January 30, 2012

Spotting Dyslexia Before Starting School

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Approximately five to seventeen percent of children are diagnosed with developmental dyslexia, dyslexia that is not caused by brain trauma. Children who have dyslexia have trouble with reading and the comprehension of written language. A dyslexic child will have trouble connecting the sound made by a specific letter or the sounds of all the letters together that form a word (called phonological processing). A new study at the Children's Hospital Boston has found that children at risk for dyslexia show differences in brain activity on MRI scans before they begin learning to read. Developmental Dyslexia responds more effectively at early intervention. So finding out if a child has dyslexia before they start school could help with the difficulties the child and family face in school.

The study involved 36 preschool-age children. Functional MRI imaging was performed on the children while they performed small tasks deciding on whether two words started with the same sound. During the phonological tasks, those children with a family history of dyslexia saw the reduction of metabolic activity in certain brain regions. In at-risk and control groups, children with high activation in these brain areas had better pre-reading skills. Children at-risk for dyslexia showed no increase in the frontal brain regions, which may suggest that this area of the brain becomes active only when given instruction on reading. Dyslexia usually is not diagnosed until the child is in third grade.

"We hope that identifying children at risk for dyslexia around preschool or even earlier may help reduce the negative social and psychological consequences these kids often face. If we can show that we can identify these kids early, schools may be encouraged to develop programs," Nora Raschle, Ph.D., the lead researcher at The Children's Hospital Boston of the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience, was quoted as saying.

This may help stop the aggression and the anti-social behavior that can develop in a dyslexic child caused by their frustration throughout grade school.

SOURCE: Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, January 2012