Parents should not be surprised if doctors prescribe "play action video games" to their kids with dyslexia. A new study has suggested that such games may help dyslexic kids better manage and shift sensory cues and help improve their learning skills.

While dyslexia is commonly believed to manifest as difficulty with reading, children suffering from dyslexia, afflicting about 10 to 15 percent of the population, also find it a very big challenge to handle multiple sensory inputs. Depending on the age of the child, one may have a range of learning difficulties such as adding new words to vocabulary, problem reciting common nursery rhymes consistent spelling and reading errors, poor recall, problem solving word problems, among others.

A study titled "Multisensory Integration and Attention in Developmental Dyslexia" has been published in the journal Current Biology. The proponents led by Vanessa Harrar from the Department of Experimental Psychology of the University of Oxford looked into the processing of different stimuli, including visual and auditory, and how individuals with dyslexia shift their attention from one stimulus to another.

"Imagine you are having a conversation with someone when suddenly you hear your name uttered behind you. Your attention shifts from the person you are talking to-the visual-to the sound behind you. This is an example of a cross-sensory shift of attention. We found that shifting attention from visual to auditory stimuli is particularly difficult for people who have dyslexia compared to good readers," said Harrar.

During the study, Harrar and her team asked 34 subjects to press a button when they hear a sound, see a light signal, or see both. Half of the participants had dyslexia while the other served as the control group. Those with dyslexia fared well in terms of response time against non-dyslexic subjects when a visual stimulus is followed by a sound stimulus. However, the subjects with dyslexia had slower reactions compared to the other group when a sound is succeeded by a visual cue.

The experts suggested that training programs for people with dyslexia should take into consideration the disparity of the population's attention shifting time.

When learning the alphabets for example, Harrar suggested that people with dyslexia might learn quicker if they hear the sound of the letter first before seeing the symbol, a method totally opposite of what is being done in regular schools today.

"We propose that training people with dyslexia to shift attention quickly from visual to auditory stimuli and back-such as with a video game, where attention is constantly shifting focus-might also improve literacy. Action video games have been shown to improve multitasking skills and might also be beneficial in improving the speed with which people with dyslexia shift attention from one task, or sense, to another," the researchers added.

The researchers recommend further studies are needed to maximize the potentials of their findings.

The results of the latest study corroborates the findings of an earlier study that established that around 12 hours of action video games can improve reading abilities of kids with dyslexia.

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