Auditory and Visual Perception Processes and Reading Ability: A Quantitative Reanalysis and Historical Reinterpretation

By Kavale, Kenneth A.; Forness, Steven R. | Learning Disability Quarterly, Fall 2000 | Go to article overview

Auditory and Visual Perception Processes and Reading Ability: A Quantitative Reanalysis and Historical Reinterpretation


Kavale, Kenneth A., Forness, Steven R., Learning Disability Quarterly


Abstract. Meta-analysis was used to integrate statistically the literature assessing the relationship between auditory and visual perception and reading achievement. From 267 studies conducted between 1950-1980, 2,294 correlation coefficients were collected and aggregated into homogeneous groupings across five auditory perceptual skills, eight visual perceptual skills, four reading skills, and two subject groups. Findings were interpreted through the binomial effect size display, which indicates the increase in predictive accuracy rather than the percent of variance explained ([r.sup.2]). Stepwise multiple-regression analyses were used to order perceptual skills in terms of their usefulness for predicting reading skills and to examine the role of intelligence in prediction. The findings indicated that auditory and visual perceptual skills can successfully increase the accuracy of predicting reading achievement, but the magnitude of the increases in predictive accuracy was contingent upon the combination of variables studied and was significantly reduced if an IQ score was known. It was concluded that, while there was some justification for early conceptualizations of learning disability emphasizing perception, the limitations surrounding the magnitude and nature of the relationship between perceptual skills and reading as well as recent advances showing other processes holding greater promise for explaining reading disability, perceptual processes no longer need to be considered primary factors in predicting reading ability.

Mann (1979) outlined the historical course of process concepts in education and described how the identification and training of processes has been an enduring theme. The seminal work of J. M. Itard and E. Seguin was based on training processes. Later, the influence of Gestalt psychology and principles of perceptual organization were significant influences on ideas about processes and their relation to learning (Henle, 1961).

The field of learning disabilities (LD) has historically been associated with process concepts, particularly the relationship between perceptual motor deficits and learning problems (see Hallahan & Cruickshank, 1973). Beginning with the work of K. Goldstein (1942) and continuing with the investigations of A. Strauss and H. Werner (see Strauss & Lehtinen, 1947), attention was focused on perceptual motor deficits as fundamental elements of learning disabilities. Additionally, more generalized theories relating perception and cognition were posited (e.g., Gibson, 1969; Hebb, 1949; Piaget, 1969).

After LD was established as a category of special education, a majority of its early theoretical conceptualizations postulated the presence of deficient perceptual processes as a primary deficit (see Kavale & Forness, 1995). The analyses offered by, for example, Ayres (1972), Getman (1965), Johnson and Myklebust (1967), Kephart (1960), and Wepman (1964), emphasized deficiencies in perception as the most prominent deficit associated with LD. The tenor of these ideas is illustrated by this statement from Frostig, Lefever, and Whittlesey (1966)

   It is most important that a child's perceptual disabilities, if any exist,
   be discovered as early as possible. All research to date which has explored
   the child's general classroom behavior has confirmed the authors' original
   finding that kindergarten and first-grade children with visual perceptual
   disabilities are likely to be rated by their teachers as maladjusted in the
   classroom; not only do they frequently find academic learning difficult,
   but their ability to adjust to the social and emotional demands of
   classroom procedures is often impaired. (p. 6)

In practice, assumptions about the presence of process deficits meant that process training was a favored intervention and, although it did not prove to be efficacious (Kavale & Forness, 1987; Kavale & Mattson, 1983), theoretical questions remained about the nature of the relationship between processes and academic achievement (Torgesen, 1979).

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