Aravena, S. 1, 2 & Tijms, J. 1, 2
1 Department of Developmental Psychology, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
2 IWAL Institute, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
In alphabetic languages the acquisition of letter-speech sound associations is a critical step in becoming a proficient reader. A disrupted automation of these associations could be an important underlying factor in severe reading problems, such as developmental dyslexia. In the present study dyslexic (N=46) and non-dyslexic (N=45) readers engaged in a short training (20 minutes) aimed at learning eight basic letter-speech sound correspondences within an artificial orthography. After the training we assessed both letter knowledge and word reading ability in this unfamiliar script. In addition, we applied regression analyses to test how disrupted letter-speech sound mapping relates to other phonology-related deficiencies, such as poor phonological awareness and poor rapid naming skills, when it comes to predicting reading and spelling skills. The findings indicated that after the training the non-dyslexic readers outperformed the dyslexic readers on both letter-speech sound matching (accuracy and speed) and word reading ability in the artificial script, providing empirical support for the view that a letter-speech sound binding deficit is a key factor in dyslexia. Furthermore, hierarchical regression analyses indicated that differences in reading and spelling ability were significantly associated with all measures related to the artificial orthography. Moreover, these three measures contributed unique variance in predicting reading and spelling ability, even when variance due to phonological awareness and rapid automatized naming had been accounted for. The implications of this study will be discussed in the context of applying learning-oriented tools for the assessment of dyslexia.