Researchers are just beginning to understand the complexities of our brain and the connection between Dyslexia and Working Memory deficits.
What is Working Memory?
We know that it takes an effective working memory to hold bits of information in our minds. We also know that while holding these bits of information, we need to work with the information to complete a task.
The Task…Learning to Read
In order for a student to learn to read, sounds (bits of information) need to be remembered and blended together (working with the information) to read an unfamiliar word (completing the task.)
A Struggling Student
I met Joey at the end of his kindergarten year. He was placed in my intervention small group, as he could not remember the letter sounds or blend individual sounds together to form a word. Blending (putting together) and segmenting (pulling apart) sounds was a challenge for him.
After a couple weeks, there was some improvement in Joey’s skills, but then he got stuck…I mean really stuck. He had been working harder than the other students to blend 3 sounds together (p…e…t), however when we started blending 4 sounds together (c…l…a…m), he hit a wall. Unable to hold the sounds in his mind long enough to blend them together; Joey could not read the word.
At this point, I begun to wonder if his working memory was holding him back. It all made sense to me…if Joey could not remember the sounds long enough to blend them together – there was a good chance it was a working memory issue.
I took the chance and had Joey complete a few sessions of a working memory program. The program gradually trained Joey’s brain to hold 4 or more bits of information in his head at a time. To my surprise, after a few sessions, Joey got unstuck! His enthusiasm for learning to read began to soar!
A Lesson Learned
While watching Joey smile brightly during his kindergarten graduation, I found myself smiling too. We both had learned a new lesson; Joey was on his way to becoming a reader and I found a new way to help my students.