THE DYSLEXIC AND THE PROPHETIC

It has been written that we all can prophesy. Certainly, this statement has garnered many teachings and opinions. There seems to be two parallel paths in this hour of history that I hope will bring revelation and understanding. Dyslexia and prophecy seem to share many social outworking, stereotypes, and most importantly – their ultimate benefits when properly understood and given an environment to grow and come into full bloom.

You wouldn’t wish dyslexia on your child, or would you? If you do a brain scan on a person with dyslexia, the images that are produced seem strange. In certain critical parts of the brain, those that deal with reading and processing words, dyslexics have less gray matter and they don’t have as many brain cells in those regions as they should. As a baby develops within the womb, neurons are supposed to travel to appropriate areas of the brain taking their places like pieces on a chess board. But for some reason, the neurons of dyslexics sometimes get detoured along the way on this particular path. They end up in the wrong place. Notice that I did not state that the neurons get “lost”.

In trying to paint a mental picture – the brain has a place called the ventricular system which functions as the brain’s entry and exit point. Some people with reading disorders have a neurons lining their ventricles like passengers stranded in an airport. While an image of the brain is being made, patients perform a task and a neuroscientist looks to see what parts of their brain have been activated in response to that task. If you ask a dyslexic to read when he or she is having a brain scan, the parts that are supposed to light up may not light up at all. The scan looks like an aerial photo of a city during a blackout.

Dyslexics use a lot more of their right hemisphere of their brain during reading than common readers do. The right hemisphere is the conceptual side. That’s the wrong half of the brain for a precise and rigorous task like reading. Sometimes, when a dyslexic reads, every step will be delayed as if the different parts of the brain responsible for reading were communicating via a weak connection. One of the ways to test for the presence of dyslexia in small children is to have them engage in rapid automatized naming. Show them one color after another – a red dot, then a green dot, then a blue dot, then a yellow dot, and check his response. See the color, recognize the color, attach a name to the color, say the name which is automatic in most of us. It is not the same with someone with a reading a disorder. In other words, they are processing visual imagery in a completely different way. This is interesting and may reflect tremendous incubation properties related to prophetic DNA.

Somewhere along the way, the “normal” links between those four steps begin to breakdown. Ask a four year old, can you say the word banana without the ba? Or say, listen to the following three sounds, ca, a, ta. Can you combine them into “cat”? Or take cat, hat, and dark – which of those words doesn’t rhyme? These are easy questions for most children four years old, but really hard questions for dyslexics. Many people used to think that what defines dyslexics is that they get their words backwards such as “cat” would be “tac” or something similar. This makes it sound like dyslexia is a problem in the way that words are seen, but it’s much more profound than that. Dyslexia is a neurological process in the way people hear and manipulate sounds. For example, the difference between “ba” and “da” is a subtlety in the first 40 milliseconds of the syllable. Human language based on the assumption that we can pick up that 40 millisecond difference and the difference between the “ba” sound and the “da” sound can be the difference between getting something right and getting something catastrophically wrong. Again, the parallel path of prophecy is similar in that we can receive a word from the Lord as we first begin operating in prophecy, and produce a message that is likewise catastrophically wrong because of how the message is processed.

Can you imagine the consequences of having a brain so sluggish that when it comes to putting together the building blocks of words, those crucial 40 milliseconds simply go by too quickly? If you have no concept of the sounds of language, if you take away a letter, if you take away a sound, and you don’t know what to do, then it’s really hard to map the sounds of the written counterparts. It may take you awhile to read, you read really slowly which then impairs your reading fluency which then impairs your reading comprehension because you’re so slow that by the time you’re at the end of the sentence, you’ve forgotten what the beginning of the sentence was. So this leads to all of these documented problems in middle school or high school. Then it starts affecting all other subjects in school. The final deduction is that you can’t read or can’t read well enough. How are you going to do on a math test that has a lot of writing in them such a story problem? Or, how do take an exam in social studies if it takes you two hours to read what they want from you? However, like those called to prophecy, it can not only be overcome through diligence, but found to be a tremendous value and rare treasure when nurtured correctly.

Usually you get a diagnosis at 8 or 9 and we find that by that point there are already serious psychological implications because by that that point, the dyslexic has been struggling for 3 years. Researchers conceptualize the language system as a hierarchical series of modules or components, each devoted to a particular aspect of language. At the upper levels of the hierarchy are components involved with semantics (vocabulary or word meaning), syntax (grammatical structure) and discourse (connected sentences). At the lowest level of the hierarchy is the phonological module, which is dedicated to processing the distinctive sound elements that constitute language.

