In the U.S., approximately one out of every five students suffer from some type of learning disability, with dyslexia ranking as the most common cause. Researchers estimate that of all individuals who suffer from poor reading skills, between 70 and 80 percent have dyslexia.
Dyslexia, which equally affects both boys and girls from a variety of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, can cause a variety of symptoms. Some children experience difficulties learning how to read and spell, while other struggle to write or tell their left from their right. Some children who initially show few signs of struggling with how to read or write develop problems mastering complex language skills, such as reading comprehension and grammar.
Considering the trouble dyslexia can cause with a child’s intellectual development, it becomes even more troubling to realize that less than one-third of all children with a reading disability receive help in school to overcome their disability.
Fortunately when it comes to assisting children dealing with dyslexia, a recent study suggests that help might come from an unlikely source- video games.
Another Developmental Tool
Researchers at the Developmental & Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at the University of Padua in Italy have found that children with reading abilities scored higher on test after playing action orientated video games for a couple of hours, potentially due to their minds becoming better focused temporarily.
Early results of the study have yet to establish cause and effect, and researchers caution that the evidence doesn’t explicitly suggest that playing video games can improve a child’s dyslexia. At this point, even if a clear relationship were established, researchers would have no way of knowing how long any beneficial results of playing video games would last for a child.
Researchers also warn that if video games do prove beneficial, that parents shouldn’t take a “do-it-yourself” approach by allowing their child to play for hours in hopes of improving their disorder. The benefit of this research would be to give learning disability teachers one more tool to use in helping students with dyslexia.
To conduct their study, researchers at the University of Padua asked a group of children with dyslexia to play a Nintendo Wii game for a total of 12 hours divided over less than a week. During this same period, researchers asked another group of children to play a different, less action oriented game.
The children who played the game containing action were able to increase their reading speed by as much if not more than children with dyslexia would in an intense reading program. Researchers suspect this may be due to video game’s ability to train the brain to focus and pay attention to details.
Researchers are hopeful about the long-term benefits video games could have as a learning tool for children with dyslexia due to the easy teachers would have engaging their students in such materials. Typical intensive reading programs used to teach children with dyslexia contain a lot of hard work and little fun. By having the ability to pack a training tool for dyslexia into something fun and interactive, teachers could have an easier time keeping students engaged in the process of overcoming their disability.
The results of the study were published in the March issues of Current Biology.
Timothy Lemke is a freelance health and metal fabrication Portland based writer.