Can Dyslexia Be Prevented?
by Rita C. Wright
January 24, 2000

Definitions:
Dyslexia is a severe impairment in the ability to read (Hallahan & Kauffman, p.162). It is a learning disability that impairs the process of breaking words into component sounds (p. 175). Phonological Awareness is the ability to understand the rules of how various sounds go with specific letters to make up words (Hallahan & Kauffman, p. 175).

Article Findings and Author Opinions:
Dyslexic children have trouble realizing and understanding that words can be divided into specific, distinct sounds. They have a difficult time achieving the level of phonological awareness that is needed in order to be able to read. Korkman and Peltomaa believe that these problems can be avoided if phonemic analysis training is given to preschool age children that demonstrate language impairments.  A study was conducted in order to test the hypothesis that special training at the preschool level can prevent dyslexia. In this study, one group of children with language impairments (the experimental group) were placed in a special preschool with training in phonemic awareness that consisted of one 45 minute session per week, while children in another group (the control group) were given traditional placements, most of which focused on speech therapy. Both groups were tested before starting the preschool programs and again after kindergarten. The experimental group performed substantially better than the control group on the post-experimental tests related to reading and spelling.

Personal Opinions in Regard to the Article:
Preschool-age training in phonological awareness makes sense because training can give children with language impairments quality time in which to secure a phonological learning foundation that “normal” children acquire on their own.

Because of my own experience with dyslexia, I believe that the symptoms will disappear if proper instruction is provided. Because of this belief, I also believe that preschool training may very well prevent dyslexia from developing in the first place. The study presented in this article clearly shows, in my opinion, that a preschool training program is beneficial for children with learning disabilities.

Positive Aspects of Study:

The children in the experimental and control groups of this study were chosen from a larger group. The larger group of children were all put through screening to assure that language impairments existed and to disqualify children with other issues such as developmental or behavioral problems.

Both groups were similar in respects to age and background.

The children selected for the study were tested both before the preschool training started and after the kindergarten year. Whereas studies performed before were not accurate because they only did a follow up after preschool.

Negative Aspects of Study:

The children in the control group did receive only speech therapy and not extensive phonemic training, but phonemic training almost always is included in speech therapy to some degree. So, the experiment did not necessarily have one group of kids with phonemic training and one completely void of phonemic training.

The groups were not very large. The experimental group had only 26 children and the control group had only 20.

Even though the children in both groups came from similar backgrounds, outside influences may still have been in the picture.
 
 

Hallahan, D.P., & Kauffman, J.M. (2000). Exceptional Learners: Introduction to Special Education.
        Needham Heights, MA:    Allyn & Bacon.

Korkman, M. & Peltomaa, A.K. (1993). Preventive Treatment of Dyslexia by a Preschool Training
        Program for Children with Language Impairments. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology,  22(2),
        277-287.
 
 
 

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