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Concept: Learning disability

204

Dyscalculia, dyslexia, and specific language impairment (SLI) are relatively specific developmental learning disabilities in math, reading, and oral language, respectively, that occur in the context of average intellectual capacity and adequate environmental opportunities. Past research has been dominated by studies focused on single impairments despite the widespread recognition that overlapping and comorbid deficits are common. The present study took an epidemiological approach to study the learning profiles of a large school age sample in language, reading, and math. Both general learning profiles reflecting good or poor performance across measures and specific learning profiles involving either weak language, weak reading, weak math, or weak math and reading were observed. These latter four profiles characterized 70% of children with some evidence of a learning disability. Low scores in phonological short-term memory characterized clusters with a language-based weakness whereas low or variable phonological awareness was associated with the reading (but not language-based) weaknesses. The low math only group did not show these phonological deficits. These findings may suggest different etiologies for language-based deficits in language, reading, and math, reading-related impairments in reading and math, and isolated math disabilities.

Concepts: Educational psychology, Developmental psychology, Disability, Specific language impairment, Dyslexia, Reading, Learning disability, Special education

169

We have developed a pen and writing tablet for use by subjects during fMRI scanning. The pen consists of two jacketed, multi-mode optical fibers routed to the tip of a hollowed-out ball-point pen. The pen has been further modified by addition of a plastic plate to maintain a perpendicular pen-tablet orientation. The tablet is simply a non-metallic frame holding a paper print of continuously varying color gradients. The optical fibers are routed out of the MRI bore to a light-tight box in an adjacent control room. Within the box, light from a high intensity LED is coupled into one of the fibers, while the other fiber abuts a color sensor. Light from the LED exits the pen tip, illuminating a small spot on the tablet, and the resulting reflected light is routed to the color sensor. Given a lookup table of position for each color on the tablet, the coordinates of the pen on the tablet may be displayed and digitized in real-time. While simple and inexpensive, the system achieves sufficient resolution to grade writing tasks testing dysgraphic and dyslexic phenomena.

Concepts: Light, Refraction, Optical fiber, Writing, Dyslexia, Learning disability, Pen, Dysgraphia

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Hyperactivity is a key symptom and the most observable manifestation of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The over-activity associated with ADHD can cause specific challenges in academic settings, extracurricular activities and social relationships. Cognitive control challenges are also well established in ADHD. The current study included 44 children between the ages of 10 and 17 diagnosed with ADHD or who were typically developing (TD), all of whom had no psychiatric co-morbidity or significant learning disorders. Participants wore an actometer on their ankle while performing a flanker paradigm in order to objectively measure their rates of activity in association with cognitive control. Analyses assessed the relationship between frequency and intensity of activity to task accuracy on a trial-by-trial basis. A significant interaction effect between group and performance revealed that more intense movement was associated with better performance in the ADHD group but not in the TD group. The ADHD group demonstrated more intense activity than the TD group during correct (but not error) trials. Within-group, children with ADHD generated higher intensity movements in their correct trials compared to their error trials, whereas the TD group did not demonstrate any within-group differences. These findings suggest that excessive motoric activity associated with clinically significant ADHD symptoms may reflect compensatory efforts to modulate attention and alertness. Future research should systematically explore the relationship between motion in ADHD and how it might be used to improve cognitive performance.

Concepts: Psychology, Attention, Educational psychology, Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Hyperactivity, Mental disorder, Amphetamine, Learning disability

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Recent studies reported that Action Video Game-AVG training improves not only certain attentional components, but also reading fluency in children with dyslexia. We aimed to investigate the shared attentional components of AVG playing and reading, by studying whether the Visual Attention (VA) span, a component of visual attention that has previously been linked to both reading development and dyslexia, is improved in frequent players of AVGs. Thirty-six French fluent adult readers, matched on chronological age and text reading proficiency, composed two groups: frequent AVG players and non-players. Participants performed behavioural tasks measuring the VA span, and a challenging reading task (reading of briefly presented pseudo-words). AVG players performed better on both tasks and performance on these tasks was correlated. These results further support the transfer of the attentional benefits of playing AVGs to reading, and indicate that the VA span could be a core component mediating this transfer. The correlation between VA span and pseudo-word reading also supports the involvement of VA span even in adult reading. Future studies could combine VA span training with defining features of AVGs, in order to build a new generation of remediation software.

Concepts: Better, Improve, Attention, Educational psychology, Vector space, Learning disability, Language proficiency, Cluttering

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Difficulties in reading comprehension are common in children and adolescents with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The current study aimed at investigating the relation between sustained attention and reading comprehension among adolescents with and without ADHD. Another goal was to examine the impact of two manipulations of the text on the efficiency of reading comprehension: Spacing (standard- vs. double-spacing) and Type of presentation (computer screen vs. hard copy). Reading comprehension of two groups of adolescents (participants with ADHD and normal controls) was assessed and compared in four different conditions (standard printed, spaced printed, standard on computer screen, spaced on computer screen). In addition, participants completed a visual sustained attention task. Significant differences in reading comprehension and in sustained attention were obtained between the two groups. Also, a significant correlation was obtained between sustained attention and reading comprehension. Moreover, a significant interaction was revealed between presentation-type, spacing and level of sustained attention on reading comprehension. Implications for reading intervention and the importance of early assessment of attention functioning are discussed.

