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Gadi Geiger, Tomaso Poggio; Preventing dyslexia? Early enhanced hand-eye coordination activities reduces reading difficulties. Journal of Vision 2005;5(8):809. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/5.8.809.
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Persons with developmental dyslexia were shown to have wider visual perceptual strategy (recognition of letters) than ordinary readers (e.g. Geiger et al. 1992, Lorusso et al. 2004). Dyslexic children and adults who practiced a regimen comprising hand-eye coordination activities and reading with a mask, improved reading dramatically while their perceptual strategy narrowed (Geiger et al. 1994, Geiger et al. VSS 2001).
Given that this practice alleviates dyslexia, we asked: would small-scale hand-eye coordination activities, given to all the children at early stages of learning to read, reduce the number of those with severe reading difficulties? Would it impart to them the right perceptual strategy for reading?
We conducted a study in a Boston public school during the last three years with 188 students from K-2, first and second grades. Students in each grade level were randomly assigned to two groups: experimental and control. The experimental groups started every school day with 40 minutes of hand-eye coordination activities in the form of arts and craft. At the same time the control groups performed general school activities. The reading assessments were made with the Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA) test that the teachers administered three times each year. At the end of the second grade the students were also measured for their strategy of visual perception.
For the K-2 the DRA is not sensitive enough to indicate differences. In three consecutive years, the experimental groups of the first grade had significantly fewer students at risk for reading compared with the control groups (19% to 29%; p < 0.04). In the second grades the differences were larger.
These results suggest that early practice of hand-eye coordination activities reduces the risk for reading difficulties. The results also support the notion that neural tuning can be narrowed by practice (Geiger et al. VSS, 2004) thus providing the students with an effective perceptual strategy for reading
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