22 Mar

On-Site PhD conferral Giada Guerra

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. M. Bonte; Prof. Dr. F. Dick, Birkbeck University of London, UK

Co-supervisors: Dr. A. Tierney, Birkbeck University of London, UK; Dr. J. Tijms, University of Amsterdam

Key words: Auditory attention, reading, individual differences, letter-speech sound learning

"The contribution of auditory attention to reading processes of school-age children with and without dyslexia"

This thesis investigated factors that contribute to differences among children in their reading abilities, focusing in particular on the role of auditory attention. The first study looked at the effects of background speech on children reading and showed that auditory attention may be a protective factor against the harmful effects of background speech on reading comprehension. Second, by using EEG (electroencephalography), it was investigated whether children with dyslexia (reading disability) have auditory attentional deficits and whether they are linked to their ability to learn letter-speech sound associations, a critical process underlying the development of reading skills. No differences in attention were found, neither in the neural markers nor in the skills. However, children with dyslexia have some difficulties in learning letter-speech sound associations and in perceiving speech in noisy acoustic settings. This suggests that auditory attention may play a role in reading, supporting the development of critical skills underlying reading development. Finally, an explorative study suggested that children with dyslexia with better attentional skills may benefit more from interventions for dyslexia, however, follow-up studies are needed to explore further this possibility.

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