Academic journal article Journal for Educational Research Online

An Examination of the Process of Acquiring Visual Word Representations in Dyslexic children/Untersuchung Des Aneignungsprozesses Von Visuellen Wortrepräsentationen Bei Kindern Mit Dyslexie

Academic journal article Journal for Educational Research Online

An Examination of the Process of Acquiring Visual Word Representations in Dyslexic children/Untersuchung Des Aneignungsprozesses Von Visuellen Wortrepräsentationen Bei Kindern Mit Dyslexie

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Visual word recognition, the building block of skilled reading, remains a core and continuing difficulty for readers with developmental dyslexia (Compton & Carlisle, 1994; Fletcher, 2009; Lyon, Shaywitz, & Shaywitz, 2003). Dyslexic readers show inaccurate and/or dysfluent reading and often difficulties in spelling (Fletcher, 2009). Subsequent effects on the essence of reading, i.e. comprehension, frequently follow. Physiological investigations converge to indicate a neurobiological origin of dyslexia, involving mainly a dysfunction of processing systems of the left hemisphere (Shaywitz & Shaywitz, 2005).

The manner in which words are represented and accessed in the long-term memory has been a subject of debate between different models of word recognition (e.g., Coltheart, 1978, 2005; Frost, 1998; Harm & Seidenberg, 2004; Perfetti, Bell, & Delaney, 1988; Plaut, 2005; Seidenberg & McClelland, 1989). Nevertheless, what the models do have in common is the underlying assumption that with reading experience and print exposure an internal mental lexicon of words previously encountered in print is established. This lexicon was suggested to be created through the constitution and strengthening of connections between orthography, its pronunciation and its meaning in memory (Ehri, 2005; Perfetti, 1992; Rack, Hulme, Snowling, & Wightman, 1994). According to the Self-Teaching Hypothesis (Share, 1995)> the acquisition of word-specific orthographic information depends not only on the exposure to printed words, but also on their correct decoding. When readers are confronted with an unknown printed word, they must pay close attention to the written structure of the word, by thoroughly transforming each grapheme into its appropriate sound. Each successful decoding of a new word provides the reader with the opportunity to acquire word-specific orthographic information (Share, 1999).

The reliance on previous word representations in reading facilitates word recognition in subsequent encounters, until they are automatically recognized (Ehri, 1992, 2005). In fact, skilled readers were found to be able to read familiar words as quickly as they named their symbols (e.g., digits). This was taken to indicate that the words were read "by sight" - as single whole units. According to connectionists' models of word recognition, the activation of such representations promotes efficient reading by reducing demands of grapheme-phoneme conversion, allowing fewer steps of processing until a word is recognized (Ehri, 2005; Harm & Seidenberg, 2004; also see Katz & Frost, 1992). The fewer the cognitive resources dedicated to word recognition, the more resources are available for comprehension. Consequently, the reliance on internal representations is considered essential for achieving efficiency in reading (Cunningham, Perry, Stanovich, & Share, 2002; Ehri, 2005; Harm & Seidenberg, 2004; Share, 1999, 2004).

Deficient decoding, however, is strongly associated with dyslexia (Rack, Snowling, & Olson, 1992), hence representations of dyslexic readers in the mental lexicon may be lacking or vague (Elbro, 1996). And indeed, dyslexic readers were shown to have deficient orthographic learning compared to skilled readers following several exposures to a target pseudoword embedded in texts (Share & Shalev, 2004), in addition to difficulties with reading words "by sight" (Ehri & Saltmarsh, 1995; Ehri & Wilce, 1983). Findings by Bruck (1990) indicate that even dyslexic adults who were college students, still relied markedly on the use of spelling-sound information, a strategy of reading associated with early stages of reading acquisition. In fact, their pattern of performance was most similar to those of beginning skilled readers and of dyslexic children. In contrast, typical readers were found to rely more on the fast visual recognition of familiar words or word-parts.

The central question tested in the present study was whether repeated exposures to the same words would result in the acquisition and retaining of their representations in the mental lexicon in dyslexic readers. …

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