Dyslexia, also known as Developmental Reading Disorder, is a learning disability in which an individual has difficulty learning to read, reading with fluency, and/or comprehending what he/she is reading, despite average intelligence. Traditional intervention has focused on individual reading treatment to include reading-specific tasks such as reading aloud, phonemic awareness, phonics training, and multi-sensory learning approaches.
New research in Current Biology reports that dyslexia may be more of a problem with visual attention and visual perceptual skills, than specifically reading. Children with the disorder have a difficult time filtering out irrelevant visual cues. Andrea Facoetti, psychologist from the University of Padua, studied a group of children from age 4 to 7. The children were tested on their reading abilities, color naming, recalling a list of objects, and completing a visual figure ground task (such as Where’s Waldo or Eye Spy). The children with the most difficulty on the visual figure ground task at age 4 were the children who were given the dyslexia diagnosis at age 7.
This new research suggests that intervention which includes improving visual attention and visual perception skills may be more effective than traditional phonics training for treating dyslexia. Early identification and intervention of these visual problems is recommended. Ask your occupational therapist for appropriate activities to work on visual attention and visual perceptual skills.
Courtney Enos, MS, OTR/L