REVIEWED BY NUMBERDYSLEXIA’S EXPERT PANEL ON FEBRUARY 14, 2022
Dyslexia shows an adverse impact on language skills. Various researches classify it as a learning difficulty that interferes with the process of reading textual content. The students find decoding words into phonemes and subsequent blending to be quite a strenuous process. Researchers attribute this difficulty to the dysfunctional parietal lobe of the brain where language processing takes place. On reviewing several cases, it has been found that the shortcoming in this part affects a few other skills too. We have discussed the impact of learning deficiencies on motor skills, social skills, etc. in our previous posts. Let’s dissect the impact on coordination skills, and the remedial procedures worth following.
Coordination: How it is achieved
Coordination is defined as the ability to use different parts of the body in a sequence to retain a posture or complete an action. From the simple activity of speaking out or spelling words to balancing the body on a beam, coordination is a common phenomenon happening behind the scene. Thus, this skill is needed in language development, posture maintenance, moving, driving a vehicle, playing an instrument, playing sports, etc.
A very deep-rooted mechanism of coordination that occurs in our body is the one between the hypothalamus and parietal lobe of the brain. This coordination is responsible for episodic memory. We are able to spell words by retrieving letters in a sequence or to perform a function based on the historical experiences because of this memory. Lack of this coordination affects word-formation abilities, retaining spellings in mind, or the ability to remember a process.
Apart from the hypothalamus-parietal lobe connection, the cerebellum part of the brain is the site where coordination activities take place. Prominent cerebellum and its proper functioning help people have flawless coordination abilities.
Signs of lack of coordination
Stoodley & Stein in 2013 tried to find the link between cerebellar dysfunction and lack of coordination in dyslexics. They found the connection through behavioral studies, neuroimaging, etc. Nicholas et al (2001) reviewed the condition of children suffering from dyslexia and found that the inabilities were not limited to reading and writing only. Several motor-coordination-based skills dependent on the cerebellar function were compromised too.
A few of the tell-tale signs of lack of coordination skills in dyslexics that emerged from such studies are:
- Slow, blurred speech: Inability to speak fluently and mixing of sounds while speaking
- Incorrect questions: Difficulty in forming questions correctly
- Feeling shortage of words: Tendency to search for words or feeling confused while talking; it leads to unusually slow explanation of things
- Muscle tone impairment: Reflected in inability to form proper letters while writing
- Lack of skill automatization: Whenever an automatic sequence of buttons to be pressed or sequence of steps to be followed, dyslexics fail to keep up with the pace as well as sequence
- Lack of eye movement control: Maintaining gaze proves difficult for dyslexics
- Unstable posture: Staggering pace or a slight tendency to fidget while at one place
Dyslexia is not some disease that can be cured fully. It is just the difference in the neurobiological framework of the brain that tells a dyslexic apart from other individuals. That is why even the fully remediated dyslexic individuals will continue to demonstrate some lack of coordination. Having said that, helping children overcome their difficulties is not an ignorable option. They may develop their brain plasticity by practice and repetitions and reduce the discomfort. A few activities that prove helpful in doing so are:
- Clap with syllables: Clap on every syllable included in the word. Associating sound with the syllable game may train mind to establish sequential memory.
- Picking up small things: To develop fine motor coordination, you can use small, plastic models of animals, fruits, or other things and ask them to put these in a bin. To build memory, you may even label the bins and ask kids to put things relevantly.
- Catch a ball: Catching a ball requires hand-eye and muscular coordination. The kids can be given a lot of practice of catching balls daily to improve their coordination skills.
- Play Simon Says: Simon Says requires children to pay attention to this phrase and do the task only when it is uttered. It is a simple game but quite effective in improving coordination of mind and body.
- Sing rhymes: Rhyming and alliteration contribute to developing facial muscles’ coordination. Also, the speech clarity is enhanced, which is an outcome of coordination between thinking and act of sounding words in a sequence.
- Give coloring activities: You may find the kid to have enormous capacity to choose colors’ combinations. By encouraging to color the shapes, kids practice making strokes within boundaries. It is useful to boost perceptual and spatial coordination too.
- Arrange Dominoes: Make a train of dominoes to create patterns. It requires balancing, arranging in a pattern and also fine motor skills. So, make your child practice it often to overcome dyslexia-led coordination issues.
- Practice making signs with both hands alternately: Show number 1 using one finger with left hand and 2 with right hand. Now, do the inverse on both hands. Try to speedily shift from 1 to 2 on hands alternately to give your brain the requisite workout.
Techniques to teach coordination activities
You have to identify the learning style of the child first. If the child learns by auditory means better, use verbal instructions to guide through the coordination activities. In this case, you may use commands like ‘sit, stand, move, thump, show your thumb’, etc. to set a sequence and ask the child to repeat the sequence. You may need to correct often, but do it in a soft manner without the child realizing the shortcoming. Persistence and patience are the keys to successful guiding.
In case the child learns visually, you have to demonstrate all actions or activities first. The child may ask for repeated demonstrations. Show through the flowchart how the activities placed sequentially are to be performed. You may also need models to show concepts like ‘in’ and ‘out’, ‘above’ and ‘below’, and so on before starting activities that require contrasting actions.
Coordination issues are a reality for dyslexics. The reason lies largely in the cerebellar framework or poor flow of information along neural pathways. Dyslexia may be present in different degrees of severity in people. People may not have all difficulties too. Therefore, it is advisable to diagnose the problems, and the learning styles first. Using correct assessment and the style of teaching that helps gain understanding, one can alleviate the coordination-related issues to a considerable extent.
- Hebscher, M., & Voss, J. L. (2020). Testing network properties of episodic memory using non-invasive brain stimulation. Current opinion in behavioral sciences, 32, 35–42. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cobeha.2020.01.012
- Stoodley CJ, Stein JF. Cerebellar function in developmental dyslexia. Cerebellum. 2013 Apr;12(2):267-76. doi: 10.1007/s12311-012-0407-1. PMID: 22851215.
- Nicolson, R. I., Fawcett, A. J., & Dean, P. (2001). Developmental dyslexia: the cerebellar deficit hypothesis. Trends in Neurosciences, 24(9), 508–511. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0166-2236(00)01896-8