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New Oxford study shows benefits of video games for kids with dyslexia

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A most recent study conducted at Oxford University is showing what many dyslexic students and adults already know. Video games, especially action-packed video games, can improve reading and attention skills. As reported by Mother Nature Network on Feb. 17, 2014, the study was conducted with 36 participants.

“For the study, researchers asked 36 participants - 17 with dyslexia and 19 without - to press a button each time they heard a sound and/or saw a flash of dim light patterns. Researchers found that the dyslexic participants took longer to press the button than their non-dyslexic peers - particularly in the cases where they were shown the light patterns. This led researchers to believe that there might be a connection between dyslexia and the participant's ability to change focus quickly between stimuli."

The study conducted at Oxford University was just recently published in ScienceDirect and emphasized that while there are already well-documented differences in the way that dyslexics process individual low-level visual and auditory stimuli, little research has been done in regard to audiovisual multisensory processes – many of the processes needed to succeed in video games.

Many parents of children or adults struggling with the learning disability are well aware of the difficulty of processing not only reading materials but also auditory instructions.

Oxford’s study investigated the audiovisual integration aspects and found that in comparison to children without the reading disability, dyslexics showed deficits in the pathways that enabled a quick shift of focus from one process to the other.

In contrast to children with Attention Deficit Disorder, where a shift of focus from one sense to the other goes too quickly, children with dyslexia process information between different areas of the brain too slowly.

During the past years, several studies have shown that neuronal pathways in a dyslexic child’s brain, especially neuronal pathways across the Corpus Callosum (see above picture), work differently. Neuronal pathways are responsible for transferring information quickly from the left side of the brain to the right side of the brain and between different brain areas.

If one looks at the list of famous people with dyslexia, including Pablo Picasso, August Rodin (French sculptor), Jorn Utzon (architect who designed Sydney Opera house), Agatha Christie, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gustave Flaubert, W.B. Yeats, Ann Bancroft (Arctic Explorer), Alexander Graham Bell, John R. Horner (Jurassic Park), Pierre Curie (Physicist), Werner Von Braun, Erin Brockovich, George Patton, Henry Ford, William Hewlett, Charles Schwab, Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson, John F. Kennedy, Nelson Rockefeller, Woodrow Wilson, George Washington, Cher, John Lennon, Harry Belafonte, Tom Cruise, Whoopi Goldberg, Jay Leno, Keanu Reeves, Henry Winkler, and Steven Spielberg – it is no surprise why.

Dyslexics have an amazing intense gift in creativity, innovation, and out-of-the-box thinking skills.

Unfortunately, that creative gift gets in the way of reading:

For example, when attempting to read words like "was" or "no," a child's creative strong right-brain hemisphere can turn the words easily into "saw" and "on." Each time the word appears visually in front of the child's eyes, the creative mind can turn the letters either way.

By nature, kids with the reading challenge tend to use the creative areas of their brain more than other areas of the brain.

Symbolically speaking (and in quite simple terms), one could compare the two brain hemispheres in a dyslexic child with two modern cities that are connected by an unfinished highway. Because of the poor condition of the inter-city highway (something the kids are born with), most of the focus and attention is being spent in one city (usually the creative right brain hemisphere).

Unlike most other games, action-packed video games are filled with sensory stimuli including all areas of the brain forcing a child to improve their “inter-city highway” if they want to succeed.

As Mother Nature Network reported, “the common approach to dyslexia uses phonetics to help struggling readers.” While phonetics does combine visual and auditory processes, the fact that those children can easily turn a “t” into an “f” (just turn them upside down and over) or a “b” into a “d,” makes phonetics meaningless for some dyslexics.

Depending on a dyslexic child’s creative gift and interest, an action-packed video game might be more efficient but leave parents with a new challenge -- getting the kids to bed in time and with enough sleep.

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