Having dyslexia can be a nightmare. Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty characterized by problems with reading and spelling words (Anonymous 2013a 7). Despite having normal intellect, people dealing with dyslexia have difficulties with determining different words and letters; jumbles of words, letters, and sounds are impossible to make sense of (Shaw 2013 1). Now imagine being a child with this disorder. At school, there is a risk of being bullied and teased. Students with dyslexia live their school days with fear of their self-esteem, emotional well-being, academics, and physical health suffering (Bailey 2013 1). Approximately 10% of children have this disorder (Anonymous 2013a 7). Although having the learning disability dyslexia may be very difficult especially for youths, Italian researchers have conducted a recent experiment discovering a new way to overcome this learning disability. This new experiment is testing the effects of playing video games and how it improves reading skills in children.
Approximately five to ten percent of all school children in the United States have a learning disability, dyslexia being the most common type (Anonymous 2013b 1
). Dyslexia is characterized by the struggle of processing information or generating responses, but they have at least an average level of intelligence (Handler et. al. 2011 1
). People with dyslexia have trouble with phonological decoding, the ability to recognize that words are made up of smaller units of sound, verbal memory, the ability to remember a sequence of verbal information for a short amount of time, and visual attention, how quickly a person processes and recognizes familiar verbal information (Anonymous 2013a 5
). The learning deficit in dyslexia does not depend on the material that is to be learned, it is based on the nature of the learning that characterizes the task (Vicari et. al 2005 1
). Since reading is a key element in learning, children with dyslexia may have difficulties with mastering basic skills and may have trouble with writing, speaking, spelling and math (Anonymous 2013b 2
). Symptoms in children can be very mild or severe and depend on the person. Some symptoms may include a late talker, pronunciation problems, difficulty rhyming words, impaired ability to learn basics such as the alphabet, colors, and numbers, problems with handwriting, confusion of letters, trouble with connecting letters and their sounds, and even Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) (Anonymous 2013b 3
). Experts still do not know the precise cause of this disability, but researchers have conducted recents studies and found that genetics can greatly impact whether or not your child will have dyslexia or not. If you, as a parent, or your spouse has dyslexia, there is a very high chance that your child will also have the disability (Anonymous 2013b 5
Traditional treatments and therapies to overcome this disability are time-consuming, too expensive, and usually don't make any improvements (Shaw 2013 1
). There is no definite cure for this disability yet, but an early intervention with your child may give them a confidence boost and source of encouragement needed to deal and try to overcome dyslexia in school. It is also suggested that you visit your child's pediatrician who can rule out any physical issues such as vision or hearing problems that may also affect your child's learning. The pediatrician may then refer you to a learning specialist, educational psychologist, or speech therapist for further help with your child (Anonymous 2013b 7
). Inside your child's classroom, additional assistance from the teacher or a learning specialist may provide additional help for your child (Anonymous 2013b 8
). Experts have not yet come up with a technique to officially overcome dyslexia, but Italian researchers have sprung up a new study that may lead to a new treatment for children.
Previous studies have shown that video games improve visual attention abilities, so Italian researchers conducted an experiment to investigate to see if video games had an effect on children with dyslexia; if they were proven correct, playing video games may be a new treatment to overcome dyslexia (Anonymous 2013a 9
). Dyslexic children suffer from what researchers call "attentional dysfunction" which makes it harder for dyslexic children to focus their attention and pick out information in a cluttered and busy environment, and since previous studies have shown that video games improve visual abilities, researchers tested to see if a video game would help dyslexic children.
Video games, if used correctly, can be a great learning platform for kids. Unlike television, film, books, or other visual media, video games are participatory. Children interact with characters, step into others' shoes, solve problems, make decisions, and explore consequences (Salazar 2011 1
). Games create deep engagement, keep children entertained, and help them learn while they are playing! Challenges, rewards, and goals keep people of all ages engaged. Games relate to what is being taught by teachers in school, problem or project based learning, personalized learning, and 24/7 learning. Instead of sitting inside a classroom for six to seven hours a day for five days out of the week, video games provide a entertaining, interactive, and fun base for learning for children (Salazar 2011 2
). "Action video games enhance many aspects of visual attention, mainly improving the extraction of information from the environment," stated Andrea Facoetti, Ph.D., of the University of Padua and the Scientific Institute Medea of Bosisio Parini in Italy and also the leader of the team who conducted the experiment testing whether action video games helped improve the reading skills of dyslexic children (Nauert 2013 2
A new study from the University of Padua in Italy lead by Andrea Facoetti showed that children who played twelve hours of video games without any help or direction on how to play the game, achieved significant increases in reading abilities (Kuo 2013 2
). The study split a group of twenty dyslexic children from ages seven to twelve into two groups; ten children played fast paced mini-games from the Wii game Rayman Raving Rabbids known as action video games (AVG) and ten children played a much more relaxed, slower paced set of mini-games that were described as non-action video games (NAVG). The AVG group's mini-games required quick reaction times that were known as "twitchers", while the NAVG group's mini-games did not require quick reaction times (Anonymous 2013a 3
). The children played for a total of twelve hours in nine eighty-minute sessions (Anonymous 2013a 4
