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Featured dyslexia and nonverbal/spatial skills - insights?

Discussion in 'General Autism Discussion' started by wonderingmom, Aug 11, 2020.

  1. wonderingmom

    wonderingmom Active Member

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    I don’t want to wear you all out, but your responses to my first post were so helpful that I thought I’d stick my neck out again and see if anyone could help me with this one...

    My 15-yr-old son, who I believe is on the spectrum, is also dyslexic. I’ve known this since he was little and struggling with learning to read, but I’ve recently read The Dyslexic Advantage (a good book that strikes me as based on pretty solid evidence...), and now I realize that certain other of his learning issues that have long confused me - and that didn’t fit well into any standard learning disability category - make complete sense when viewed from the perspective of dyslexia.

    The book explains that problems like sequential/procedural memory and difficulty processing 2-d symbols - both of which make reading and writing difficult - also affect other areas such as math-learning; also that in addition to struggling with *written* language, dyslexics can also have difficulty putting thoughts into words. Both of these apply to my son, and since he’s quite strong with math concepts and with certain aspects of language, I’ve been puzzled by some of the things that are really difficult for him. It’s been discouraging too that, even though he’s become a very proficient reader, he still gets bogged down by the reading and writing aspects even in subjects like science, where I would expect him to excel.

    What I found especially interesting when I read the book (although it’s probably not surprising to people here) is that often the same people who have difficulties with reading, writing, and procedural memory generally, have especially strong nonverbal/spatial skills - apparently the same aspects of brain functioning account for both. And since my son is quite strong in nonverbal skills, I now feel like I might have a sort of unified way of understanding his confusing collection of abilities and difficulties.

    For one, I can understand better now why he is so intensely miserable when it comes to any sort of academic experience where there is the possibility that he might be assessed. I think on some level he realizes that he’s smart, but he’s completely intimidated by classes that involve sitting and listening to a lecture and then demonstrating comprehension in the form of a written response that meets the teacher’s precise specifications. Since we homeschool, we’ve been able to avoid loading up on classes like that, but now that he’s of high-school age, I’m really out of my depth in math and sciences, and I would be so relieved to find a teacher or two in those areas who can recognize his abilities, understand his way of processing, and teach him in a way that isn’t so...verbal. Do such people exist?

    I have also wondered, since I am so language-oriented and so lacking in the area of nonverbal skills... My husband’s field is space science, so obviously he’s strong in nonverbal skills; but he’s hard pressed to correctly hang a towel rack in the bathroom. So there must be different kinds of nonverbal intelligence, because I’m assuming if he can’t hang a towel rack he’s not the kind of person who would make a good engineer or mechanic. Can anyone make sense of this for me?

    Thanks so much for reading... I’d be grateful for any advice, ideas, or even just musings.
     
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  2. tree

    tree Blue/Green Staff Member V.I.P Member

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    Do you use manipulatives for math?
    Cuisenaire rods, for instance?
     
  3. wonderingmom

    wonderingmom Active Member

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    We did, some, when he was younger. His number sense was good and he tended to want to work things out in his head - which he often can do, in ways that sometimes baffle me. But working things out on paper was always a slow learning process - long division, for example. Or learning to multiply and divide fractions on paper instead of intuitively. After lots of repetition, he did learn, but I think that to the extent that math involves crunching numbers, he finds it a bit miserable. Algebra has been difficult too - the steps don’t make sense to him. I think when he can’t depend on his intuition, he has a hard time switching to a more mechanical stepwise way of solving a problem.
     
  4. Peachie

    Peachie Active Member V.I.P Member

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    For me, the vocalization of words is messed up because it is realtime. With writing, I find being able to pause and re-think and iterate.

    In terms of learning, for me personally, I'm a very visual learner. And something I learned studying dyslexia, is the notion of augmenting the weak part with an additional sense. If you can combine audio/video/smell/touch or any combination beyond the written word, less mental energy will be spent on the word part, and be focused more on the concept part. Youtube is an amazing resource for me.


    And one thing to think about, in addition to spatial skills, I think of the ability to connect the dots on two distinct areas that would not normally be correlated. If you read the research paper The blind mind: No sensory imagery in aphantasia they discuss the ways the brain augments objects spatially when you can't visualize it at all (like me), which I find fascinating.