The phoneme, defined as the smallest meaningful segment of language, is the fundamental element of the linguistic system. Different combinations of just 44 phonemes produce every word in the English language. After all, how could a genuine prophetic individual not be interested in these powerful communication dynamics which makes our “offerings” understandable and legible? The word “cat,” for example, consists of three phonemes: “kuh,” “aah,” and “tuh.” (Linguists indicate these sounds as |k|, |æ| and |t|.) Before words can be identified, understood, stored in memory or retrieved from it, they must first be broken down, or parsed, into their phonetic units by the phonological module of the brain.

In spoken language, this process occurs automatically, at a preconscious level. As Noam Chomsky and, more recently, Steven Pinker of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have convincingly argued, language is instinctive—all that is necessary is for humans to be exposed to it. A genetically determined phonological module automatically assembles the phonemes into words for the speaker and parses the spoken word back into its underlying phonological components for the listener.

In producing a word, the human speech apparatus—the larynx, palate, tongue and lips—automatically compresses and merges the phonemes. As a result, information from several phonemes is folded into a single unit of sound. Because there is no overt clue to the underlying segmental nature of speech, spoken language appears to be seamless. Hence, an oscilloscope would register the word “cat” as a single burst of sound; only the human language system is capable of distinguishing the three phonemes embedded in the word.

Reading reflects spoken language, but it is a much harder skill to master. Why? Those who are involved in prophecy via the pen, blog, and forum should find this interesting. Although both speaking and reading rely on phonological processing, there is a significant difference: speaking is natural, and reading is not. Reading is an invention and must be learned at a conscious level. The task of the reader is to transform the visual percepts of alphabetic script into linguistic ones – that is, to recode graphemes (letters) into their corresponding phonemes. To accomplish this, the beginning reader must first come to a conscious awareness of the internal phonological structure of spoken words. Then he or she must realize that the orthography – the sequence of letters on the page – represents this phonology. That is precisely what happens when a child learns to read. I hope that we all can once again see the application to prophecy and how hearing God’s voice should be natural and not difficult to master. However, “reading” between the lines of Spirit-filled revelation and to express in vocabulary or reading for another is likewise a much harder skill to master.

In the same contrast, when a child is dyslexic, a difference within the language system at the level of the phonological module impairs his or her “natural” ability to segment the written word into its underlying phonological components. This explanation of dyslexia is referred to as the phonological model, or sometimes as the phonological deficit hypothesis.

According to this hypothesis, a circumscribed deficit in phonological processing impairs decoding, preventing word identification. (Note: decoding the words of the Spirit into everyday application is a shortcoming that modern prophecy has continually exhibited. Is most “prophecy” usable for daily life? Does it spell out facts and the end result of our choices?) This basic deficit in what is essentially a lower-order linguistic function blocks access to higher order linguistic processes and to gaining meaning from text. Thus, although the language processes involved in comprehension and meaning are intact, they cannot be called into play, because they can be accessed only after a word has been identified. The impact of the phonological deficit is most obvious in reading, but it can also affect speech in predictable ways.

That evidence began accumulating more than two decades ago. One of the earliest experiments, carried out by the late Isabelle Y. Liberman of Haskins Laboratories, showed that young children become aware between four and six years of age of the phonological structure of spoken words. Likewise, genuine prophetic gifting will also surface in children and become apparent if looked for. In the experiment, children were asked how many sounds they heard in a series of words. None of the four-year-olds could correctly identify the number of phonemes, but 17 percent of the five-year-olds did, and by age six, 70 percent of the children demonstrated phonological awareness. Awareness of phonological and prophetic awareness is a prime responsibility of involved spiritual parenting.

By age six, most children have also had at least one full year of schooling, including instruction in reading. The development of phonological awareness, then, parallels the acquisition of reading skills. This correspondence suggested that the two processes are related. These findings also converge with data from the Connecticut Longitudinal Study, a project conducted in 1983 with 445 randomly selected kindergartners; the study continues in 1996 when these children are age 19 and out of high school. Testing the youngsters yearly, they found that dyslexia affects a full 20 percent of schoolchildren – a figure that agrees roughly with the proportion of a previous study of six-year-olds who could not identify the phonological structure of words. These data further support a connection between phonological awareness and reading. These findings in my opinion should naturally and spiritually point to at least 20% of all children in the church fully operating in a high level of prophetic aptitude. Are they even given the chance? Or, have they been grossly misunderstood and undervalued by our embedded social expectations or standards?

