A new study released in April 2012 in Current Biology has found a significant causal link between Visual Spatial Attention and Reading Acquisition. In plain English, what this means is that parents and clinicians may now be able to identify as well as intervene to better prevent a child from being held back by the handicap that dyslexia can cause for them as they grow older.
The study found that poor readers demonstrated an impaired ability to scan and search through visual material when they were prereaders. In addition, the study reports that 60% of poor readers displayed visual-attention deficits when prereaders. The causal relation was made that visual attention in preschoolers specifically predicts future reading acquisition.
This study can be tremendously helpful to parents, teachers, and clinicians in our ability to identify and help these children. Parents can take notice of their child’s ability to maintain visual attention and practice these skills in a fun manner such as ‘Visual Search & Find’ (i.e.: Where’s Waldo type games). Preschool teachers and programs can make it a point to incorporate such activities into their curriculum to help build these skills in children. Lastly, clinicians can focus greater attention on the use of visual scanning assessment tools as one of the various measures used to identify dyslexia at a younger age.
For parents who are interested in practicing these skills with their young children but who need some guidance in how to begin, a good starting place is to discuss it with your child’s teacher. Another option would be to work with a psychologist who specializes in educational assessments and can tailor a plan for you to work on these skills with your child. In addition, if your child is demonstrating significant difficulties in his/her visual attention at a young age (approximately 3-5), you may want to closely track their growth in attaining reading skills as they grow older and get them evaluated for dyslexia in early elementary school if you are concerned. Never dismiss your gut feelings as a parent… if you feel like something is not right, it’s important to get them evaluated early. After all, nobody knows your child better than you do.