    I used to associate a bunch of my aspects to Dyslexia, it it what I discovered first. To me now, it seems like it is just one of the outcomes when specific areas of the brain are less connected to another specific area. And the language processing gets noticed earlier, and so I think is found earlier.

    Language parts get called dyslexia, visual parts aphantasia, and ASD is just a collection of all of them put together in different ways for each person. At least that is my current take on the whole thing. :)

    Find that strength, and feed it, I hope you find the right person.
     
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  5. menander

    menander Well-Known Member It's My Birthday!

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    Never feel afraid to post questions! We like to help :)

    As to your boy----it is imperative at least to get a thorough neuropsychological evaluation with a very astute Dr. I cannot tell you how not knowing of "specific learning disabilities" can ruin a life. One little thing! If, for instance, there is trouble reading and no one knows why. He will never think, "Oh, my reading time is slower than most." We all think, "I am a freaking dummy! Why can't I do it!"

    When someone has a "specific Learning Disability" it can be hidden because it's not widespread through the system of the kid. Think someone who has an Intellectual Disability and cannot read vs soeone who can read but so slowly but NEVER KNOWS they are reading so slow. How much agony can be prevented if they KNOW that and then can take measures in school, etc. The objective is not to fail. And hidden LDs =Failure too often or just pure agony as someone pushed on.

    Some Drs hide the results of the Neuropsych so it's only for you and your kid and a teacher. If you do not do this, you can speculate all day but I guarantee you will NEVER find the specific details of where his brain may be misfiring.

    Where do you live (if you are comfortable). Maybe we can help you find a good one and not a crap-kciker just out to D your kid with autism to make $$$$ . That happens a lot, too.
     
  6. wonderingmom

    wonderingmom Active Member

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    Thank you, Peachie!

    I can usually express myself much better in writing than in speaking too. Need time to sort out my thoughts. I always attributed that to being an introvert, but introversion is yet another trait that seems like it dovetails with autism at a certain point. As does dyslexia, clearly. I agree, ASD seems like it’s just when you have a collection of these traits. And I would think that having even one of them predisposes a person to having more of them.

    The research paper is really interesting - the part about the “what” pathway and the “where” pathway...

    Could you say more about resources you have found on youtube?
     
  7. wonderingmom

    wonderingmom Active Member

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    Thank you for that! We’re in the US, Washington DC area.

    I completely agree how important it is to understand what’s beneath the learning problems. We did take him for a neuropsychological evaluation with a good psychologist when he was 7, and it really helped us to understand a lot. It didn’t turn up any specific learning disabilities - he scored at or above average in most areas, 86th percentile in mathematical concepts and 99th percentile in the nonverbal tests. The big weaknesses were in executive function - working memory was actually strong (91st percentile), but processing speed was in the 2nd percentile. I had expressed concerns with his social skills, but he was in average ranges in the social cognition tasks and they attributed his slight social awkwardness to his executive function deficits. Likewise his reading problems - he scored in normal ranges (he was only 7, so it wasn’t a high bar), so they attributed his relative weakness in that area to executive function and processing speed. They gave him an ADHD diagnosis, and suggested that we try medication to address those issues and see if that also addressed his reading problems. (In the past year I’ve shared some of this with him in a general way - I want him to understand that, although he doesn’t feel like it, there are things that his brain is really unusually good at.)

    Back then, the conventional view of dyslexia was much narrower - it was all about phonemic awareness (which wasn’t even his issue), and focused specifically on learning to read and write - which he WAS doing, just having to work especially hard at it. I wasn’t sure what more the dyslexia “experts” could do for us, so I stopped looking in that direction.

    But now that there’s talk in dyslexic circles about the ways dyslexia can affect learning beyond just reading and writing, it seems a lot more relevant and potentially useful.

