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Front Psychol. 2016 Dec 21;7:1997. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01997. eCollection 2016.

The Role of Visual-Spatial Abilities in Dyslexia: Age Differences in Children's Reading?

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Department of Neuroscience, Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital, IRCCSRome, Italy; Department of Human Studies, LUMSA UniversityRome, Italy.
Department of Neuroscience, Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital, IRCCS Rome, Italy.


Reading is a highly complex process in which integrative neurocognitive functions are required. Visual-spatial abilities play a pivotal role because of the multi-faceted visual sensory processing involved in reading. Several studies show that children with developmental dyslexia (DD) fail to develop effective visual strategies and that some reading difficulties are linked to visual-spatial deficits. However, the relationship between visual-spatial skills and reading abilities is still a controversial issue. Crucially, the role that age plays has not been investigated in depth in this population, and it is still not clear if visual-spatial abilities differ across educational stages in DD. The aim of the present study was to investigate visual-spatial abilities in children with DD and in age-matched normal readers (NR) according to different educational stages: in children attending primary school and in children and adolescents attending secondary school. Moreover, in order to verify whether visual-spatial measures could predict reading performance, a regression analysis has been performed in younger and older children. The results showed that younger children with DD performed significantly worse than NR in a mental rotation task, a more-local visual-spatial task, a more-global visual-perceptual task and a visual-motor integration task. However, older children with DD showed deficits in the more-global visual-perceptual task, in a mental rotation task and in a visual attention task. In younger children, the regression analysis documented that reading abilities are predicted by the visual-motor integration task, while in older children only the more-global visual-perceptual task predicted reading performances. Present findings showed that visual-spatial deficits in children with DD were age-dependent and that visual-spatial abilities engaged in reading varied across different educational stages. In order to better understand their potential role in affecting reading, a comprehensive description and a multi-componential evaluation of visual-spatial abilities is needed with children with DD.


developmental disabilities; learning disabilities; reading deficits; visual-spatial deficits

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