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Detecting Dyslexia in Early Childhood Can Help with Learning

Update Date: Feb 20, 2013 02:01 PM EST

Parents may soon be able to detect one of the most common children's disabilities, dyslexia, early on in their children's lives according to a new study. Dyslexia is a reading disorder that makes it difficult for children to process written language, which can impair their understanding while reading and hinder their ability of taking timed tests, which is standard across most schools. Although dyslexia does not actually affect children's overall intelligence or thinking processes, catching it early on can help children overcome certain aspects of the disorder, and thus, help them read more efficiently.

The study published by researchers from Northwestern University reported a biological process present in children with dyslexia which identified a relationship between how these children read words and how they encode speech sounds. The study, which will be officially published in the Journal of Neuroscience, recorded the automatic brain waves of 100 children in relation to speech sounds. The children that were the best and fastest readers also encoded sounds more efficiently and consistently. The brain waves that were more sporadic and scattered belonged to children that have difficulties reading. One of the authors of the study, Nina Kraus, a Hugh Knowles Professor of Neurobiology, Physiology, and Communication observed the importance of the relationship between encoding sound and understanding meaning in children. 

Due to this relationship between the brain and speech, Kraus and her co-author, Jane Hornickel are optimistic that children with dyslexia can be helped early on in life. Since encoding sound is not biological, it can be taught and thus, children can learn how to encode sound better through training. During the study, children whose brain waves did not fare so well received a year of learning with assistive listening devices, and the children's speech encoding improved. 

This study revealed the biological mechanisms behind why certain children suffer from dyslexia, and according to the researchers, children have the most difficulty with consonants since they are shorter and sound more complex than vowels. This discovery can help parents provide better teaching aids and methods for their children so that they can learn how to encode different sounds more efficiently early on. 

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