    In the end I don’t care about the label - I’m just looking for some model that helps me to understand the landscape of his strengths and weaknesses, because I figure that’s the best way of finding people who can guide us. I’ve been kind of reluctant to do another round of neuropsych testing, because I’ve already seen how quantifying his strengths and weaknesses, although enlightening, is only useful up to a point - it’s useful for acquiring accomodations, which we may need again at some point, but accomodations address the weaknesses and not the question whether there are different ways of going about things in the first place - and that’s a question that “experts” never seem to be very tuned in to. I feel like what we need is some guidance in how he could explore his strengths without getting so bogged down by his weaknesses. If my strengths were more similar to his, this might be more apparent to me. Frustratingly, my husband, who DOES have similar strengths, doesn’t have much insight into how to to guide another person’s journey in this respect.

    I was more long-winded than I meant to be. :(
     
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  8. Peachie

    Peachie Active Member V.I.P Member

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    Here are some from my list, in no particular order. And this is not from any kind of exhaustive searching, but things I've run across I liked. There are a number of these that do I lot of black background, which is great when you want to reduce the total amount of light coming from a screen.

    Math
    3Blue1Brown
    Numberphile

    Science
    Tech Ingredients
    SmarterEveryDay
    Veritasium
    PBS Space Time
    NileRed
    The Thought Emporium
    Physics Girl

    Engineering
    Real Engineering
    Brian Douglas

    If I was in school today, I'd probably be searching for a specific subject at hand, and absorbing much better than simply writing on paper.
     
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  9. Peachie

    Peachie Active Member V.I.P Member

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    And not necessarily a school thing, I think electronics can be a good one. It can be pretty logical, isn't very expensive, and involves physical component which adds a tactile aspect. And the ability to jump into the coding side to interact has never been easier.
     
  10. SDRSpark

    SDRSpark Well-Known Member V.I.P Member

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    I don't have much advice in response to your questions, but I thought of something while reading this - there is a font called Dyslexie, and it's created for dyslexic people, and it's an option on the Amazon Kindle app. I actually find it really helpful even though I'm not dyslexic - it's just easier to read in general (well less effort). The Kindle app allows you to customize font, background color, etc. (mine is set to white on a black background with dyslexie font).

    I don't know if it'll help him but it's worth a shot.
     
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  11. Peachie

    Peachie Active Member V.I.P Member

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    Ohh, and I tunnel visioned on youtube. Pretty much every Nova episode ever made. The entire Cosmos series.

    Ok..now I'm done. :p
     
  12. wonderingmom

    wonderingmom Active Member

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    Thank you - these look great! I wonder if one thing I could do is just give more value to
    Thank you so much - all of these look great! I wonder if part of his problem right now is that I am too hung up on the idea that he needs to be able to demonstrate his knowledge in a form that a classroom teacher would accept - and the more I focus on that, the more discouraged he gets. He’s stopped trying to explore - it makes me sad. Maybe if instead he could just be taking in interesting information - like in the form of these videos you recommended - without feeling pressured to always be able to explain what he’s learning, he’d perk up a little. ?
     
  13. wonderingmom

    wonderingmom Active Member

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    Yes, this is a great idea! I remember hearing about that some time ago, when it was still in development I think, but had forgotten about it. Going to see if I can get it on our iPad!
     
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  14. menander

    menander Well-Known Member It's My Birthday!

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    Are you close to Johns Hopkins? They have very smart drs and up to date research.
     
  15. Peachie

    Peachie Active Member V.I.P Member

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    The fact that you are trying to understand, that you are here at all says something. Maybe it won't be appreciated till later in life. I feel like there are a lot more tools available out there to help learn in a different way. I'm pretty sure I didn't know the best way for me to learn till early adulthood. And my experience of the tools as a parent is really limited to dyslexic. And my ability to relate and consider my own situations is that much better. Something as simple as absorbing books via audio books. To spend soo much mental energy on processing the words, and not enough on the content can be pretty taxing. Find another way that doesn't require that focus.

    I've learned to not really care about big complicated words. Deoxyribonucleic acid. Aside the fact that I'd prefer to use an acronym of DNA, but if you heard me say it verbally right now. I'd probably have to say the word a few too many incorrect times before it came out right, if it ever does. But unless it is an unknown or new term, I don't need to get stuck on it. For me I call it fersmuding, where I just stumble out a messed up version in an exaggerated way. Previously I'd just say issues with complicated words. But now I feel like I understand it.

    Now...maybe I'll go a little into the deep end.

