Identifying characteristics of reading disabled students through visual, cognitive and perceptual evaluative testing

Diana Lynn Workman-Tyndall, Tennessee State University


Visual, cognitive, and perceptual analysis of the processing speed and effects of visual distractors were used to identify characteristics differences between the 'reading disabled' population and students with normal reading ability. A total of eighty-four students, ages 7-16, from the Kentucky's Warren County school system volunteered to participate in the study through responses to newspaper advertisements and teacher referrals. Seventy-one subjects completed the test protocol and were targeted as the medium from which to obtain statistical analyses. Eleven multifaceted protocol tests examined a variety of visual, cognitive, and perceptual processing abilities including acuity, contrast sensitivity, IQ, reading level, and a combination of speed of processing, divided attention, selective attention, and orientation of attention in a visual search paradigm. The majority of the research data gathered for this defined population of 'reading disabled' students was obtained by using a Visual Attention Analyzer. This particular apparatus was utilized to assess each subject's Useful Field of View (UFOV) in terms of the "percentage reduction (0-90%) of a maximum thirty-five degree radius field" (Ball, Owsley, & Beard, 1990; Ball, Roenker, & Bruni, 1990; Owsley, Ball, Sloane, Roenker, & Bruni, 1991) under varying speed, distractor, and eccentricity conditions. Additionally, 'weighted scores' and subsequent slope comparisons showed a decline in the processing ability of 'reading disabled' students when speed and cognitive complexity of assignments was a factor in visual tasks. Evidence of measurable characteristic differences of processing abilities and performance on visual localization tasks where distractors were present in the visual field was indicated by a greater impact of stimulus duration on the reading impaired individuals relative to normal readers when evaluated on the Visual Attention Analyzer. Discrepancy levels between IQ scores and reading performance scores, respectively, with unstable mean scores for subjects under the age of 9 and IQ scores below 100 were significantly different and indicated specific developmental parameters to be considered for early identification of 'reading disabled' students. Based on the results of this study, further investigation could be conducted to determine the effect of a visual training program designed to improve speed of processing skills using the Visual Attention Analyzer in two specific areas: (1) the possibility of improved speed of processing abilities for students and/or young adults and (2) the possibility of a carry over effect for improved processing abilities into other visual processing areas such as reading ability. Significant differences in speed of processing abilities and other characteristics of 'reading disabled' students relative to age matched peers were shown through various areas of the eleven item test protocol. Applied correctly, the comparisons, correlations, and analysis information contained within this project could be used to enhance the early detection and identification of reading deficits.

Subject Area

Literacy|Reading instruction|Psychology|Experiments|Special education|Educational evaluation

Recommended Citation

Diana Lynn Workman-Tyndall, "Identifying characteristics of reading disabled students through visual, cognitive and perceptual evaluative testing" (1996). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI9812073.