but if one wheel is flat or has a brick in front of it, the whole process of moving is inhibited. In both cases there is a solution to get the car moving again.
Putting air in the tire or taking the brick away, relieves the “problems” so that the car can move effectively, again. When learning differences, such as Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Language Processing or ADHD are identified or diagnosed, effective accommodations & interventions can be put into place. This can help remove some of the struggles that were inhibiting the student’s executive functioning, providing the opportunity to use their executive function processes more effectively.
Here are some helpful Reading Comprehension Interventions for students:
- Directional Questions – ask questions before reading the text instead of at the end.
- Read Aloud – reading out loud allows student to hear their voice and facilitates working memory.
- Story Maps – pre-reading activity where graphic organizers are used to outline and organize the information.
- Retelling – have the student retell the story after reading aloud their own words.
- Walk-through – encourage students to skim the material prior to reading with emphasis on chapter and text headings.
- Active Participation – encourage active, rather than passive reading. Have student take notes or highlight important information, using several different colors.
- Reduce Anxiety – anxiety inhibits working memory and leads to ineffective recall. Be sensitive to having a child to read aloud in class.
The Luke Waites Center for Dyslexia and Learning Disorders, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital, says that 80% of children with a learning difference have a reading problem.
Having knowledge about the importance of executive function processes, such as cognitive flexibility, for reading success, not only benefits the child/student, but empowers parents to become more knowledgeable advocates for their LD child. Executive Function knowledge allows teachers to approach teaching, intervention time and accommodations more effectively for their students.