Authors: Andrea Facoetti, Nicola Corradi, Milena Ruffino, Simone Gori, Marco Zorzi.

Article: Visual spatial attention and speech segmentation are both impaired in preschoolers at familial risk for developmental dyslexia.

Publication: Dyslexia (Wiley). 16(3), 226-239. 2010 | DOI: 10.1002/dys.413

[Full Text]


Phonological skills are foundational of reading acquisition and impaired phonological processing is widely assumed to characterize dyslexic individuals. However, reading by phonological decoding also requires rapid selection of sublexical orthographic units through serial attentional orienting, and recent studies have shown that visual spatial attention is impaired in dyslexic children. Our study investigated these different neurocognitive dysfunctions, before reading acquisition, in a sample of preschoolers including children with (N=20) and without (N=67) familial risk for developmental dyslexia. Children were tested on phonological skills, rapid automatized naming, and visual spatial attention. At‐risk children presented deficits in both visual spatial attention and syllabic segmentation at the group level. Moreover, the combination of visual spatial attention and syllabic segmentation scores was more reliable than either single measure for the identification of at‐risk children. These findings suggest that both visuo‐attentional and perisylvian‐auditory dysfunctions might adversely affect reading acquisition, and may offer a new approach for early identification and remediation of developmental dyslexia.

Excerpts from Full Text:

Pre-reading children at risk for DD showed the expected deficit in phonological processing compared with children without risk, although in our sample the difference was significant only in the syllabic segmentation task. ….
However, at risk pre-readers showed also a deficit of visual spatial attention in comparison to children without risk. …
The defective automatic orienting of visual attention observed in at-risk prereaders is consistent with other neuropsychological studies on children with DD….
Overall, our results support the prediction that in children at familial risk
for DD, visual attentional impairment—in addition to the typically observed
speech-sound segmentation deficit—exists prior to the beginning of formal reading instruction.


Tagged as: multifactorial model, visual attention, and visual-spatial skills


Facoetti, A., Corradi, N., Ruffino, M., Gori, S., & Zorzi, M. (2010). Visual spatial attention and speech segmentation are both impaired in preschoolers at familial risk for developmental dyslexia. Dyslexia, 16(3), 226-239.

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