Visual Spatial Attention: Treating Dyslexia Before Reading Age
    By News Staff | April 5th 2012 06:30 PM | 1 comment | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    A new study says it has ended the long-lasting debate on the causes of dyslexia and also opened the way to a new approach for early identification and interventions for the 10 percent of children for whom reading is extremely difficult. 

    For children with dyslexia, the trouble begins even before they start reading and for reasons that don't necessarily reflect other language skills. Researchers say their new report reveals a causal connection between early problems with visual attention and a later diagnosis of dyslexia.

    The researchers studied Italian-speaking children for a period of three years, from the time they were prereading kindergarteners until they entered second grade.
    Andrea Facoetti of the University of Padua in Italy, and a team including Sandro Franceschini, Simone Gori, Milena Ruffino, and Katia Pedrolli, assessed prereaders for visual spatial attention—the ability to filter relevant versus irrelevant information—through tests that asked them to pick out specific symbols amid distractions. The children also took tests on syllable identification, verbal short-term memory, and rapid color naming, followed over the next two years by measures of reading. 

    Those test results showed that kids who initially had trouble with visual attention were also the ones to later struggle in reading.

    "Visual attention deficits are surprisingly way more predictive of future reading disorders than are language abilities at the prereading stage," said Facoetti. "This is a radical change to the theoretical framework explaining dyslexia. It forces us to rewrite what is known about the disorder and to change rehabilitation treatments in order to reduce its impact."

    He says that simple visual-attention tasks should improve the early identification of children at risk for dyslexia. "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."

    Published in Current Biology.


    The concept that dyslexia has a single cause and/or single intervention has been promoted many times and yet dyslexics still have individual problem profiles that respond to different interventions. What is clear is that almost every time any specific dyslexia factor is studied a positive relationship is discovered and the new single cause of dyslexia is again in the headlines dismissing all previous research.

    This may be closer to the truth. Normally only language problems are used to identify preschool children . Visually dyslexic preschool children often show no language processing problems and only experience noticeable problems when text is encountered. The new technique may be adding visual dyslexics to the group of dyslexics. This would reduce the rate of language processing problems without changing the fact that except for visual dyslexics language processing problems are the most common problems for dyslexics.

    It is way too big a jump from finding an association of visual attention problems in dyslexics to visual attention training will be helpful for dyslexics. There is no indication from the study of the visual attention problems being causal for reading problems for dyslexics. A man swims, a fish swims but a man is not a fish.

    The implication that visual attention problems are not on a spectrum from low to high in dyslexics and so there is no overlap with non dyslexics, allowing a single factor to be evaluated to diagnose dyslexia is unlikely.
    ( every area of the brain studied by fMRI dyslexia studies finds associated factors in the results with overlapping results with non-dyslexics that make it impossible to diagnose dyslexia by MRI )

    I am sure the research is useful but the conclusions can not be supported by the reported description of the study. Dramatic conclusions demand a much better designed series of studies rather than a preliminary associated factor relationship study . B may be associated with A without A causing B or B causing A .

    I have found several times that the reported conclusions of dyslexia studies are often changed in articles like these and the researchers never made the conclusions as stated. With that said, someone is making unsupported conclusions.