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From Struggling Reader to Neuropsychologist: Dr John Mather Offers Advice to Families

Categories: Disability Type, Learning Disabilities, Parenting, Uncategorized

Guest Blog by Dr. John Mather, Learning Ally's Specialist of the Month  Girl with sign saying I specialize in evaluating and diagnosing a variety of neurodevelopmental disorders. However, I have studied the neurology of reading disorders extensively and specialize in diagnosing the various forms of dyslexia and helping patients and their families identify appropriate remedial resources. I got into the field because I, myself, struggled with reading and writing and wanted to better understand the neural mechanisms behind my own difficulties. From there, I wanted to do whatever I could professionally to identify children with dyslexia early in childhood so that meaningful and targeted interventions could be implemented to mitigate the impact of the disorder on their lives.
The most rewarding aspect of my work is seeing a patient smile when told they are, in fact, very intelligent and that their reading difficulties/differences are a manifestation of brain differences, not deficiencies. 
Seeing patients again have hope regarding their ability to become a proficient reader is a very powerful moment. Finally, I most enjoy hearing from the families, months or even years after an evaluation, and being told that the patient is enjoying reading and is a much more confident and happy person! Any parent who is concerned that their child may have a reading or learning disability needs to have their child evaluated. Neurologically speaking, time is of the essence. The earlier a child can be identified, the more likely that scientifically based interventions will result in long-lasting and positive neurological change. Teen College GirlI would recommend parents find an experienced professional who understands and is able to evaluate the various neurocognitive processes that underlie reading and can diagnose dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia.  It is NOT too early to have a 5-year-old evaluated for dyslexia. Given that dyslexia has a neurological basis, individuals with dyslexia manifest the neurocognitive features of the disorder early in childhood and a skilled practitioner can identify this in children as young as five years old. Finally, begin remedial reading therapies as early as possible for best outcomes. I recommend Learning Ally to ALL my patients with reading and writing disorders.  Learning Ally allows individuals with dyslexia access to literature that they otherwise may not have access to due to their reading differences.
Additionally, Learning Ally is actually therapeutic in that it works the neural systems related to reading including left to right visual tracking and symbolic identification through highlighting the text as the words are read. Left to right tracking and symbolic naming are foundational neurocognitive process in reading. 
Using Learning Ally also promotes the development of an individual’s orthographic repertoire and, therefore, will enhance reading fluency.  So not only does Learning Ally provide access to books for struggling readers, but it actually supports the development of the neural systems that underlie reading. Paperback with audio deviceAbout the author: Dr. John Mather is Learning Ally's February 2017 Specialist of the Month. Mather is also a neuropsychologist and a school psychologist. He has worked in the field of school psychology for more than 15 years and has been a neuropsychologist for approximately 10 years. Currently, he has a private practice in Mesa, Arizona, Trilogy Psychological Services, LLC