Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception Institut Neurosciences Cognition Université Paris Descartes Centre National de Recherche Scientifique
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Relationships between categorical perception of phonemes, phoneme awareness, and visual attention span in developmental dyslexia.

We tested the hypothesis that the categorical perception deficit of speech sounds in developmental dyslexia is related to phoneme awareness skills, whereas a visual attention (VA) span deficit constitutes an independent deficit. Phoneme awareness tasks, VA span tasks and categorical perception tasks of phoneme identification and discrimination using a d/t voicing continuum were administered to 63 dyslexic children and 63 control children matched on chronological age. Results showed significant differences in categorical perception between the dyslexic and control children. Significant correlations were found between categorical perception skills, phoneme awareness and reading. Although VA span correlated with reading, no significant correlations were found between either categorical perception or phoneme awareness and VA span. Mediation analyses performed on the whole dyslexic sample suggested that the effect of categorical perception on reading might be mediated by phoneme awareness. This relationship was independent of the participantsí VA span abilities. Two groups of dyslexic children with a single phoneme awareness or a single VA span deficit were then identified. The phonologically impaired group showed lower categorical perception skills than the control group but categorical perception was similar in the VA span impaired dyslexic and control children. The overall findings suggest that the link between categorical perception, phoneme awareness and reading is independent from VA span skills. These findings provide new insights on the heterogeneity of developmental dyslexia. They suggest that phonological processes and VA span independently affect reading acquisition.