Before this experiment was tested, the children's reading skills, spatial attention skills, and their ability to decode words phonologically, their ability to connect letters and their sounds, were tested. Their reading ability was measured as a ratio of the speed of the child reading the content, and their accuracy. After the twelve hours of playing the video games, the children were then reassessed (Anonymous 2013a 10
The children in the AVG group demonstrated increases in reading ability without decreases in accuracy. These results were equivalent to one year's worth of spontaneous reading development! This group also displayed improvements in attention skills from the session, which has direct effects on their reading abilities (Kuo 2013 3
). One of the skills that is essential to efficient learning and reading is the ability to quickly decipher information within the information given, and the children who played the action video game had a much more improved ability to do that skill in comparison to the kids who played the non-action video games (Omidi 2013 2
). Compared to the results of the NAVG group, the AVG group also showed significant improvements in phonological decoding and word text reading (Anonymous 2013a 11
). The children that played the non-action video games in the NAVG group did not do any better on the tasks than they did before playing (Shaw 2013 4
). Additionally, two months later without playing any video games, the children did just as well on a word recognition test as they did on the test they took immediately after playing the action video games. The improvements in word recognition were relatively long-lasting (Shaw 2013 5
Similar to reading, active video games require children to balance numerous types of sensory input while still focusing on a larger goal; the researchers believe that the video games may help improve the efficiency and use on certain brain pathways like the connection between visual comprehension and responding (Shaw 2013 6
). The researchers hypothesized that the children's attention spans expanded due to the due to the need to adapt to the rapid actions occurring on the screen (Kuo 2013 4
). Because they strengthened the kids' abilities to monitor central and peripheral objects on the screen in a chaotic environment on the screen, the action video game gave kids a necessary tool for tracking letters in written words (Bower 2013 3
While the researchers were very pleased and excited for these new results and possibly new treatment for dyslexia, the team leader states, "These results are very important in order to understand the brain mechanisms underlying dyslexia, but they don't put us in a position to recommend playing video games without any control or supervision." (Kuo 2013 4
). Children still need to be monitored in terms of the content of video games and the time allotted for video game play. Sedentary activities, such as watching television, internet browsing, and video games, are major contributors to the major obesity epidemic in America and is another reason why video game playing should be monitored. These activities must be limited in order to allow more time spent participating in physical activities (Omidi 2013 4
In addition, numerous amounts of improvements on this experiment are needed to prove this new theory as a new treatment for overcoming dyslexia. This experimental study was very small. The sample is too small to draw reliable conclusions from and also with such a small experimental group, the results may come down to chance (Anonymous 2013a 13
). Several unanswered questions also exist: 'What duration of any intervention would be required?', 'What kind of action video games should be played?', 'How would this be combined with, or supplement other educational programs for dyslexia?', and 'Would there be any detrimental effects in the longer term on other areas of the child's health or development?' (Anonymous 2013a 14
Leading experts in the United Kingdom also believe that video games improving reading skills of dyslexic children are very unlikely (Anonymous 2012c 1
). An organization known as Dyslexia Action also said their opinion on the experiment. The head of research Dr. John Rack stated, "It would be great if the problems of dyslexia would go away simply by playing the right sort of video games, but this is highly unlikely and the recent Italian study simply doesn't make the case that it can be done. I am worried if a story like this is picked up and raises false hopes, or worse, serves to undermine the hard work being done using less glamorous methods, I can imagine children in schools and homes across the UK asking why they have to do this reading exercise if it works just as well to play video games. Make no mistake, it doesn't work just as well." (Anonymous 12c 2
). Dorothy Bishop, the professor of Developmental Neuropsychology at Oxford University also expresses her opinion, "It's a classic example of a paper that is on the one hand highly newsworthy, but on the other hand, methodologically weak. I'm usually not a betting person, but I'd be prepared to put money on the main effect failing to replicate if the study were repeated with improved methodology." (Anonymous 2012c 3
). We must be open to this new era of technology, but we can not let our enthusiasm override our data that must support it. Before researchers release this new aspect of dyslexia treatment as a totally reliable treatment for dyslexia and children suffering from dyslexia get their hopes too high, experts must first perfect this experiment.
"Our study paves the way for new remediation programs, based on scientific results, that can reduce the dyslexia symptoms and even prevent dyslexia when applied to children at risk for dyslexia before they learn to read," Faocetti states. Future experiments are going to be made to officially deem this treatment for dyslexic children one hundred percent reliable (Shaw 2013 7
). Because of this experiment, in the future, children may have a new treatment that is fun, fast, and reliable to treat their dyslexia. This will change the way children improve their reading skills.
Although many questions have arisen and many improvements must be made in order to deem this treatment for dyslexia reliable, these new findings can possibly change the methods currently used for strengthening the reading skills in children suffering from dyslexia with a new and fun method (Omidi 2013 4
). Children should not spend hours at a time playing video games, but this study provides convincing evidence that playing action video games improves visual attention, which helps improve reading skills and reduce the amount of children that suffer from learning disabilities such as dyslexia (Shaw 2013 7
). Even if dyslexia may be a nightmare for children, thanks to the research team lead by Andrea Facoetti from the University of Padua, this new treatment opens several doors that may provide us with a new and entertaining way to overcome the learning disability, dyslexia, in children.
Wow!this was really good that i have nothing to say!