Can Neurofeedback Help Dyslexia, Dysgraphia and Dyspraxia ?
It has been identified that the brains of dyslexia sufferers show different activity than those that don’t.
The areas of the brain associated with reading skills, visual distortions and over-sensitivity to light are well understood and Neurofeedback protocols have been established to help difficulties in this area. Dyslexia is known as a ‘reading disorder’, manifesting in slow progress and difficulties with reading. It is essentially identified by reading achievements being substantially below what is expected given a child’s ages, measured in intelligence and education. Dyslexia significantly hinders (academic) activities requiring reading skills and is associated with certain characteristics.
|Characteristics of Dyslexia|
|Hesitating over words;|
|Confusing letters with similar shapes, such as ‘u’ and ‘n’, visually similar words like ‘was’ and ‘saw’ and small words such as ‘it’ and ‘is’;|
|Omittng small words such as ‘it’ and ‘is’ other words, or word endings or|
|Making errors regarding semantically related words (reading ‘cat’ for ‘dog’), polysyllabic words (‘’animal, ‘corridor’, ‘family’ and so on) or grammar (including inconsistent use of tense).|
This paper gives a comprehensive description of the neuroscience behind problems with reading in dyslexic and brain-damaged patients, and describes case studies where Neurofeedback resulted in a 400% improvement in reading memory, a 109% increase in reading ability, a 250% increase in reading comprehension:
- Thornton, Kirtley E., and Dennis P. Carmody. “Electroencephalogram biofeedback for reading disability and traumatic brain injury.” Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America 14.1 (2005): 137-162.
This randomised controlled trial published in 2009 showed considerable improvement in spelling following Neurofeedback training:
- Breteler, Marinus HM, et al. “Improvements in spelling after QEEG-based neurofeedback in dyslexia: A randomized controlled treatment study.” Applied psychophysiology and biofeedback 35.1 (2010): 5-11.
Like dyslexia, dysgraphia is a neurological disorder. Dysgraphia manifests in difficulties with (hand)writing and is often identified by an inability to write properly, difficulties with fine motor skills/control and pain when writing. The effects of dysgraphia can manifest in several in many ways; poor, incorrect or distorted writing (considering language development), varying sizes of letters and spaces between letters or words and difficulties following a straight line or margin when writing. Other characteristics are associated as well.
|Characteristics of Dysgraphia|
|Writing that is impossible to read|
|Mixing printing and cursive writing|
|Writing in all directions (i.e. right slant then left slant)|
|Mixing up capital letters and lower case letters|
|Forming letters abnormal and irregular.|
|Very slow writing|
|A very tight pen grip, a ‘fist grip’|
|Holding a pen very low down so fingers almost touches the paper|
|Watching the hand intently whilst actually writing.|
|Poor or bizarre spelling|
|Difficulties with spelling wrong words (i.e. ‘brot’ for brought and ‘stayshun’ for station) or spelling words (i.e. drink as ‘brink’)|
The areas of the brain associated with writing are also well understood. This 2012 study showed significant improvement in handwriting for all 24 participants who undertook Neurofeedback training:-
- Walker, Jonathan E. “QEEG-guided neurofeedback for remediation of dysgraphia.” Biofeedback 40.3 (2012): 113-114.
Dyspraxia, is a neurological disorder as well and is considered as a developmental co-ordination disorder (DCD). In general, dyspraxia is identified by difficulties in basic and fine motor skills that affect movement and co-ordination. This manifests for example in a lack of co-ordination and clumsy behaviour, as well as difficulties regarding language, perception and thought. The specific characteristics of Dyspraxia can differ in children and adults, although there are a few overlapping characteristics.
|Characteristics of Dyspraxia|
|Difficulties in fine movements (i.e. handwriting, using scissors, tying shoelaces, doing up buttons and using a knife and fork)|
|Movement and co-ordination problems (i.e. hopping, jumping, running, and catching or kicking)|
|Difficulties keeping/ sitting still|
|Difficulties in processing thoughts|
|Poor attention span, difficulties to concentrate on one thing|
|Not automatically picking up new skills and the need of encouragement and repetition to learn|
|Problems with writing stories and copying from the blackboard|
This Case-Study-–-7-Year-Old-Girl-with-Dyspraxia describes the success achieved by a young girl in the UK who undertook Neurofeedback training for Dyspraxia.
Another neurological disorder is dyscalculia, also called a ‘Mathematics disorder’. Dyscalculia identified by difficulties in understanding and learning mathematics and manifests in problems regarding understanding numbers, learning how to manipulate numbers and math facts. A characteristic that typically occurs is difficulty in counting (back and forth). But again, it depends per individual which characteristic manifests.
|Characteristics of Dyscalculia|
|Difficulty reading clocks / telling the time|
|Difficulties with the number zero|
|Problems regarding handling money|
|Difficulty conceptualizing time (often late or early)|
|Lack of understanding spatial orientation (differentiating between left and right)|
|Difficulties in (following) directions and navigating|
|Difficulty reading music notes|
|Having difficulties in measurements of objects, distance, temperature and/or speed|
|Often unable to understand (and remember) mathematical concepts, rules, formulae, and sequences|
|Inability to concentrate on mentally intensive tasks|
|Over-sensitivity to noise, smell, light|
|Poor name/face retrieval and/or problems in recollecting names|
The areas of the brain associated with mathematical calculations are also well understood and Neurofeedback protocols are available to improve the function in these areas.