Authors: Hélène Brèthes, Eddy Cavalli, Ambre Denis-Noël, Jean-Baptiste Melmi, Abdessadek El Ahmadi, Maryse Bianco and Pascale Colé.

Article: Text Reading Fluency and Text Reading Comprehension Do Not Rely on the Same Abilities in University Students With and Without Dyslexia.

Publication: Frontiers in Psychology (Frontiers). 13:866543 2022 | DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.866543

[Full Text]


Developmental dyslexia is a specific learning condition characterized by severe and persistent difficulties in written word recognition, decoding and spelling that may impair both text reading fluency and text reading comprehension. Despite this, some adults with dyslexia successfully complete their university studies even though graduating from university involves intensive exposure to long and complex texts. This study examined the cognitive skills underlying both text reading comprehension and text reading fluency (TRF) in a sample of 54 university students with dyslexia and 63 university students without dyslexia, based on a set of tests adapted for an adult population, including listening comprehension, word reading, pseudoword reading (i.e., decoding), phonemic awareness, spelling, visual span, reading span, vocabulary, non-verbal reasoning, and general knowledge. The contribution of these skills to text reading fluency and text reading comprehension was examined using stepwise multiplicative linear regression analyses. As far as TRF is concerned, a regression model including word reading, pseudoword reading and spelling best fits the data, while a regression model including listening comprehension, general knowledge and vocabulary best fits the data obtained for text reading comprehension. Overall, these results are discussed in the light of the current literature on adults with dyslexia and both text reading fluency and text reading comprehension.

Tagged as: adult dyslexia, altbrain, dyslexic strengths, reading comprehension, reading fluency, and sentence reading


Brèthes H, Cavalli E, Denis-Noël A, Melmi J-B, El Ahmadi A, Bianco M and Colé P (2022) Text Reading Fluency and Text Reading Comprehension Do Not Rely on the Same Abilities in University Students With and Without Dyslexia. Front. Psychol. 13:866543. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.866543

Excerpts from Full Text / Notes:


…[R]eaders with and without dyslexia did not differ on non-verbal IQ, listening comprehension, general knowledge, or the vocabulary knowledge tasks …. Interestingly, readers with dyslexia had a greater visuo-spatial span than skilled readers (p < 0.05),…. The group with dyslexia also achieved better text reading comprehension scores than skilled readers …. However, and as expected, they exhibited poorer performance than skilled readers on the phonological tasks …. They also achieved poorer reading and spelling performances than skilled readers on all measures ….


The overall objective of this study was to gain a better understanding of the text reading comprehension processes in university students with dyslexia compared to those observed in skilled adult readers. To do so, we first compared the text reading fluency and text reading comprehension skills of French dyslexic university students and used a large set of tests to identify their components. We predicted lower scores in the dyslexic group on all the lower-order skills (including word reading fluency, decoding, phonemic awareness, spelling and TRF and reading span) but expected visuo-spatial skills and text reading comprehension scores to be preserved and no different from those of skilled adult readers…

Our results also showed the visual-spatial span of students with dyslexia to be significantly larger than that of skilled readers…. These results may explain why students with dyslexia appear to use significantly more visual-spatial cues than skilled adult readers when they read texts for comprehension…. Dyslexic participants were also found to achieve higher scores in the text reading comprehension test (under unconstrained time reading). These surprising findings must be interpretated in the light of those obtained in research showing that dyslexic adults’ text reading comprehension is equivalent to that of their skilled reading peers when they are allowed to read with no time constraints….

[W]e found that general knowledge explained text reading comprehension scores in dyslexic readers better than in skilled readers, thus suggesting that the former group relies heavily on semantic information (possibly as a compensatory mechanism) when understanding written texts. Surprisingly, and contrary to our expectations, neither word reading, pseudoword reading, TRF nor reading span explained text reading comprehension scores at a significant level. Even more surprisingly, this was also true of skilled readers….

To conclude, among the important results of this study, we have shown that Text reading fluency and text reading comprehension do not rely on the same abilities in university students with and without dyslexia. While TRF skills in adults with dyslexia are based on the activation of visual/orthographic codes of words (phonological codes are difficult to be activated), skilled readers use orthographic and phonological codes of the words they read in a flexible way….

This study also shows that when university students with dyslexia have to understand a text precisely, their answers do not depend on their ability to decode and read words but, and more importantly than for skilled readers, on their general knowledge, This enables them to achieve a level of reading comprehension that will allow them to pursue higher education….

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