Thursday 16 June 2011

Factors influencing learning to read (Part 4 of 5)

I continued on my quest to understand the physical mechanics of learning to read.  It was around this time that I read Dare to Discipline by Dr James Dobson.

What does the Meylin Sheath have to do with reading ?

In his book Dr Dobson quoted some interesting information concerning the Myelin sheath.

The myelin sheath in essence is the covering over our nervous system, much like the outer plastic on an electrical cable.  It acts as an insulator to stop nerve impulses from going "missing".

So what you ask does this have to do with reading? When we are born our myelin sheath is not complete and that is why babies have no co ordination.  As the sheath grows so does the child's ability to do things grow. The sheath grows very slowly and the process can take up to 12 years or more to complete.

Interestingly the optic nerve and the bladder are two of the last areas to be covered in the body.  This explains why one day children can read a simple book and then tomorrow they just can't 'remember' how or why children who are bed wetters suddenly become dry.

It's not so much memory or ability that's the problem it is that the information is getting "lost" between the eye and the brain as a result of the sheath being incomplete.  So as this sheath completes it's growth children "suddenly" gain the ability to read.

This information was accidentally discovered when doctors were trying to figure out why patients undergoing chemo therapy lost the ability to read or suddenly became uncoordinated. They ascertained that chemo unwraps the myelin sheath and once chemo stops and the sheath repairs itself, patients regain their "lost" ability.

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