Music Training as Rehabilitation for Developmental Dyslexia

...the music group significantly outperformed ... in a number of tests including tasks for text and word reading, pseudoword reading ... as well as phonemic segmentation.

Developmental dyslexia is a learning disorder that causes difficulties in word recognition, reading, and spelling. It is fairly common, affecting up to 10 % of the population and often causes a great deal of distress, especially in academic settings. A recently published article reports encouraging results from a randomized controlled study showing that music training could be used to boost reading skills in children with dyslexia.  

In the study, 46 children aged 8-11 years diagnosed with developmental dyslexia were randomly assigned to either a music training group or a painting group. The children in the groups took classes for 2 hours each week over 7 months, in addition to a standard rehabilitation program for dyslexia. The children’s linguistic, musical, reading and general cognitive abilities were assessed before and after the 7-month intervention. The results showed that children in both groups showed improvement in reading abilities, but that the children in the music group significantly outperformed the children in the painting group in a number of tests including tasks for text and word reading, pseudoword reading (pseudowords are nonsensical words, which individuals with dyslexia typically find very hard to read) as well as phonemic segmentation (measuring the ability to break words down into individual sounds).

Because the researchers also conducted tests for music abilities, they could investigate whether specific musical skills might predict performance in language skill tests. They found that this is indeed the case, and the best predictor of phonological skills is rhythmic reproduction ability. This result is in agreement with previous evidence showing that individuals with language impairments are also impaired in the processing and production of rhythm. In this study, researchers proposed that deficits in the processing of rhythm that are present from infancy could interfere with language learning by making it difficult for the child to recognize separate words and syllables in speech. An early difficulty in speech processing could then impede with language learning, and over time accumulate into the typical impediments associated with dyslexia. Future research will shed light on whether music training could possibly offer an easy, cost-effective and non-stigmatizing way to support language learning and even prevent language difficulties such as dyslexia.

written by ketki karanam



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Flaugnacco, E., Lopez, L., Terribili, C., Montico, M., Zoia, S., & Schön, D. (2015). Music Training Increases Phonological Awareness and Reading Skills in Developmental Dyslexia: A Randomized Control Trial. PLoS ONE, 10(9), e0138715. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0138715

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