Andrea Facoetti is a pretty intense-looking fellow, and if you’re going to advocate for a visual basis in developmental dyslexia you better have your game face on. That is because of all the forces that still insist that dyslexia is a phonological problem to the exclusion of vision playing any significant role. The tide is slowly but steadily turning, a trend that we identified in this blog last year. Professor Facoetti and his group at the University of Padua in Italy have had a significant influence in this regard, and you can access all of his research papers here.
As you follow Facoetti’s line of research, including his latest in press publication in Vision Research, you’ll see see a consistent theme. Permit me to highlight a line from the Vision Research paper:
“Visual attention deficit is now considered a cause of DD, independent from the auditory-phonological abilities.”
That’s DD as in Developmental Dyslexia.
Does looking at this image make you feel weird? It should, and it simulates a visual subtype of dyslexia in which individuals experience difficulties in the M-D pathway. That’s not to be confused with obstructionist pathways to vision therapy. That’s M-D as in Magnocellular-Dorsal, and Facoetti’s group has laid out an excellent path for both researchers and clinicians to follow. The path leads to perceptual learning therapy to prevent or remediate the visual components of dyslexia.
The perceptual learning paradigm suggested by Facoetti revolves around computer programs that might enhance visual reading readiness skills. The theory behind M-D deficits and the therapy approach is suggestive of Teri Lawton’s PATH to Reading program.
You may recall Dr. Lawton’s paper on training directional discrimination sensitivity published in the journal Optometry and Vision Development in 2007, and it’s worth another look here. None of this should be surprising, as perceptual learning has emerged as a key component in therapeutic approaches to amblyopia, and amblyopia – after all – is a fundamental developmental disorder of spatial vision.