Dyslexia: Dyslexia is not Word Blindness

Many years ago educators and medical practitioners believed that dyslexia was a case of “word blindness”. This was especially evident when such children were asked to track a sequence of written words with their eyes and were often found going back and forth over the same sequence. This was in contrast to children who read normally and who tracked the string of words smoothly.

It was assumed by eye doctors who diagnosed the condition that children who were dyslexic had some kind of visual impairment. In recent years, however, this belief has been shown to be unfounded and, as a result, research has turned to a multilayered examination of the processes involved in learning to read.

There is a consensus that although a small number of children with dyslexia may have some sort of visual problem, the vast majority of them have none. For the vast majority, the most important difficulty is in phonological coding, that is, in the conversion of written letters and words to sounds, especially when the words are unknown or are “made-up” words, such as bom or tept.

Beyond Phonological Coding

Tt is suggested that we should look beyond phonological coding and consider the fundamental cognitive processing that may be of critical importance in acquiring reading skills among beginning readers and especially among the population with dyslexia. We suggest that the process that lies beyond phonological coding is a difficulty in sequencing, in appreciating the succession of letters within a word and of words within a sentence. Therefore, a rational method for helping the child who has dyslexia should begin with facilitating successive or sequential processing.

There are many tasks that might be structured to enhance suc-cessive processing. One method consists of exposing the child to tasks where he/she is required to attend to a sequence of shapes (a triangle followed by a circle, then a square, a rectangle, a trapezium, and so on) and to reconstruct the sequence after a short interval.

The same successive processing can be imposed on letters such as c-o-b-b-l-e-r that are presented in an irregular array. The child’s task is to draw a line connecting these letters forcing him/her to pay attention to their sequence.

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