During the 1980s, researchers began to address that connection explicitly and indicated that a preschooler’s phonological aptitude predicts future skill at reading. Training in phonological awareness significantly improves a child’s ability to read. (Spiritual awareness and proper environment to nurture also improves our spiritually prophetic skills) In these studies, one group of children received training in phonological processing, while another received language training that did not emphasize the sound structure of words. For example, the first group might work on categorizing words by their sound, and the second group would focus on categorizing words according to their meaning (Note: These are parallel to the prophetic gifts of vocal prophecy and the gift of interpretation) These studies, clearly demonstrate that phonological training in particular – rather than general language instruction – is responsible for the improvements in reading.

378 children from seven to nine years old were tracked on a battery of tests that assessed both linguistic and nonlinguistic abilities. The results from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education made it clear that phonological deficits are the most significant and consistent cognitive marker of dyslexic children. One test in particular seemed quite sensitive to dyslexia: the Auditory Analysis Test, which asks a child to segment words into their underlying phonological units and then to delete specific phonemes from the words. For example, the child must say the word “block” without the “buh” sound or say the word “sour” without the “s” sound. This measure was most related to a child’s ability to decode single words in standardized tests and was independent of his or her intelligence, vocabulary and reasoning skills. When the they gave this and other tests of phonemic awareness to a group of 15-year-olds the results were the same: even in high school students, phonological awareness was the best predictor of reading ability.

If dyslexia is the result of an insufficiently developed phonological specialization, other consequences of impaired phonological functioning should also be apparent – which they are. Ten years ago the work at the Haskins Laboratories documented the problems poor readers have in naming objects shown in pictures. They showed that when dyslexics misname objects, the incorrect responses tend to share phonological characteristics with the correct response. Furthermore, the misnaming is not the result of a lack of knowledge. For example, a girl shown a picture of a volcano calls it a tornado. When given the opportunity to elaborate, she demonstrates that she knows what the pictured object is – she can describe the attributes and activities of a volcano in great detail and point to other pictures related to volcanoes. She simply cannot summon the word “volcano.” This symptom has chronically manifested in the church as natural disasters and other questionable prophecies surface at a daily rate. Just as the how the world sees “deficiency” in individuals with dyslexia – they also see the similar aspects of deficiency in vague prophecies addressing natural events in nature as well as celestial events.Most modern day “prophets” are not conveying the correct words with the pictures they are seeing.

These findings merge with other evidence in suggesting that whereas the phonological component of the language system is impaired in dyslexia, the higher-level components remain intact. Linguistic processes involved in word meaning, grammar and discourse – what, collectively, underlies comprehension – seem to be fully operational, but their activity is blocked by the deficit in the lower-order function of phonological processing. In one study, Jennifer, a very bright young woman with a reading disability, told us all about the word “apocalypse.” She knew its meaning, its connotations and its correct usage; she could not, however, recognize the word on a printed page. Because she could not decode and identify the written word, she could not access her fund of knowledge about its meaning when she came across it in reading.

Of course, many dyslexics, do learn to read and even to excel in academics despite their differences in how they process information. These so-called compensated dyslexics perform as well as nondyslexics on tests of word accuracy and they have learned how to decode or identify words, thereby gaining entry to the higher levels of the language system. But they do so at a cost. Timed tests reveal that decoding remains very laborious for compensated dyslexics; they are neither automatic nor fluent in their ability to identify words. Many dyslexics have told us how tiring reading is for them, reflecting the enormous resources and energy they must expend on the task. In fact, extreme slowness in making phonologically based decisions is typical of the group of compensated dyslexics we have assembled as part of a new approach to understanding dyslexia: our neuroimaging program. This should be a tremendous lesson for the church and prophetic individuals. We need to take our time and sit on words and pictures that we receive and fully process the information before we present it as public consumption. We also need to assemble and fill in the blanks to provide encouragement and challenge that is applicable to everyday life.

The phonological model incorporates a modular scheme of cognitive processing in which each of the component processes used in word identification is carried out by a specific network of brain cells. Until recently, however, researchers have had no firm indication of how that scheme maps onto the actual functional organization of the human brain. Unlike many other functions, reading cannot be studied in animals; indeed, for many years the cerebral localization of all higher cognitive processes could be inferred only from the effects of brain injuries on the people who survived them. Such an approach offered little to illuminate the phenomena. What researchers needed was a way to identify the regions of the brain that are engaged when healthy subjects are reading or trying to read. This is awesome in that the human species was proven to be a unique creation and one of kind. Created in God’s image becomes apparent when no other species can remotely comprehend and communicate on the levels that you and I can. The question is whether the church is using this tremendous gift to communicate in its full power? Could it be that the rejection of genuine prophecy has been part of church’s evangelistic paralysis?