    In the aphantasia world, I found a single reference of someone saying they 'cured it'. Zero papers, so grain of salt. But in that situation the idea was to look at something bright like a candle, and let the image burn into your eye. Then close your eyes, and you will see these faint traces or things across the eye. You were to speak aloud and describe what you see. And the aloud part was important. And after doing this for a short number of weeks, bam, he could visualize in his head from then on out.

    Skip forward to my ASD research in the last number of days I came across this nuget describing a way to get that part of the brain to fire by having picture slowly get revealed but only when it detected (MRI of course) activity in that area of the brain. The person has no idea how to do it, just...tries. But eventually it happens easier. In that video they mention noted improvements.

    I'm a big believer in neural placidity. And to a certain extent, these links are not strong enough. If one could turn an EEG that you could use at home, to be able to detect activity in these specific areas and turn it into a useful therapy for the masses, perhaps one could perhaps make some degree of progress.

    Maybe someday I'll give that candle thing a real try. It could be that it just happens to involve two things that just happen to cause activity in the right place to get those links created.
     
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  16. wonderingmom

    wonderingmom Active Member

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    I definitely think you’re right about finding other ways than reading. He has always loved audiobooks and videos.

    And I’m really fascinated by these kinds of research too! I actually have done some neurofeedback. (I’m ADD “inattentive type” and always struggling with focus and with getting myself moving.) I do think there is something to it. The effect it had on me was inconsistent, but at best I would leave appointments with a feeling of focus and clarity and engagement that was very pronounced. The psychologist doing the...treatments(?)...would experiment with different placement of the electrodes to see if he could get a more consistent effect. And there were a number of different interfaces, but, for example, sometimes I would be playing a computer game where, say, moving your player forward along a path required activating a certain brainwave frequency. Other times I would watch a movie, and the picture would start to contract unless I managed to keep producing the right wave frequency. I know there’s not a good body of research to prove that it’s effective - and it didn’t create any longterm improvements for me, and I couldn’t keep doing it forever - but it was quite enjoyable. I really would have loved to have my own equipment at home to experiment with. :grinning:
     
  17. wonderingmom

    wonderingmom Active Member

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    Yes, we are close. I’m glad to hear that they have good doctors- thank you!
     
  18. Peachie

    Peachie Active Member V.I.P Member

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    Very cool! How many electrodes where there? Do you know which specific brain areas (more than 1?) are being targeted? When they were moved around, how far were they moved each time?

    Building an EEG has been on my project list for a while. Though I always want as many electrodes as I can get which greatly increases the scope (and the chance I'll never do it). I'd love to have continuous data across different aspects of my daily life.

    But in this context, seems like if you wanted to target one place, having a single electrode above that area would be sufficient? Just need to calibrate it so that only peak signal at that point, representing activity in the localized area. Could only work on surface areas, corpus callosum like things would be not possible to detect I'd imagine.

    It would be interesting to better understand all the various 'areas' that might be targeted. And how many of those could be helped depending on age. Some things would have to be done young to have desired output. But in the case of mental imagery, maybe even someone like myself would have a chance.

    But...a single electrode. Heck might as well just make it bluetooth and just have a simple mobile app. Now this project sounds a lot simpler. *ponder*. Even just to play with having it on different areas, see how much neural feedback control I can do.
     
  19. wonderingmom

    wonderingmom Active Member

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    I think you might already understand it better than I do. A lot of it was explained to me, but I don’t tend to retain this kind of information for long. There were multiple electrodes, and the placement apparently depended somewhat on what your problem was (anxiety, problems with focus, depression...). In my case, if I remember correctly, the goal was to reduce the theta waves - they’re associated with a sleepy, daydreamy state (which is sort of my default) - and encourage alpha or beta waves, which are associated with alertness and focus. I don’t know why the electrode placement would determine what kind of brainwaves are produced, though. Oh, I found this kind of strange - the brainwave changes that were supposed to occur weren’t under your conscious control. So you couldn’t try to do better at the game - you would just sit there passively watching the game, and the idea was that your brain would get better at achieving whatever the goal of the game was without your conscious participation. Maybe it’s a bit like meditation, where the goal is to access a certain mental state, but outright trying doesn’t get you there.

    At any rate, if you do build an EEG, I’d love to hear about it! I’ve had the same desire to be able to collect this kind of data.