Thursday, May 19, 2005

Speed Reading in Adult Dyslexics

It was great to see more research on this clinical phenomena we have seen for quite a while - the "Faster is Better" paradox for well-compensated or gifted dyslexics. Since 1997, research studies have documented the "acceleration phenomenon" in which dyslexics made to read 10-20% faster than their 'routine' reading rate could markedly increase their decoding accuracy and comprehension.

Most of the dyslexic lawyers and professionals we know have discovered this (as well as many younger gifted dyslexics) - but at last there are more studies dissecting out why this happens. The link below takes you to the research paper which is a bit technical, but it relates many nice points. Among them:

- "There is growing support for th notion that word reading fluency may reflect sub-processes other than phonology and can thus be conceptualized as a separate factor for the reading deficit."
- "...reading intervention studies have also indicated that while intensive training in phonemic awareness could improve decoding and word identification in poor readers, there were only minimal gains in reading fluency..."
- "However, the most surprising result...was that the acceleration of reading (i.e. the same task performed at the fast rate) resulted in a relative normalization of the brain area engagement patterns in the dyslexic readers..."

Other comments to add - the study reinforces the foolishness of phonics-only approaches to dyslexia, and it underscores the importance of reading fluency as a dyslexia-associated condition.

The speed reading-dyslexic creates a lot of confusion in the school system (for example, how can letter reversals and spelling errors be dyslexia if the reading comprehension is so good?) and problems with kids failing to receive appropriate accommodations. In order to efficiently speed read, students need to have learned a sufficient body of words recognized by sight. Also, some dyslexic lawyers have shared with us that if they have to read every word of some printed material, they will speed read the document several times to make sure they have not missed anything.

Faster is Better - University Student Dyslexics


  1. I have long called this seeing a chair versus building a chair. I think many dyslexics are visual learners, that is they learn the word as a visual object in its totallity, rather than as a a combination of phonems and letters in a specfic order. When you see a chair, you know it is a Chair. No one ever asks you to deconstruct the chair into its tiny components. The word chair looks like this "CHAIR"

  2. I agree. I was diagnosed with dyslexia as a kid. I struggled to learn to read and was behind my classmates my first few years in primary school. By the time I graduated high school I scored in the top 97% in reading and comprehension on standardized testing for my school.

    I still can't spell very good. Mostly I will keep writing a word until it "looks right".

    I read much faster than most people I know.

    It's because I read by recognizing the word as a symbol, like you say.

    I can read a whole book and not be able to tell you the characters names because I never learned the verbal said name. Only the "symbol" for the characters.

    I think dyslexics just have to learn language a little differently.