Researches become excited with the advent in the late 1980s of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Using the same scanning machine that has revolutionized clinical imaging, fMRI can measure changes in the metabolic activity of the brain while an individual performs a cognitive task. Hence, it is ideally suited to mapping the brain’s response to stimuli such as reading. Because it is noninvasive and uses no radioisotopes, fMRI is also excellent for work involving children.

Since 1994, researchers have used the technique with more than 200 dyslexic and nondyslexic children and adults. As a result of this program, they can now suggest a tentative neural architecture for reading a printed word. In particular, the identification of letters activates sites in the extrastriate cortex within the occipital lobe; phonological processing takes place within the inferior frontal gyrus; and access to meaning calls on areas within the middle and superior temporal gyri of the brain. It has revealed a surprising difference between men and women in the locus of phonological representation for reading. It turns out that in men phonological processing engages the left inferior frontal gyrus, whereas in women it activates not only the left but the right inferior frontal gyrus as well. These differences in lateralization had been suggested by behavioral studies, but they had never before been demonstrated unequivocally. The findings constitute the first concrete proof of gender differences in brain organization for any cognitive function. The fact that women’s brains tend to have bilateral representation for phonological processing explains several formerly puzzling observations: why, for example, after a stroke involving the left side of the brain, women are less likely than men to have significant decrements in their language skills, and why women tend more often than men to compensate for dyslexia. Could it be that the rejection of women in the ministerial power gifts have thwarted the church’s growth and prophetic outreach – I believe so, and in a myriad ways that I choose not to divulge at this time. We have lots of ground to make up in prophetic ministry, and women will play a great role prophetically and phonetically as the days unfold.

As investigators who have spent our entire professional lives trying to understand dyslexia, they find the identification of brain sites dedicated to phonological processing in reading very exciting – it means that humanity now has a possible neurobiological “signature” for reading. The isolation of such a signature brings with it the future promise of a more precise undertstanding of dyslexia. It is possible, for example, that the neural signature for phonological processing may provide the most sensitive measure of this interesting state of mind. Furthermore, the discovery of a biological signature for reading offers an unprecedented opportunity to assess the effects of interventions on the neuroanatomic systems serving the reading process itself…Maybe even to greater understanding how prophecy interacts with the today’s human mind and social outlook.

The phonological model crystallizes exactly what we mean by dyslexia: an encapsulated or “perceived” deficit often surrounded by significant strengths in reasoning, problem solving, concept formation, critical thinking and vocabulary. Indeed, compensated dyslexics use the “big picture” of theories, models and ideas to help them remember specific details. This is how those called and commissioned within prophetic umbrella should see life – in the big picture! It is true that when details are not unified by associated ideas or theoretical frameworks, these individuals must commit to memory long lists of unfamiliar names of which dyslexics and genuine prophetic folks can be at a real disadvantage. Even if we succeed in memorizing such lists, we has trouble producing the names on demand. The phonological model predicts, and experimentation has shown, that rote memorization and rapid word retrieval are particularly difficult for dyslexics and I have also seen these traits in many prophetically gifted individuals.

Even when the individual knows the information, needing to retrieve it rapidly and present it orally often results in calling up a related phoneme or incorrectly ordering the retrieved phonemes. Under such circumstances, dyslexics will pepper their speech with many um’s, ah’s and other hesitations. On the other hand, when not “pressured” to provide instant responses, the dyslexic can deliver an excellent oral presentation. Similarly, in reading, whereas non-impaired readers can decode words automatically, dyslexic individuals frequently need to resort to the use of context to help them identify specific words. This strategy slows them further and is another reason that the provision of extra time is necessary if dyslexics are to show what they actually know. Multiple-choice examinations, too, by their lack of sufficient context, as well as by their wording and response format, excessively and unfortunately penalize dyslexics.

The bottom line is that compensated dyslexics have a distinct advantage over nondyslexics in their ability to reason and conceptualize and that the phonological deficit masks what are often excellent comprehension skills…Socially, culturally, and most importantly – spiritually. Many schools and universities now appreciate the circumscribed nature of dyslexia and offer to evaluate the achievement of their dyslexic students with essays and prepared oral presentations rather than tests of rote memorization or multiple choices. Just as researchers have begun to understand the neural substrate of dyslexia, people are beginning to recognize the practical implications of the dyslexics and the prophetic person’s beautiful mind…not their “disorder.” After all, over 60% of today’s fortune 500 company leaders have been diagnosed with some form of Dyslexia. Now only if the prophetic rank and file would follow in such tremendous success!

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