Concepts: Attention, Educational psychology, Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Reading comprehension, Learning disability

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The literature has long pointed to heightened frequencies of learning disabilities (LD) within the population of law offenders; however, a systematic appraisal of these observations, careful estimation of these frequencies, and investigation of their correlates and causes have been lacking. Here we present data collected from all youth (1,337 unique admissions, mean age 14.81, 20.3% females) placed in detention in Connecticut (January 1, 2010-July 1, 2011). All youth completed a computerized educational screener designed to test a range of performance in reading (word and text levels) and mathematics. A subsample (n = 410) received the Wide Range Achievement Test, in addition to the educational screener. Quantitative (scale-based) and qualitative (grade-equivalence-based) indicators were then analyzed for both assessments. Results established the range of LD in this sample from 13% to 40%, averaging 24.9%. This work provides a systematic exploration of the type and severity of word and text reading and mathematics skill deficiencies among juvenile detainees and builds the foundation for subsequent efforts that may link these deficiencies to both more formal, structured, and variable definitions and classifications of LD, and to other types of disabilities (e.g., intellectual disability) and developmental disorders (e.g., ADHD) that need to be conducted in future research.

Concepts: Statistics, Population, Educational psychology, Learning disability, Psychological testing, Achievement tests, Aptitude, Wide Range Achievement Test

26

Research has shown that children with learning disabilities (LD) are less prone to evince associative illusions of memory as a result of impairments in their ability to engage in semantic processing. However, it is unclear whether this observation is true for scripted life events, especially if they include emotional content, or across a broad spectrum of learning disabilities. The present study addressed these issues by assessing recognition memory for script-like information in children with nonverbal learning disability (NLD), children with dyslexia, and typically developing children (N=51). Participants viewed photographs about 8 common events (e.g., family dinner), and embedded in each episode was either a negative or a neutral consequence of an unseen action. Children’s memory was then tested on a yes/no recognition task that included old and new photographs. Results showed that the three groups performed similarly in recognizing target photographs, but exhibited differences in memory errors. Compared to other groups, children with NLD were more likely to falsely recognize photographs that depicted an unseen cause of an emotional seen event and associated more “Remember” responses to these errors. Children with dyslexia were equally likely to falsely recognize both unseen causes of seen photographs and photographs generally consistent with the script, whereas the other participant groups were more likely to falsely recognize unseen causes rather than script-consistent distractors. Results are interpreted in terms of mechanisms underlying false memories' formation in different clinical populations of children with LD.

Concepts: Psychology, Causality, Educational psychology, Disability, Dyslexia, Learning disability, Learning disabilities, Nonverbal learning disorder

25

Learning to read is extremely difficult for about 10% of children; they are affected by a neurodevelopmental disorder called dyslexia [1, 2]. The neurocognitive causes of dyslexia are still hotly debated [3-12]. Dyslexia remediation is far from being fully achieved [13], and the current treatments demand high levels of resources [1]. Here, we demonstrate that only 12 hr of playing action video games-not involving any direct phonological or orthographic training-drastically improve the reading abilities of children with dyslexia. We tested reading, phonological, and attentional skills in two matched groups of children with dyslexia before and after they played action or nonaction video games for nine sessions of 80 min per day. We found that only playing action video games improved children’s reading speed, without any cost in accuracy, more so than 1 year of spontaneous reading development and more than or equal to highly demanding traditional reading treatments. Attentional skills also improved during action video game training. It has been demonstrated that action video games efficiently improve attention abilities [14, 15]; our results showed that this attention improvement can directly translate into better reading abilities, providing a new, fast, fun remediation of dyslexia that has theoretical relevance in unveiling the causal role of attention in reading acquisition.

Concepts: Better, Improve, Educational psychology, Orthography, Dyslexia, Reading, Learning disability, Video game genres

17

People with dyslexia, who ordinarily struggle to read, sometimes remark that reading is easier when e-readers are used. Here, we used eye tracking to observe high school students with dyslexia as they read using these devices. Among the factors investigated, we found that reading using a small device resulted in substantial benefits, improving reading speeds by 27%, reducing the number of fixations by 11%, and importantly, reducing the number of regressive saccades by more than a factor of 2, with no cost to comprehension. Given that an expected trade-off between horizontal and vertical regression was not observed when line lengths were altered, we speculate that these effects occur because sluggish attention spreads perception to the left as the gaze shifts during reading. Short lines eliminate crowded text to the left, reducing regression. The effects of attention modulation by the hand, and of increased letter spacing to reduce crowding, were also found to modulate the oculomotor dynamics in reading, but whether these factors resulted in benefits or costs depended on characteristics, such as visual attention span, that varied within our sample.

Concepts: Attention, Educational psychology, Orthography, Dyslexia, Reading, Learning disability, Gaze

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