Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Talented Emily

SerendipUpdate's picture

Biology 103
2002 First Paper
On Serendip

Talented Emily


"The house is mte witout you." That is a sentence from a letter my twelve-year-old sister wrote me last week. Emily has what doctors refer to as "auditory dyslexia", which in simple terms means that her brain doesn't properly process what she hears. Emily was officially diagnosed with dyslexia four years ago. After five years in the Special Education Program (SPED) program in the Boston Public Schools and a long battle my parents fought with the city, Emily was finally diagnosed with dyslexia. It took five years for doctors to figure out that Emmy was not going to start reading like everyone else. With those five years behind her, Emily, who is currently in the 5th grade at a new school, reads at a 3rd grade level, overcoming a two and a half-year disadvantage in one year.

When I found out my sister had auditory dyslexia, I did not know anything about it. I was baffled at what was wrong with her. I immediately took interest in finding out more information on what exactly it was and how she got it. Just in the dictionary I found out that "Dys" means 'difficulty' and "lexia" means 'words'. In more complicated scientific terms, Dyslexia is one of several distinct learning disabilities. It is a specific language-based disorder of constitutional origin characterized by difficulties in single word decoding, usually reflecting insufficient phonological processing abilities. These difficulties in single word decoding are often unexpected in relation to age and other cognitive and academic abilities; they are not the result of generalized developmental disability or sensory impairment. Dyslexia is manifest by variable difficulty with different forms of language, often including, in addition to problems reading, a conspicuous problem with acquiring proficiency in writing and spelling. (1)

Dyslexia is a complicated disorder and is not always easily detected. At first doctors thought that Emily had Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) because it was so common among kids her age. With daily medication, ADD is treatable. However, Emily had something that medicine was not going to fix. There are different types of dyslexia which are important in the prognosis so as treatment can be readily attainable. Emily's doctors said that kids would often recognize individual letters but have trouble getting them in the right order. As well as visual dyslexia, many experience an auditory form of the condition, making it hard for them to recognize different sounds, hold information in short-term memory and process language at speed. (2) This explains why word problems and sentence formation was Emmy's biggest problem. It is important to be able to distinguish between different types of dyslexia especially in the treatment process.

Many dyslexics also have behavioral issues mainly due to low self-esteem at an early age. However, a study done in London argues that auditory dyslexics tend to be innocent and therefore vulnerable; they have no behavioral problems, other than those caused by the frustration of their disability. (3)
This was the problem with the Boston Public School system; they would place all learning disabled children in the same class without clarifying each individuals need. Emily was put into a classroom with thirty-five children, more than half of which had severe behavioral problems. With nothing being accomplished in the BPS system, my parents started to search for different alternatives.

Like most forms of dyslexia, auditory dyslexia does not have a definite cause, but doctors and scientists study dyslexia in-depth everyday. According to a study published in the July 15 issue of Biological Psychiatry, dyslexia is caused by a genetic flaw in the part of the brain used for reading. While non-impaired reading is concentrated in the back region of the brain where letters and sounds are integrated, the researchers found that this area is disrupted in children who are dyslexic--their brain activity during reading is concentrated in the frontal region, which governs articulated speech. (4)

It is also proposed that dyslexia is genetic and with that doctors might be able to diagnose dyslexia in its earliest stages, allowing treatment and prevention early on in life. In Emily's case, learning disability's definitely run in the family, although they are not as severe as dyslexia, her father and older brother both suffer from attention deficit disorder. Some social scientists argue that learning disabilities are common in dysfunctional families and are found in families with bad parenting. There are numerous studies that prove that theory wrong.

Emmy always hated school, ever since day one. It was always a struggle for Emmy to do her homework after school; even reading a few sentences from a reading book made her mad. At the age of seven, she was a wild, free-spirited little girl, but as soon as she entered the classroom, she would hide under her protected shell, my family refers to as attitude. Never meaning to be unkind, it would happen automatically because she was scared of what her classmates would say to her when she said something wrong. She never raised her hand in class or volunteered to participate in anything. In the school situation, a dyslexic child may find he or she is experiencing failure, but is not able to understand why. This frequently results in low self-esteem and a severe loss of confidence, which can lead to the child being reluctant to go to school. At this stage something has got to be done, and this is when a lot of parents seek specialist help and advice. (5)

At home however, she was a natural born actress. It was clear that Emily had other skills that made her who she was. She needed to be in an environment where she could exercise her other talents and explore new options.

