Preschool identification of dyslexia may help child development
MedWire News: Children who have poor visual special attention before they learn to read are more likely to develop dyslexia than their peers, say researchers.
"Visual attention deficits are surprisingly way more predictive of future reading disorders than are language abilities at the prereading stage," commented Andrea Facoetti (University of Padua, Italy) in a press statement.
The team believes that as well as shedding light on the causes of dyslexia, their finding may help parents, teachers, and carers to identify and help children with this problem at an early stage.
Many researchers believe that impaired auditory and speech sound processing is one of the primary causes of dyslexia. But new evidence suggests that an inability to visually orientate letters and match them with their corresponding sounds correctly may also play an important role.
Facoetti and colleagues assessed whether prereading visual attentional orientating ability correlated with later reading abilities in 96 Italian children, aged 5-6 years, who were in the last year of kindergarten and who had not previously learnt to read. Children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder were excluded and none of the children had a history of brain damage, hearing, or visual deficits.
The children underwent tests that required them to pick out specific symbols while being distracted, in other words to filter relevant from irrelevant visual information. The children were also tested on their ability to identify syllables, their short-term verbal memory, and their ability to rapidly name colors.
In total, 82 children were followed up to evaluate their reading ability during the next two school years (in grades 1 and 2).
The results of the study, which are published in Current Biology, show that prereading visual attentional orientating ability at age 5-6 years was positively correlated with later reading ability following adjustment for age, nonverbal IQ, nonalphabetic cross-modal mapping, and speech-sound processing.
"This is a radical change to the theoretical framework explaining dyslexia," Facoetti said.
"It forces us to rewrite what is known about the disorder and to change rehabilitation treatments in order to reduce its impact."
Simple tasks focused on identifying visual attention deficits should help identify children at risk for dyslexia, he commented.
"Because recent studies show that specific prereading programs can improve reading abilities, children at risk for dyslexia could be treated with preventive remediation programs of visual spatial attention before they learn to read," he added.
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By Helen Albert