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Latest Advances in Reading Disorders will be Addressed in Symposium

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Major strides have been made in recent months in predicting, diagnosing and correcting reading disorders in children. These developments will be reported at a symposium next week at Wake Forest University, sponsored by the Section on Neuropsychology at WFU School of Medicine.

“Breakthroughs in Reading: The International and Multicultural Challenge” will include an “international dialogue” between Frank Wood, Ph.D., the neuropsychology section head, and Basil Pillay, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Nelson Mandela Medical School in Durban, South Africa.

Wood, an internationally recognized authority on dyslexia and other reading disorders, said research has now conclusively demonstrated that dyslexia is “strongly genetically influenced.”

Researchers have developed “techniques for extremely accurate prediction of future reading ability,” and “clear and reliable brain imaging” is now a tool of diagnosis. “This imaging can even show the effects of remediation on the brain. All of this has come together really in the past year to year-and-a-half,” Wood said.

Most important, he said, is that “dyslexia is clearly proven to be remediable” and correction can and should begin in the early school years.

Wood said he will also discuss the strong skills of Hispanic children in learning to read English, the usefulness of music and mathematics in teaching reading, and fluency training – or “why walking is just as important to reading as talking is.”

Pillay is active in many educational projects in South Africa and was a consulting psychologist for the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Wood said that Pillay’s experience in South Africa, where 11 languages are spoken and many cultures intermingle, is very instructive for American multicultural challenges.

Among his topics at the symposium will be the threat of trauma – individually and societally – to education, how attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) is expressed differently in different cultures, and the risk of suicide among poor readers.

Three of Pillay’s colleagues, including his wife Cecilia Pillay, will take part in the reading disorders symposium, representing the viewpoints of a geneticist, an educational psychologist and a teacher.

The event is the June Lyday Orton Memorial Lecture and Symposium. Orton, who worked in the medical school’s Department of Neurology in the 1950s, became a national pioneer in the treatment of reading disabilities. She and her tutors worked with more than a thousand children before her retirement in 1972.

The afternoon-long event will be held Tuesday, June 25, beginning at 1 p.m., in Brendle Recital Hall on Wake Forest’s Reynolda Campus. The general public, as well as educators and reading professionals, are invited to attend. There is no charge for admission.

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