For people with dyslexia, problems recognizing words can make life difficult.

Children usually aren’t diagnosed with dyslexia until elementary school, when it becomes clear they’re struggling with reading.

But scientists say it could be possible to diagnose dyslexia and help kids much earlier by identifying problems with visual attention — long before they learn to read.

Scientists have argued for decades about why 10 percent of the world’s population has dyslexia. Theories include difficulties recognizing chunks of words or problems processing visual signals or issues ignoring extraneous sounds.

People with dyslexia are often bright and verbal, but have trouble with the written word.

Many programs have been devised to help children and adults with reading difficulties, but none solves the problem. Since learning to read is such a big part of early childhood, it makes sense to think that identifying children with dyslexia as preschoolers, before they learn their ABCs, could lead to new and better ways to help. 

But how to test reading ability in children who can’t read has remained a barrier.Researchers at the University of Padua in Italy say kids who have problems with visual attention in preschool are most likely to have difficulty reading later on.

The scientists tested 96 kindergartners who hadn’t yet learned to read, asking them to identify specific symbols amid distractions. The youngsters also were asked to identify syllables, name colors quickly and remember things they were told. Researchers continued to test the children over the next two years as they learned to read.

The kindergartners who struggled with the visual attention test were the ones who later had trouble with reading. The results were published in the journal Current Biology.

If preschoolers are screened with a simple visual attention test… CONTINUE READING

Thanks to Nancy Shute of NPR’s Health Blog for information provided in this piece.

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