Authors: Beth A. O’Brien, Maryanne Wolf, Lynne T. Miller, Maureen W. Lovett & Robin Morris.

Article: Orthographic processing efficiency in developmental dyslexia: an investigation of age and treatment factors at the sublexical level.

Publication: Annals of Dyslexia (SpriSpringer). 61, pages111–135 2011 | DOI: 10.1007/s11881-010-0050-9

[Full Text]


Reading fluency beyond decoding is a limitation to many children with developmental reading disorders. In the interest of remediating dysfluency, contributing factors need to be explored and understood in a developmental framework. The focus of this study is orthographic processing in developmental dyslexia, and how it may contribute to reading fluency. We investigated orthographic processing speed and accuracy by children identified with dyslexia that were enrolled in an intensive, fluency-based intervention using a timed visual search task as a tool to measure orthographic recognition. Results indicate both age and treatment effects, and delineate a link between rapid letter naming and efficient orthographic recognition. Orthographic efficiency was related to reading speed for passages, but not spelling performance. The role of orthographic learning in reading fluency and remediation is discussed.



We therefore hypothesized that orthographic recognition efficiency would predict word reading efficiency. This was not supported. Visual search efficiency for the trained bigrams did not predict oral word reading efficiency outcome as measured with the TOWRE sight words subtest. Thus, word reading automaticity may entail processing beyond what was required for the present search task….

Neurophysiological studies of automatic word recognition further suggest that it is a form of acquired visual expertise that develops over a prolonged period of time. EEG studies reveal a negative wave component (N170) occurring 170 ms after stimulus onset (and prior to language related functions like phonic, semantic analysis) that differentiates adult responses to words versus consonant strings (Maurer, Brandeis & McCandliss, 2005).In children, Posner and McCandliss (2000) found that the differentiated EEG pattern for words did not emerge until around age 10, even though younger children (age 7) were familiar with the word stimuli. 


Visual search for the trained letter patterns at the two test points was next regressed on outcomes of efficiency for reading passages of text. Oral reading rate for connected text was predicted by sublexical search efficiency, and this was specific to the initial test point that occurred earlier in the program. …. The silent reading measure of fluency (WJIII) was not  predicted by visual search performance to trained targets, although the correlation with time 1 search latency was close to that for oral reading rate. Based on this pattern of results, it was only the oral reading speed for words in context, but not in isolation, that was uniquely related to the visual search measure.

Tagged as: lexical quality hypothesis, orthographic processing, Rapid automatic naming, reading fluency, SERIOL model, and visual processing


O’Brien, B.A., Wolf, M., Miller, L.T. et al. Orthographic processing efficiency in developmental dyslexia: an investigation of age and treatment factors at the sublexical level. Ann. of Dyslexia 61, 111–135 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11881-010-0050-9

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