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Study Links Dyslexia to Visual Attention Problems in Preschool

Dyslexia is one of the most common causes of reading problems among kids. Now new research shows that signs of the developmental reading disorder may appear long before children start to read, making it possible to diagnose and treat dyslexia much earlier.

In a study recently published in the journal Current Biology, Italian researchers say they've found a link between having problems with visual attention in the preschool years and later struggles with reading.

"This is a radical change to the theoretical framework explaining dyslexia," said study co-author Andrea Facoetti, an assistant professor of psychology at Italy's University of Padua, in a release. "It forces us to rewrite what is known about the disorder and to change rehabilitation treatments in order to reduce its impact."

The researchers studied 96 Italian school kids from kindergarten until they entered 2nd grade. Before learning to read, the kids were assessed for visual special attention, or the ability to pick out specific symbols and patterns amid distractions.

The students also were tested on identifying syllables, remembering things they were told and rapidly naming colors. Their reading skills were then measured for the next two years.

About 60 percent of the kids who'd had trouble picking out symbols and patterns before learning to read also had trouble reading later on, the study said.

Facoetti suggested that children at risk for dyslexia could be treated for visual attention problems before learning to read.

The study follows the January reporting of a study at Children's Hospital in Boston that found that kids with a family history of dyslexia showed differences in brain activity on MRI scans even before they begin learning to read," according to ScienceDaily.com.

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