More Computer Games For Dyslexia?

game4Last year I read an interesting paper published by some researchers at the University of Padua in Italy. They found that 12 hours of playing a Nintendo action game significantly improved reading speed in dyslexic students and that this was more effective than demanding reading therapy! I discuss below whether or not dyslexics need to be playing more action computer games.

The very idea that action computer games could be used to improve academic learning seems contrary to everything we know since dyslexia is thought to be a language problem. This is not the first study however to demonstrate such positive effects and in fact some years ago I did a small study on this myself!

In my study there were 2 groups of Year 4 students – both of which were identified as having learning difficulties. One group played 10 arcade computer games for half an hour a day for 15 weeks while the other group played no games at all. The students were assessed on 8 visual skills and measures were taken of the number of reading errors made as well as their reading comprehension (using PROBE). The results were very interesting.

I found that computer games were helpful for improving 3 out of 8 visual skills. Two of these visual skills were tests of visual speed. In addition, I found that the students playing computer games made significantly less reading errors after 15 weeks but that their comprehension actually went backwards compared to the group who did not play games!

The message I took from this was that although action games can improve aspects of reading there is also the potential for negative effects – possibly by encouraging rapid “reflex” responses. In contrast, most tasks that relate to learning in the classroom require us to make consciously directed or “voluntary” responses which is the very opposite of most action games.

In summary, although the evidence shows that action games can have a positive effect on reading, it is not a simple matter of playing more computer games. In the process of developing skills such as faster reading speed, we must be careful to avoid any negative effects on academic learning. This would require better control over the game so that only the positive attributes were being trained. My advice to parents is that limiting the time that children play action games on the computer is probably not a bad thing!

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By Stuart Warren http://helpingdyslexia.com

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