Dyslexia In The Kannada Language

I was lucky to have the opportunity to collaborate with two colleagues, S. Ramaa (whose Ph.D. I had examined) and M. S. Lalithamma. Kannada is a Dravidian language spoken in some parts of India. We were particularly interested to discover if the manifestations of dyslexia were basically the same in a part of the world where there was a different writing system and where English was not the child's first language (note 15.9).

For full details of what we did the reader is referred to Ramaa et al. (1993). In brief, some 550 children in schools within a radius of 50 miles from Mysore were tested on 10 different tasks. As examples we may cite visual discrimination, auditory discrimination, recall of auditorily presented digits and sound blending. We specified a number of what we called 'basic exclusionary criteria', for example no children were included unless they were at least eight years old and had been attending school regularly. We ended up with 14 normal readers, 14 children believed to be dyslexic and 14 poor readers believed not to be dyslexic. The non-dyslexic poor readers were picked out partly because their reading retardation was less severe and, more importantly, because they were adjudged to have acquired certain basic skills in decoding and blending. To qualify as a dyslexic the child's retardation had to be more severe; they lacked these basic skills, and it was specified that they had to be receiving help at home, which meant that they were retarded despite this help.

Ten different tasks were set. Details will be found in the original paper, and I will limit myself to a discussion and description of four of them. They were:

1. An auditory discrimination test in which word pairs were presented auditorily, one member of the pair being confusable with the other, for instance ippattu (twenty) and eppattu (seventy). Each child was shown pictures of all the objects in advance and helped with naming them if this was necessary. Seventeen 'picture pairs' were used in various combinations. After the pair of sounds had been presented, the child was asked to point to the correct member of each 'picture pair'. The maximum possible score for this test was 17 X 4, that is 68.

2. A visual discrimination test, in which the child was presented with a card containing four, five or six items, only two of which were the same shape. The child was required to point to the two items having the same shape. Thirty cards were used, and one point was awarded for each correct response.

3. A recall-of digits test in which between two and eight digits were presented auditorily at the rate of two per second. The maximum possible score was 28.

4. A word analysis test in which single words are presented auditorily and the child is asked to analyse them into their component sounds. The maximum possible score was 33. The results are set out in Table 15.6.

On tests of visual and auditory discrimination there were no differences between the three groups. This is not surprising, given that the tasks did not involve naming or any kind of phonological skill. There were differences, however, between dyslexics and normal readers in their ability to recall auditorily presented digits and at breaking words into their components, and in the latter task the dyslexics also differed from the non-dyslexic poor readers. (For confidence levels see note 15.10.)

Table 15.6. Comparison of dyslexics, non-dyslexic poor readers and normal achievers on four different tasks, with standard deviations in brackets



Non-dyslexic poor readers

Normal readers

Visual discrimination

28.85 ± 7.18

20.07 ± 1.07

28.85 ± 1.17

Auditory discrimination

63.00 ± 3.64

63.93 ± 2.65

65.43 ± 4.64

Recall of digits

15.78 ± 1.48

18.07 ± 2.35

21.64 ± 5.27

Sound blending

21.35 ± 6.78

27.00 ± 4.15

29.64 ± 3.22

Adapted from Ramaa et al. (1993)

Adapted from Ramaa et al. (1993)

This study is one of the few, other than those reported in Chapter 20 of this book, where a distinction is drawn between dyslexics and those who are poor readers for other reasons, and it is interesting that on some of the tests the differences in score between these two groups were statistically significant. Our results also suggest that the manifestations of dyslexia are not basically different in Mysore from what they are in Britain. Our data are compatible with the thesis that dyslexia is a worldwide phenomenon which presents itself in much the same way in different parts of the world.

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