IFLA WLIC preconference location:Tallinn date:7-9 August 2012
Many studies have investigated the visual, auditory and phonological processes behind print reading. “Developmental dyslexia” is the term used in the sighted population in case of reading failure despite remedial efforts, normal intelligence and motivation. Similarly to the sighted population, a proportion of individuals with visual impairment have specific braille reading difficulties which cannot be easily explained. Very few studies, however, have aimed for a deeper insight into the relevant perceptual and cognitive processes involved in braille reading, a writing system where visual processing is substituted by tactile processing. As the braille reading system is linguistically identical to classical print reading, models and findings from print reading research can be used for testing hypotheses about braille. The findings on braille reading, conversely, can contribute to understanding the process of reading in general.
In sighted individuals a pan-modal temporal processing deficit has been assumed to be causal to both the phonological and literacy problems observed in developmental dyslexia. It is hypothesized that a deficit in perceiving auditory temporal cues interferes with the accurate detection of rapid acoustical changes in speech, and consequently disrupts the development of adequate phonological representations. This general temporal processing deficit hypothesis was further supported by the discovery of decreased tactile sensitivity in individuals with dyslexia. Struggling braille readers have been reported to have difficulties with phonological awareness and tactile perception, domains that are also affected in sighted dyslexic readers.
Therefore, we have investigated the perceptual and cognitive underpinnings of braille reading in Estonian and Dutch speaking samples to determine the possible causes for reading difficulties observed in blind individuals.