Colin McEnroe Show: Dan Malloy, Dyslexia & Neuroscience

A look at reading disorders on the eve of Dan Malloy's inauguration.

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Colin McEnroe Show: Dan Malloy, Dyslexia & Neuroscience
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Colin McEnroe Show: Dan Malloy, Dyslexia & Neuroscience

Not long ago, we did a show about spelling, and a lot of the emails we got were about dyslexia.

Some of the listeners went as far as to suggest that it was almost unfair to do a show about spelling without taking into account the percentage of the population -- I've seen estimates running from five to 20 percent -- that has dyslexia.

Around the same time, we discovered some cutting edge research into the problem at Yale, and one of the researchers told us that recruiting subjects was sometimes a challenge because the people affected were unlikely to be reading materials about a study or a special program.

The final tie-in is tomorrow's swearing in of Dan Malloy, who has talked frankly in the past about his own struggle with dyslexia, a condition that went undiagnosed for most of his grade school years. Most of us take for granted the ability to read.

Leave your comments below, e-mail or Tweet us @wnprcolin.


The EGLab at Yale University Child Study Center is looking for families to participate in a study looking at the genetic risk factors for Dyslexia (or Specific Reading Disability).

Researchers have shown that reading difficulty in children is partially the result of inherited genes. The purpose of our research is to find the genes that may cause a risk for early childhood reading disorders in hopes of identifying children much earlier. We need children from 2nd to 10th grade with severe reading difficulty. If you do not meet this criteria, please contact us anyway and we may be able to refer you to another research study. The process is very easy; each child who participates is tested over the phone using a mail-in packet. Then each available family member provides a biological sample with a saliva kit and all the materials are mailed back to the lab. Additional siblings are also invited to participate regardless of their reading ability. Each child is given $25 for completing the study.

If you are interested please contact us at (203) 785-4831 or email us at

For parents looking for more about diagnosis, remediation, or advocacy here are a few of the resources in Connecticut. There are several clinical groups in the state who are well equipped to diagnose reading related disorders, one of which is the Yale Academic Skills Clinic. It is important that children receive a thorough evaluation in order to choose the right classroom setting to remediate their challenges effectively. Additionally, the Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center and the Learning Disability Association of Connecticut Inc. are great resources for parents to understand their legal rights while working with school systems and can direct parents to other local resources in their communities. Lastly, a wonderful tool is Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, which is a privately funded federal program that provides free audiobooks (including textbooks) for children.




Dyslexia certainly has played a role in motivating individuals to more adaptive careers. Although I know very little about being a pilot. I would guess that the hands on learning style many individuals with Dyslexia prefer and the attention to spatial features, which is a common comment you here from many adults with dyslexia, may be preferable for individuals with dyslexia.

Future Directions

Hi Anish,

The current markers are speculative. There is not enough evidence to suggest that a marker "definitely" presents a risk nor is the cost of genetic testing currently worth the information it would provide for Dyslexia. In general, we know phonological tasks are a good way to identify children early. Unfortunately, the potential of individually assessing every child is probably beyond the states ability. Currently, families with a history of reading difficulty may want to assess the child early or at least pay extra attention to the development. Also, by focusing on structured early education, there will be more opportunity to identify children earlier. The science of early identification is complex and we still need more information to develop reliable tools that can be used more widely. This is why getting participants and continuing research is essential.


The Kildonan School in Amenia N.Y. is a school for dyslexic students. Each student receives one on one tutoring a day. The Orton Gillingham approach is multisensory, diagnostic, structured, sequential and cognitive. Early intervention is important. Public schools do not want to use the word dyslexic because then they will have to remediate. The Orton Gillingham approach has been around since 1930 and IT WORKS. I was surprised no one had heard about this approach.

E-mail from Pam

Great show yesterday on dyslexia! My son is dyslexic and I wanted to participate in the Reading Study. I have contacted them to participate.

Thanks so much!

E-mail from Todd

I loved the "old" W's too!
Please tell Chion to reconsider.

E-mail from Jim

(Forgive the informality, but it goes with your territory). Thank you for an excellent program today. The discussion on how public schools evaluate special needs children and the conflicting interests associated with that process was especially interesting. Perhaps you could expand on that in future shows.

I would also like to express enthusiasm for Chion Wolf. She's a real asset to your show, and has also managed to give one of the most mind-numbing aspects of public radio (sorry, public media!), the station break, a breath of life. Usually, the reading of the list of translator stations is a signal to my brain to tune out, but Ms. Wolf's announcements, (and especially those late, lamented double R's), transformed this forgettable ritual into something actually pleasant and refreshing! (Mr. Dankosky made completely the wrong call on the R's; I hope there will be sufficient blowback for him to reconsider). Chion is obviously a very/multi-talented young woman, and I'm sure I am not alone in looking forward to her filling in for you on days you are not available. Surely a better option than a re-run!

Thanks to everyone for all your excellent work

E-mail from Sam

Hello. Your guest and a caller mentioned working with phonemes. If someone speaks a language like Chinese based on ideographs and not phonetics how would the disorder manifest/differ? Thanks, Sam

E-mail from Jim

I never noticed the "buzziness" in your voice. However, I DID used to pay attention to the biting B's in Chion's W's...and I miss them!

E-mail from RJ

I want to thank you for providing some outstanding radio shows over the past year. I have particularly enjoyed your politcal shows and interviews shows as well as your shows concerning music and lyrics.

No matter what subject you are covering, I look forward to the days that I am able to dial into your show on WNPR at 1 PM.

E-mail from Anish

I had a question for the scientists:

Some say that early intervention is the best intervention for a child with dyselxia, however with individual differences both in "symptoms" of dyselxia and also differences in language development. Is there any way how can we really tackle the problem of dyselxia, without having the child already have "fallen behind", (i.e. before these kids are struggling/supposed to be reading).

I know there have been pushes to identify genetic markers, brain markers (both structural and functional MRI imaging), but I am curious how reliable are these current markers, and what are the future directions?

E-mail from Burt

I am a 62 year old certified flight instructor with dyslexia. Anecdotally, I have seen a high percentage of pilots with dyslexia. Do you guests have any thoughts on this?

E-mail from Leslie

What is the connection between ADHD and Dyslexia?

Are there signs of Dyslexia before reading instruction begins? If so, what are they?

I find that as I age, I have more reversals, "misreads" and more difficulty reading even though I am not dyslexic? What gives?!!!