Dyslexia Research

Below are summaries of dyslexia related research and links to original articles. Summaries are presented alphabetically by subject area.  A short history of dyslexia research is provided at the bottom of the page.

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Research by topic

Alternative treatments and interventions

Franceschini, S. et al. Action Video Games Make Dyslexics Better Readers. February, 2013.


  • The causes of dyslexia are debated, and their remediation is far from being achieved
  • Twelve hours of action video games improve the reading skills in dyslexic children
  • Spatial and temporal attention also improved during action video game training
  • Attentional improvement can directly translate into better reading abilities

Learning to read is extremely difficult for about 10% of children; they are affected by a neurodevelopmental disorder called dyslexia. The neurocognitive causes of dyslexia are still hotly debated. Dyslexia remediation is far from being fully achieved, and the current treatments demand high levels of resources. Here, we demonstrate that only 12 hr of playing action video games—not involving any direct phonological or orthographic training—drastically improve the reading abilities of children with dyslexia. We tested reading, phonological, and attentional skills in two matched groups of children with dyslexia before and after they played action or nonaction video games for nine sessions of 80 min per day.

We found that only playing action video games improved children’s reading speed, without any cost in accuracy, more so than 1 year of spontaneous reading development and more than or equal to highly demanding traditional reading treatments. Attentional skills also improved during action video game training. It has been demonstrated that action video games efficiently improve attention abilities; our results showed that this attention improvement can directly translate into better reading abilities, providing a new, fast, fun remediation of dyslexia that has theoretical relevance in unveiling the causal role of attention in reading acquisition.

For more on this dyslexia research article see our news page.

Researchers: Sandro Franceschini, Simone Gori, Milena Ruffino, Simona Viola, Massimo Molteni, Andrea Facoetti
Source: Current Biology, Volume 23, Issue 6, 462-466, 28 February 2013
Link: http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(13)00079-1

Legislation and legal frameworks

Youman, Martha, Mather, Nancy. Dyslexia Laws in the USA. Annals of Dyslexia. International Dyslexia Association. June, 2012


Throughout the various states of the USA, the appropriate identification of dyslexia and the timely provision of interventions are characterized by variability and inconsistency. Several states have recognized the existence of this disorder and the well-established need for services. These states have taken proactive steps to implement laws and regulations for both identification and treatment, and the provision of equal access to students who are diagnosed with dyslexia. The majority of states, however, have not developed such laws and guidelines. The purposes of this article are to review the present status and content of these dyslexia laws, highlight some differences among the laws and regulations across states, and suggest strategies for initiating such laws.


Evans, T. et al. Gender Differences in Brain Anatomy of Dyslexia. May, 2013.


Using MRI, neuroscientists at Georgetown University Medical Center found significant differences in brain anatomy when comparing men and women with dyslexia to their non-dyslexic control groups, suggesting that the disorder may have a different brain-based manifestation based on sex. Their study, investigating dyslexia in both males and females,is the first to directly compare brain anatomy of females with and without dyslexia (in children and adults).

Researchers: Tanya Evans et al.
Source: Georgetown University Medical Centre, May 2013
Link: http://explore.georgetown.edu/news/?ID=70402&PageTemplateID=295

Butterworth, B & Kovas, Y. Understanding Neurocognitive Development Disorders Can Improve Education for All. April, 2013.


Specific learning disabilities (SLDs) are estimated to affect up to 10% of the population, and they co-occur far more often than would be expected, given their prevalences. We need to understand the complex etiology of SLDs and their co-occurrences in order to underpin the training of teachers, school psychologists, and clinicians, so that they can reliably recognize SLDs and optimize the learning contexts for individual learners.

Researchers: Brian Butterworth, Yulia Kovas
Source:Science, April 2013
Link: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/340/6130/300.abstract

 Begona et al. Dyslexia Caused by Signal Processing in the Brain (August 2012)


To participate successfully in life, it is important to be able to read and write. Nevertheless, many children and adults have difficulties in acquiring these skills and the reason is not always obvious. They suffer from dyslexia which can have a variety of symptoms.

Research carried out by Begona Díaz and her colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig discovered an important neural mechanism underlying dyslexia and shown that many difficulties associated with dyslexia can potentially be traced back to a malfunction of the medial geniculate body in the thalamus. The results provide an important basis for developing potential treatments.

Researchers: Diaz Begona et al
Source: Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, August 2012
Link: http://www.mpg.de/news_dyslexia

Orton Gillingham reading system

John, N.  Critical Review: Examining the Effectiveness of the Orton-Gillingham Reading Approach for Poor Readers in Elementary School. University of Western Ontario.


This critical review examines the ability of the Orton Gillingham (OG) approach for
teaching reading skills to poor readers in elementary school. A literature search was
conducted and study designs included seven quasi-experimental studies and one
systematic review. Findings indicate positive results for word reading, word
attack/decoding, spelling and comprehension.

Geiss, Sallyann. Effectiveness of a Multisensory, Orton-Gillingham Influenced Approach to Reading Intervention for High School Students with Reading Disability.


