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Maureen Kennedy Powers, Gary L. Miner, Katherine Sander; Comparison of visual skills training and reading skills training for reading improvement in students reading below grade level. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2016;57(12):1504. doi: https://doi.org/.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Controvery still exists over whether training visual skills such as tracking and vergence can improve reading outcomes, especially when compared to ordinary practices for teaching reading. This study directly compared changes in reading outcomes when poor readers used either an intervention designed to improve visual skills such as convergence and tracking, or an intervention designed to improve reading skills such as fluency and comprehension.
Students in 4th and 5th grade at a public elementary school in Rodeo, CA, identified by the Reading Specialist (KS) as reading below grade level with no specific diagnosis, were invited to participate. Subjects attended 30 online computer sessions in the library after school; they received either a visual skills intervention (tracking, vergence, accommodative facility, N=8) or reading skills intervention (tracking, guided reading, comprehension, N=8) 20 minutes per day. S's completing fewer than 10 sessions served as no-intervention comparison group (N=8). Binocular skills (convergence near point, blur at near, tracking (DEM), symptoms (CISS)) and reading efficiency (Visagraph) were measured before and after interventions. KS provided scores on school reading fluency tests (Dibels). Results of before-after scores were evaluated using analysis of variance and t-tests.
All students who participated experienced discomfort while reading before the intervention (CISS average score = 20.5), and had at least one vision variable that was outside “normal” clinical ranges. Students who practiced visual skills gained 0.7 Dibels DAZE category (e.g., from Well Below Basic to Below Basic, or from Below Basic to At or Above Basic) compared to 0.1 category for reading skills and no intervention (p<.01). Visagraph results showed an average of 3.5 grade level improvement following vision training, compared to 1.0 for reading training (p<.01). Words per minute read (with comprehension): average gain 44 for vision and 4 for reading.
This small study, using students who struggle to read and have problems with binocular coordination, suggests that a better strategy for improving reading outcomes in such students may be to train visual skills rather than reading skills, at least until basic reading levels are attained.
This is an abstract that was submitted for the 2016 ARVO Annual Meeting, held in Seattle, Wash., May 1-5, 2016.
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