As first grade came to an end, my parents had to make a decision of whether or not to keep her back a year. With this decision, they decided to get her tested for learning disabilities. Tests and tests came back negative... "All Emily needs to do is work on reading a little extra every night", is what psychologists told my parents. My mother wouldn't accept what the doctors told her; after two years in special reading programs and daily after school extra help, my mother resorted to what most people would not have the time to do. She hired doctors from Children's Hospital in Boston to perform the same tests on Emily. When those tests came back, it was evident that Emily had auditory dyslexia and she needed to get help. At that time, Emily was in the third grade and just barely reading at a first-grader's level. The doctors were helpful as to what Emily needed- a new school. She was put on a waiting list at the Carroll School in Lincoln, Massachusetts, where the focus is on learning disabled children.

Doctors were confident that if Emily received the proper teaching methods for her dyslexia that she would be caught up to her level in no time at all. Given the proper help, in most cases a dyslexic child can succeed at school at a level roughly equal to his or her classmates. Moreover, dyslexic children often have talents in other areas, which can raise their self-esteem if they receive lots of praise! Artistic skills, good physical co-ordination and lateral/creative thinking and are often areas in which they may excel. (6)

In the 4th grade, Emily was accepted to the Carroll School after attending their summer program, where she has flourished ever since. Currently, Emily is a fifth grader at the Carroll School where she is heavily involved in school activities and participates in class discussions, a tactic that was foreign to her until now. At the Carroll, classes are small, with six to eight students. All teaching is direct, multisensory, and integrates technology into the learning process. (7)

Doctors that work with Emily at the Carroll, estimate that she will only need two more years there in order to be caught up to the level she should be on. Emily's self-esteem has sky rocketed and she feels confident in whatever she does. At her new school and new classes, she participates in school productions, learns something new about the Internet and computers every day and is captain of the girls' basketball team. She has brought her classroom skills out into the community as well.


1)Dyslexia Home Page

2)Dyslexia Home Page

3)Dyslexia Home Page

4)Dyslexia Home Page

5)Dyslexia Home Page

6)Dyslexia Home Page

7)Dyslexia Home Page



Comments made prior to 2007

I have recently read a paper regarding Auditory Dyslexia. It was entitled 'Talented Emily,' which only furthered my curiosity.


I too have auditory dyslexia, and I am also writing a research paper in regards to the neurological levels of the learning disability for my senior year for my graduation project.


I wish to say congratulations to the writer, and also to Emily, who sounds to be progressing exponentially in her studies and social life.


I never received treatment for my auditory dyslexia, however, I was able to overcome it by self-developed learning techniques. But if it was not for my family, I would have remained silent and quiet due to the difficulty.


As I said before, I hope that Emily continues to progress in her life. It seems that her lifestyle now allows her to progress further. The small class sizes, as well as the classes seem to give her the maximum visual aids that allow her to continue to develop ... Sarah Yoshimura, 25 December 2006


Jodie-mom of one special little boy's picture

auditory dyslexia

I have always said that my son was a chip right off of his fathers block! His father had trouble all through school and graduated with a 5th grade reading level. They labeled him as a behavioral problem. He is intelegent, his dyslexia was not caught untill 10th grade. They just wanted to push him through school and get rid of him.

Since my son was 3yrs old I knew that there was something going on but I couldn't get anyone to listen to me. I was just being over protective. He has an IEP in place and getting maxed out on services and still he is not progressing academically. The school just wants to label him as a quitter, but I know better than that. They keep telling me that he needs to stop giving up.

Now I took things into my own hands. He just got tested for auditory processing issues. They all came back positive for auditory dyslexia, TFM, and Decoding issues. I now have hope. He is now going to get the correct help.

He has been labeled as ADHD, ODD, Impulse control and having depression. He has been on medicine since he was 5yrs old. Now I have hope that he is not going to be on medicine the rest of his life and with the right kind of services at school he will be able to overcome his depression.

This blog has described my boy to a tee and thank you to whom ever started it and all the bloggers who have added their little tid bits of information.

cindy's picture

I just came back from a

I just came back from a meeting at my daughter's school where they told me all of ther 'tests' came back normal. I too am not convinced. I know there is something wrong and the more I read the more I am convinced she has an Auditory Processing Disorder. CAn you tell me where I should start looking to get outside testing and evaluation?
Thank you!