Poor Short-term Memory: A Core Deficit in Dyslexia

One of the most reliable and often-quoted associated characteristics of developmental dyslexia is an inefficiency in short-term memory (STM).

A deficit in STM, together with rapid naming, has been mainly interpreted within the phonological core deficit hypothesis (Trecy, Steve & Martine, 2013; Elliott & Grigorenko, 2014). Verbal STM capacity, measured by digit span or non-word repetition tasks, is typically reduced in children with dyslexia (Snowling, Goulandris & Defty, 1996), and this reduction is still present in adults with a history of dyslexia (Majerus & Cowan, 2016).

Ramus and Szenkovits (2008), however, raised the question whether STM deficits in dyslexia are perhaps a basic impairment, rather than being accounted for by phonological processing difficulties.

In an attempt to answer this question, Trecy, Steve and Martine (2013) distinguished between item and order retention processes. While STM for item information has been shown to depend on the quality of underlying phonological representations, and hence should be impaired in dyslexia, STM for order information is considered to reflect core STM processes independent from language processing.

In their study 30 adults with dyslexia and 30 control participants were matched for age, education, vocabulary and IQ, and presented with STM tasks that distinguished item and order STM capacities. The researchers observed not only impaired order STM in adults with dyslexia, but this impairment was independent of item STM impairment.

This study shows that adults with dyslexia present a deficit in core verbal STM processes, a deficit which cannot be accounted for by the language processing difficulties that characterize dyslexia. These results support theoretical accounts considering independent order STM and item STM processes, with a potentially causal involvement of order STM processes in reading acquisition.

How Edublox can help

Edublox Online Tutor (EOT) houses a number of multisensory cognitive training programs that enable learners to overcome learning obstacles and reach their full potential.

EOT is founded on pedagogical research and 30+ years of experience demonstrating that weak underlying cognitive skills account for the majority of learning difficulties. Underlying cognitive skills include short-term memory. Specific cognitive exercises can strengthen these weaknesses leading to increased performance in reading, spelling, writing, math and learning.

In one research study Edublox improved short-term visual memory by 1.3 years in 5 days. In a recent, soon-to-be published research study, 64 2nd grade students at an inner-city school were divided into three groups: group 1 consisted of 22 students who did Edublox Online Tutor (Development Tutor) for 28 hours over a period of three weeks, while group 2 consisted of 21 who played computer games, and the rest continued with school. The Test of Auditory Processing Skills (TAPS-3) was used to assess short-term auditory memory of numbers, words and sentences, before and after the three-week period. Preliminary results show that the short-term auditory memory of the Edublox group (blue line) improved significantly:

In addition to cognitive training EOT offers reading and spelling help and is effective for a variety of learning difficulties including dyslexia.

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The whole Edublox system has helped Amy so much with reading and math, but it was hard for us to tell if it was helping her with this hidden, agonizing challenge. It certainly is! Continue Reading

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Elliott, J. G., & Grigorenko, E. L. (2014). The dyslexia debate. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Majerus, S., & Cowan, N. (2016). The nature of verbal short-term impairment in dyslexia: The importance of serial order. Frontiers in Psychology. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01522

Ramus, F., & Szenkovits, G. (2008). What phonological deficit? Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 61(1), 129-141.

Snowling, M. J., Goulandris, N., & Defty, N. (1996). A longitudinal study of reading development in dyslexic children. Journal of Educational Psychology, 88(4), 653-669.

Trecy, M. P., Steve, M., & Martine, P. (2013). Impaired short-term memory for order in adults with dyslexia. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 34(7), 2211-2223.