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Allophonic Mode of Speech Perception in Dutch Children at risk for Dyslexia: A Longitudinal Study.

There is ample evidence that individuals with dyslexia have a phonological deficit. A growing body of research also suggests that individuals with dyslexia have problems with categorical perception, as evidenced by weaker discrimination of between-category differences and better discrimination of within-category differences compared to average readers. Whether the categorical perception problems of individuals with dyslexia are a result of their reading problems or a cause has yet to be determined. Whether the observed perception deficit relates to a more general auditory deficit or is specific to speech also has yet to be determined. To shed more light on these issues, the categorical perception abilities of children at risk for dyslexia and chronological age controls were investigated before and after the onset of formal reading instruction in a longitudinal study. Both identification and discrimination data were collected using identical paradigms for speech and non-speech stimuli. Results showed the children at risk for dyslexia to shift from an allophonic mode of perception in kindergarten to a phonemic mode of perception in first grade. The children at risk for dyslexia thus showed an allophonic perception deficit in kindergarten, which was later suppressed by phonemic perception as a result of formal reading instruction in first grade; allophonic perception in kindergarten can thus be treated as a clinical marker for the possibility of later reading problems.