Deciphering Sounds Over Background Noise May Diagnose Reading Problems

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[Source; Education News.org]

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In an effort to determine whether children are at risk for later learning difficulties, new research has found it may be possible to predict which preschoolers will struggle with learning to read.

Studies are showing that the predictor has to do with how the brain deciphers speech in the midst of a noisy background. Lauran Neergaard of Associated Press writes that researchers from Northwestern University have analyzed brain waves of children as young as three and drawn remarkable conclusions.

If a young person is able to recognize consonants while background noise is present, researchers have determined that they are more likely to have less difficulty with reading development, the team reported this week in the journal PLOS Biology. If this method is perfected, it is possible it will become a “biological looking glass.” Senior author of the study Nina Kraus, Director of Northwestern’s Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, said:

 “If you know you have a 3-year-old at risk, you can as soon as possible begin to enrich their life in sound so that you don’t lose those crucial early developmental years.”

Preschoolers who can match sounds to letters at an early age go on to become readers more easily. This is because auditory processing is part of pre-reading development, and if the brain is slow to distinguish a “D” from a “B” sound, for example, recognizing words and constructing sentences could also be affected.

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