Is Attentional Dyslexia a Vision Problem?

“I never do homework because I can’t even open these books. All the letters are jumping in my face,” complained TA, one of the participants in this study. Her reading of texts and even of word pairs was severely disrupted, and her main error type was migration of letters between words. However, when we suggested that she read with a word-sized window cut in a cardboard page, her mother called us, surprised, to report that she found TA reading at her leisure. Reading each word separately almost completely eliminated TA’s reading errors. This phenomenon of letters that are identified correctly but are not tied to the correct word is known as “attentional dyslexia.”

That is the opening passage of a research paper from Israel on “developmental attentional dyslexia“.  The paper’s lead author, Professor Naama Friedmann, gave a presentation on the 19 flavors of dyslexia at a seminar last year at the College de France organized by our old virtual friend, Stanislas Dehaene.

But OMG, isn’t that OMD?  Sounds like it could be the type of visual problem that arises from either an ocular motor dysfunction or a binocular vision problem creating instability of print.  We’ve used various cut out guides or sliding windows (as available through the Therapy Shoppe) in our vision therapy practice to help patients with developmental (the young kids) or acquired (concussion/brain injury) forms of dyslexia having the kind of signs and symptoms above.

Slide reader web

Beyond the crutch of the cutout, we have actively worked on improving the accuracy and efficiency of eye tracking patterns in a self-paced interactive manner with programs such as Dynamic Reader.  This coupled with maximizing visual processing skills such as peripheral awareness and visual sequencing to increase the brain’s window for print, and optimizing accommodative-vergence interaction for stability of print and stamina.  This frees up the brain’s resources for comprehension and fluency, rather than wasting energy, effort and yes – attention!!!! to maintaining print clear, single, stable and in the manner printed on the page.

Dynamic Reader


7 thoughts on “Is Attentional Dyslexia a Vision Problem?

  1. The label used for the reading problem is probably less important than the success of the treatment. A child who can comfortably and efficiently read with comprehension is the goal. A label that does not lead to that goal, and merely excuses nonperformance, is of little use.

    • Agreed, though I cringe when some colleagues claim that dyslexia doesn’t exist. Labels, as you note, can be useful if they aid conceptualizing that there can be factors beyond the patients’ control. Too often the dyslexic crowd tosses vision the ocean, and that’s where the kids get shortchanged. Of course, vision is the answer to all reading problems either.

  2. Arnold Wilkins might call this “glare” and prescribe custom-determined colored filters. On the other hand, Textual Visual Aliasing is an emerging term that indicts bihemispheric sampling issues and includes all the above and color fringes, waterfall rippling, voids, and ghostly geometric shapes of the text. Reading windows WILL eliminate the stimulus by eliminating the stripes of the text lines. Filters, per Wilkins, will work for a few months or so, but the longest solution seems to lie with low power prisms. Since the problem is anatomical — in the visual pathway — accommodations will always be helpful.

      • Len, we all know that no self-respecting printed letters will switch position. They know better, and erasable ink is forbidden.

        On the other hand, the PERCEPTION of the letters in other order or as similar in shape to others (saw/was; could/cloud; Ratner/Rather; bad/dad; etc.) can occur with the distraction of aliasing adding in its effect as well as tracking and scanning issues. Interestingly, the behavioral changes that can very often be observed with the application of pow power prisms strongly suggest that their effect is in the basal ganglia (BG), and we know that the BG has a strong role in tracking and scanning. So, image clarification as well as tracking and scanning issues can BOTH be addressed by the same clinical intervention. That’s the way I see it for now.

  3. I was labeled as an attentional disorder kid. My problem was hearing. I could hear vowels, but could not distinguish consonants. I was given speech therapy. I am still not able to read aloud with any ease.

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