[PS-1.12] When adult dyslexics perform better: Evidence from comprehension and vocabulary tasks

W. El-Haddad, R. 1, 2 , P. Hadjisolomou, S. 1, 2 & A. Kacinik, N. 1, 2

1 The Graduate Center, City University of New York
2 Brooklyn College, City University of New York

We predicted that adult dyslexics would perform worse than controls in spelling, phonological awareness, and various reading tasks. Similar performance to controls was expected on tasks that do not involve the activation of phonological representations. We recruited 17 dyslexics and 23 controls from New York City public and private colleges and from online forum posts. Our sample consisted of bilinguals/multilinguals and native English speakers in both groups. Socioeconomic status varied, but all participants had completed at least some higher education beyond high school. Taken together, our sample was diverse. Participants were individually tested on spelling, phonological awareness and reading tasks in one session lasting approximately 2-3 hours. In line with previous research, dyslexics performed worse than controls in single-word reading, spelling, nonword reading, and Spoonerisms (a phonological awareness task). Dyslexics also performed similarly to controls in semantic fluency (listing words belonging to the same category) and non-verbal ability (WAIS Block Design) as these tasks do not explicitly activate phonological representations. Dyslexics unexpectedly exhibited similar performance to controls on Woodcock Johnson (WJ) Reading Fluency, a silent-reading and comprehension task, and WJ Reading Vocabulary. Even more surprising, the dyslexics performed better than controls on WJ Passage Comprehension, and WAIS Vocabulary. These results of comparable or superior performance on reading comprehension and vocabulary tasks could be explained by the higher socioeconomic status and increased education of the dyslexic group. Furthermore, dyslexics may have acquired compensatory strategies over time through accommodations or self-education. Despite this compensation in comprehension and vocabulary tasks, dyslexic adults clearly still struggle with single-word reading and spelling and show a gap in achievement compared to controls.