Dyslexic KidsDyslexia is well-known as a reading and writing problem, but according to a new study, dyslexia results in more than problems with the written word. A study from the University of Granada finds that Spanish-speaking children with dyslexia struggle to identify the stressed syllables in spoken words. Although other work has observed this phenomenon in English, the study is the first to do so in Spanish. The results highlight the importance of using a variety of techniques in dyslexia treatments.

The researchers conducted an experiment with 31 Spanish children—some had dyslexia and some did not. The children participated in two tasks in which they had to identify the stressed syllables in spoken stimuli and use a keyboard to indicate which syllables were stressed. In the first task, the stimuli were three-syllable words. The stress could be on the first, second, or third syllable and it was not always indicated by an accent mark. In the second task, the researchers used the same structure, but the stimuli were nonsense Spanish words like cátupos.

The children with dyslexia struggled with prosodic processing, which is the ability to determine which part of a word to stress. The children with dyslexia made many more errors than the control group in identifying the stressed syllables of a stimulus and they took longer to respond. The control group used different lexical strategies for identifying the stressed syllables in real words and nonsense words, accessing prior knowledge to help them figure it out. In contrast, the children with dyslexia relied on the same strategy for all the stimuli and did not use prior lexical knowledge.

The researchers conclude that “Dyslexia intervention must not only include reading and segmental phonology activities (phonological awareness), but also pay special attention to supra-segmental or prosodic processing.” Practitioners should find ways to incorporate listening and speaking activities into their dyslexia interventions.

This research is published in the journal Research in Developmental Disabilities.

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