"This research offers hope of increased public awareness of learning disorders as a 'real' disability, not laziness, retardation, an 'eye problem', or a hearing problem," says Dr. Sheldon Horowitz, director of professional services at the National Center for Learning Disabilities in New York.
"It helps us to understand the biological nature of a particular type of reading disorder, and poses enormous promise in the ways it might inform teaching practice," he continues. "The research suggests in a very powerful way that there is a critical foundation for reading that must be taught, practiced, and supported for individuals to be competent readers. The study and the work that will follow points to the critical role of phonic awareness in the reading process, and suggests that teaching curricula should focus on mastering these skills, as they are so important to setting the stage for a lifetime of literacy."
Viall at The International Dyslexia Society concurs. "There has been for some time a growing body of evidence regarding the neurobiological causes of dyslexia. From the earliest theories, we have been developing a clearer picture of the real differences between dyslexic and non-dyslexic brains."
He contends it is difficult to predict whether the new research will help in terms of diagnosis. "Where it does help is to prove it's a real disorder," he says, stressing that often the psychological impact of not being able to read is underestimated. "Too many people think the individual is lazy or dumb ... sometimes the prejudices are the more important things to get over."