Converging evidence for attentional influences on the orthographic word form in child dyslexics

Jennifer B. Thomson, Belle Chenault, Robert D. Abbott, Wendy H. Raskind, Todd Richards, Elizabeth Aylward, Virginia W. Berninger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Initial confirmatory factor analyses showed that parental ratings of 209 children and youth with dyslexia in a family genetics study loaded onto factors for Inattention (Self-Regulation of Covert Attention based on two indicators - Focused and Goal-Directed Attention) and Hyperactivity (Overt Behavior based on two indicators - Motor Control and Inhibition); neither indicator is correlated with age. Structural equation modeling then evaluated a multi-level neural architecture with Covert Attention and Overt Behavior at one level, Word-Level Language Processes (Orthographic, Phonological, and Rapid Automatic Naming) at a second level, and Reading and Writing Achievement at a third level. Covert Attention, but not Overt Behavior, was significantly related to factors for orthographic coding of written words and rapid naming of orthographic stimuli, but not to the phonological coding factor for aural words. These orthographic, rapid naming, and phonological factors had significant paths to reading and writing outcomes, but the Covert Attention factor had links to reading and writing outcomes only through the mediating orthographic and rapid naming factors. Treatment and brain imaging studies provided converging evidence that attention may exert greater effects on orthographic word form than phonological word form. The neurolinguistic significance for a complex brain system, modeled at different levels of analysis, is that non-language processes such as attention may exert distal influences even though language exerts direct proximal influences on reading and writing outcomes; this claim is supported by recent physiological findings about the role of fast visual system as an attention gating mechanism in processing letter sequences. The educational significance is that instruction should direct dyslexic's attention to the orthographic units within written words to facilitate the translating of orthographic into phonological word forms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-126
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Neurolinguistics
Issue number2 SPEC. ISS.
StatePublished - Mar 2005
Externally publishedYes



  • Neurolinguistic
  • Phonological word
  • Rapid naming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience

Cite this

Thomson, J. B., Chenault, B., Abbott, R. D., Raskind, W. H., Richards, T., Aylward, E., & Berninger, V. W. (2005). Converging evidence for attentional influences on the orthographic word form in child dyslexics. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 18(2 SPEC. ISS.), 93-126.