Video Games Improve Sensory Cues, Help Dyslexia

dyslexiaResearch suggests that playing video games can improve dyslexia because gamers have to switch from visual to auditory cues. It is the poor sensory cues that are the problem for those with dyslexia. All of the time kids spend playing video games may not the time waster parents think it is.

The results of a study by Dr. Vanessa Harrar of Oxford University were published in Current Biology on Feb 13. The study involved 34 participants, half of which were dyslexic. Harrar and her team tested the reactions times of the participants when they were asked to press a button each time they heard a sound, saw a dim light or noticed both at the same time.

They found that the participants who suffer from dyslexia had a slower reaction time than the rest of the group. Harrar explained that the results were not surprising, since people with dyslexia have trouble focusing and then refocusing. It is that constant shifting that is an issue.

In video games, the sights and sounds are considered to be coming from the same location. Instead of viewing one cue and then hearing another from a different source, the cues come from the same source, making them easier to pick up. Using fast-paced games increases the sensory response. Games with fast-paced shifts improve the ability to multitask. The study did not use video games, per se, in the experiment. But they did ask participants to quickly press buttons as they would in a gaming experience.

In 2013, a separate study that was also published in Current Biology, was conducted in Italy at the University of Padua. In this study, researchers allowed children ages 7-12 play in 80 minute segments of video games. They found children had improved reading and attention skills from playing action-packed video games. They state that 12 hours of game play increased their reading ability and offer a fun way to boost reading scores.

Dyslexia is a learning disability that affects five to 10 percent of the population. It becomes a problem, particular while reading and writing, and can inhibit learning. Dyslexic people have trouble spelling correctly and problems with vocabulary and reading comprehension. It is a lifetime problem that is neurological and people are born with it, but with the right training, it can be managed.

Signs of dyslexia include trouble rhyming, reversing letters in words, poor pencil grip, trouble reading out loud and reading at a lower than average level. Treatment generally involves plenty of exposure to reading and writing, practice with multi-sensory tasks, using a variety of tests, using computer software and help with the emotional problems that stem from having the learning disability.

Teaching with video game style lessons can help train the eye to read differently and fully comprehend the lesson. It would allow kids to learn though visual and audio cues simultaneously, therefore, taking away the need to constantly refocus. The results of this study shed light on a different way to improve sensory cues to help people with dyslexia. While it might be tempting to give the green light on letting kids play video games all day, experts still advise against this.

By Tracy Rose


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