Our primary goal was to examine the effectiveness of a multisensory, Orton-
Gillingham influenced approach to reading intervention for high school students with
reading disability. We tested the effect of a packaged reading-intervention approach on
the reading subskills of letter-word identification, spelling, word attack, sound awareness,
speed of sight-word reading, and speed of phonemic decoding (nonsense words).

The independent samples t test showed that the pretest scores for the control group were
significantly higher than pretest scores for the treatment group. Results of the ANCOVA
showed no significant differences between groups at post test. When we controlled for
pretest scores, participants in the reading-intervention group consistently made greater
gains than participants in the control group, although post test scores remained higher for
the control group. A t-test for nonindependent matched samples was significant (p < .05)
for treatment participants’ post test scores for Word Attack. Descriptive analysis showed
that the participants in the treatment group more frequently demonstrated a greater than
three month growth in post test grade-equivalency scores compared to the participants in
the control group.

Correlation analysis also revealed that performance on the pretest, as
measured in standard scores, was not a good predictor of starting point in the Barton
Reading program, but was a better predictor of amount of progress made.
We developed recommendations and suggestions for further study. 

Other reading systems

Schieffer, Cheryl et al. Analysis of the Reading Mastery Program: Effective Components and Research Review. Eastern Washington University. Journal of Direct Instruction. Vol 2, No. 2. pp 87-119.


This paper provides an analysis of the Reading Mastery program. This analysis includes three main sections. First, an overview of the need to teach reading is provided. Second, three focal areas (i.e., oral language, decoding, and comprehension) are discussed. How Reading Mastery aligns with these focal areas is examined. Finally, a comprehensive research review of 25 published studies and two large-scale research reviews are detailed. Twenty-one comparative studies were grouped according to population under investigation (i.e., general education [n = 4]; general education remedial readers [n = 8]; and special education [n = 9]). Four studies investigating Reading Mastery without comparison to other reading curricula were described. Study characteristics (i.e., program or program comparison, participants, research design, dependent variable(s), program effectiveness or most effective program, fidelity of implementation, maintenance/longitudinal data, and social validity data) were examined for each of the 25 investigations. Fourteen of the 21 studies (67%) favored Reading Mastery/DISTAR Reading, while other programs were favored in three studies (14%). Nine directions for future investigations of the effects of Reading Mastery are discussed.

Response to intervention

Fuchs, D. Fuchs, L. and Compton, D. Smart RTI: A Next-Generation Approach to Multilevel Prevention, 2012.


During the past decade, responsiveness to intervention (RTI) has become popular among many practitioners as a means of transforming schooling into a multilevel prevention system. Popularity aside, its successful implementation requires ambitious intent, a comprehensive structure, and coordinated service delivery. An effective RTI also depends on building-based personnel with specialized expertise at all levels of the prevention system. Most agree on both its potential for strengthening schooling and its heavy demand on practitioners. In this article, we describe Smart RTI, which we define as making efficient use of school resources while maximizing students' opportunities for success. In light of findings from recent research, we discuss three important features of Smart RTI: (a) multistage screening to identify risk, (b) multistage assessment to determine appropriate levels of instruction, and (c) a role for special education that supports prevention.

Research History

Below is information on the history of dyslexia research followed by several recent higher profile studies.

Dyslexia is one of the most researched topics in all of the social sciences. There have been literally thousands of studies dating back to 1896, with an acceleration in the number of studies since the 1980s. 

With the most recent breakthroughs in brain based neurological studies we have entered a new and very exciting time where we know enough to offer every dyslexic person hope of being a successful reader!

Key Dates

  • December 21th 1895, James Hinshelwood, an optic surgeon from Glasgow, Scotland, published an article in the journal "The Lancet" on the issue of visual memory and word blindness.

  • W. Pringle Morgan, a doctor from the town of Seaford England, published and article in the British Medical Journal on November 7, 1896 describing the case of an intelligent fourteen years-old boy who could not learn how to read. Today Dr. Morgan is considered the father of developmental dyslexia.

  • Between 1925-1948, American neurologist Samuel Torrey Orton identified a  correlation between the delay in learning to read and other factors, such as left-handedness, the tendency to be ambidextrous, writing and reading errors that were due to inversions of either isolated letters or letters in words (i.e., p for b, was for saw). More importantly, he also showed that these characteristics ran in families, which suggested a hereditary basis for the deficit.

  • 1960s-70s saw greater awareness and focus on the phonological aspect of dyslexia - more specifically, that dyslexics struggle to clearly distinguish and manipulate the basic sounds of language. Awareness was also rising about the related deficits in rapid naming, memory capacity, and decoding generally

  • The 1970s-90s saw the start of computed tomography (CT scans) and later magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain, revealing differences between dyslexics and non-dyslexics.

  • In the latest studies from the early 2000s from Dr. Sally Shaywitz and others have confirmed a neural explanation for dyslexia, finding clear evidence of structural differences in the brains of children with reading difficulties.

Some facts from this section on the history of dyslexia research were drawn from Guardiola, Javier Gayan; The evolution of research on dyslexia. Institute for Behavioral Genetics and Department of Psychology; University of Colorado, Boulder; 2001

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