Are Childhood Reading and Math Disabilities Related? Researcher Studies Potential Connection

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March 27, 2018 – Georgetown researcher Guinevere Eden has embarked on a study to determine if childhood dyscalculia, a math disability, and dyslexia, a reading disability, are linked.
“I believe this research will provide a critical piece to this puzzle, because while we have already put together a number of pieces, the big picture isn’t yet clear,” says Eden, director of the Center for the Study of Learning at Georgetown University Medical Center.
She holds a $1.7 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant (#1743521) for the work.
Lesser-Known Disability
More children suffer from dyscalculia than from dyslexia, but the latter disability has gotten far more attention. Dyslexia affects 5 to 12 percent of children, while dyscalculia affects 6 to 14 percent.
The National Institutes of Health has defined dyscalculia as a difficulty acquiring basic arithmetic skills that is not explained by low intelligence or inadequate schooling.
This month, Eden began a four-year study that examines brain function in children with a math disability and compares them with those who have a reading disability, as well as those with math and reading disabilities combined.
Interventional Effects
Eden was the senior author of a 2011 study published in NeuroImage, which examined changes in gray matter volume following intensive reading intervention in children with dyslexia.
The study showed that reading improvements resulting from interventions are accompanied by increases in brain gray matter, and that behavioral and structural brain changes were maintained after the interventions stopped.
Researchers will use sophisticated brain imaging technology in the new study to examine whether intensive reading interventions lead to changes in brain usage and improvement in arithmetic, even in children with diagnosed dyscalculia.
The tutoring sessions for the children begin with six-hour summer camps, every day of the week, for six weeks. The intervention is delivered by tutors, funded by the NSF award, and takes place at local schools.
Advancing Frontiers
“It makes sense that the NSF …

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