Eighty-five percent of children's learning is related to vision. Yet in the U.S., 80 percent of children have never had an eye exam or any vision screening before kindergarten, statistics say. When they do, the vision screenings they typically receive can detect only one or two conditions. Three researchers at the University of Tennessee Space Institute in Tullahoma are working to change that with an invention that makes children eye exams inexpensive, comprehensive, and simple to administer. "Eye exams can do so much more than just test vision, " said Ying-Ling Ann Chen, device inventor and research assistant professor in physics. "They can detect learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, or neural disorders such as autism. By not testing our youth, we are potentially missing the window for effective treatment for a lot of conditions.
People with dyslexia often struggle with the ability to accurately decode and identify what they read. Although disrupted processing of speech sounds has been implicated in the underlying pathology of dyslexia, the basis of this disruption and how it interferes with reading comprehension has not been fully explained. Now, new research published by Cell Press in the December 22 issue of the journal Neuron finds that a specific abnormality in the processing of auditory signals accounts for the main symptoms of dyslexia. "It is widely agreed that for a majority of dyslexic children, the main cause is related to a deficit in the processing of speech sounds, " explains senior study author, Dr. Anne-Lise Giraud and Franck Ramus from the Ecole Normale SupĂ rieure in Paris, France. "It is also well established that there are three main symptoms of this deficit: difficulty paying attention to individual speech sounds, a limited ability to repeat a list of pseudowords or numbers, and a slow performance when asked to name a series of pictures, colors, or numbers as quickly as possible.
Dyslexia affects up to 17.5% of the population, but its cause remains somewhat unknown. A report published in the online journal PLoS ONE supports the hypothesis that the symptoms of dyslexia, including difficulties in reading, are at least partly due to difficulty excluding excess background information like noise. In the study of 37 undergraduate students, the researchers, led by Rachel Beattie of the University of Southern California, found that the poor readers performed significantly worse than the control group only when there were high levels of background noise. The two groups performed comparably at the prescribed task when there was no background noise and when the stimulus set size was varied, either a large or a small set size. According to Dr. Beattie, "these findings support a relatively new theory, namely that dyslexic individuals do not completely filter out irrelevant information when attending to letters and sounds.
Intensive daily training for a limited period is better for children with reading and writing difficulties than the traditional remedial tuition offered by schools, reveals new research from the University of Gothenburg. Around 5% of school children in Sweden have problems learning to read and write on account of difficulties with word decoding. Phonemic building blocks "Most researchers agree that the underlying problem is a limited phonological ability, in other words limited awareness of the sounds that make up spoken words, " says Ulrika Wolff, senior lecturer in education at the University of Gothenburg's Department of Education and Special Education, and the researcher behind the study, the first of its kind in Sweden. 12 weeks' training The study saw more than 50 nine-year-olds with reading and writing problems being given 40 minutes' training every day for a total of 12 weeks by specially trained educationalists from the University of Gothenburg.
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have used an imaging technique to show that the brain activation patterns in children with poor reading skills and a low IQ are similar to those in poor readers with a typical IQ. The work provides more definitive evidence about poor readers having similar kinds of difficulties regardless of their general cognitive ability. Schools and psychologists have historically relied on a child's IQ to define and diagnose dyslexia, a brain-based learning disability that impairs a person's ability to read: If a child's reading achievement was below expectation based on IQ, he would be considered dyslexic, while a poor reader with a low IQ would receive some other diagnosis. But these new findings provide "biological evidence that IQ should not be emphasized in the diagnosis of reading abilities, " said Fumiko Hoeft, MD, Ph.