Help and hinderances to word learning in dyslexia

This study explored the word learning abilities of children with dyslexia compared to matched typically-developing peers. Now, many of us know that children with dyslexia present with phonological deficits. However, it’s easy to forget that their phonological difficulties aren’t limited to the written modality, but children with dyslexia have difficulties with phonological processing of spoken language as well.
The results of this study show that children with dyslexia had difficulty with tasks that challenged their phonological skills, including detecting others’ verbal mispronunciations, and naming (seeing something, recalling its name, saying it).  And, perhaps most interesting to practicing clinicians, the authors compared not only phonological manipulations, but visuospatial manipulations as well. They found that, “… visuospatial information both helped and hindered learning…” and thus, “…educators should not assume that all visual supports will be helpful or will override the phonological deficits found in many children with dyslexia.” At this time, further research is needed to identify how to manipulate visual stimuli best for children with dyslexia.

So, what to do with the visual supports you’ve been using? Keep at it, for now. But just pay close attention to your clinical data, and don’t assume that the extra visual information is extra helpful.

Alt, M., Hogan, T., Green, S., Gray, S., Cabbage, K., & Cowan, N. (2017). Word learning deficits in children with dyslexia. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 60, 1012–1028.