Biology of Stealth Dyslexia - Dr Fumiko HoeftThis week’s New Yorker has a wonderful article How Children Read about the pioneering work of Dr. Fumiko Hoeft in the area of Stealth Dyslexia, a term Brock and I coined years ago to describe individuals who ‘fly under the radar’ of detection of dyslexia because they may achieve high levels of reading comprehension although single word decoding, fluent ability to read aloud, and other traits tie them to typical dyslexic patterns.

Excerpt: “(Dr. Fumiko Hoeft’s) studied, in particular, a concept known as stealth dyslexia: people who have all of the makings of dyslexia or other reading problems, but end up overcoming them and becoming superior readers. Hoeft may even be one of them: she suspects that she suffers from undiagnosed dyslexia. As a child in Japan, she had a difficulty with phonological processing very similar to that experienced by dyslexics—but, at the time, the diagnosis did not exist there. She struggled through without realizing until graduate school that a possible explanation for her problem existed in scientific literature. Studying stealth dyslexics, Hoeft posits, could be key to figuring out how to improve reading education more broadly. These stealth dyslexics have reading problems but are able to develop high comprehension all the same.

Hoeft’s group, she told me, has found that stealth dyslexics display a unique dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. That’s the part of the brain that is responsible, among other things, for executive function and self-control. In stealth dyslexics, it seems to be particularly well-developed. That may be partly genetic, but, Hoeft says, it may also point to a particular educational experience: “If it’s superior executive function that is helping some kids develop despite genetic predisposition to the contrary, that is really good news, because that is something we do well—we know how to train executive function.” There are multiple programs in place and multiple teaching methods, tested over the years, that help children develop self-regulation ability: for example, the KIPP schools that are using Walter Mischel’s self-control research to teach children to delay gratification.”

Read the entire article and check out our Stealth Dyslexia Library at Dyslexic Advantage.

Fumiko’s work is important because it provides scientific evidence that stealth dyslexics are indeed dyslexic ( important for understanding common features, developmental history, educational needs, etc.), and in addition, as she mentions, alternative strategies that should be studied and tested for their efficacy in non-stealth dyslexic populations.