JOURNAL ARTICLE

Visual spatial attention and speech segmentation are both impaired in preschoolers at familial risk for developmental dyslexia

Andrea Facoetti, Nicola Corradi, Milena Ruffino, Simone Gori, Marco Zorzi
Dyslexia: the Journal of the British Dyslexia Association 2010, 16 (3): 226-39
20680993
Phonological skills are foundational of reading acquisition and impaired phonological processing is widely assumed to characterize dyslexic individuals. However, reading by phonological decoding also requires rapid selection of sublexical orthographic units through serial attentional orienting, and recent studies have shown that visual spatial attention is impaired in dyslexic children. Our study investigated these different neurocognitive dysfunctions, before reading acquisition, in a sample of preschoolers including children with (N=20) and without (N=67) familial risk for developmental dyslexia. Children were tested on phonological skills, rapid automatized naming, and visual spatial attention. At-risk children presented deficits in both visual spatial attention and syllabic segmentation at the group level. Moreover, the combination of visual spatial attention and syllabic segmentation scores was more reliable than either single measure for the identification of at-risk children. These findings suggest that both visuo-attentional and perisylvian-auditory dysfunctions might adversely affect reading acquisition, and may offer a new approach for early identification and remediation of developmental dyslexia.

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