Novel word learning deficits in infants at family risk for dyslexia
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Kalashnikova, M, Goswami, U, Burnham, D. Novel word learning deficits in infants at family risk for dyslexia. Dyslexia. 2020; 26: 3– 17. https://doi.org/10.1002/dys.1649
Children of reading age diagnosed with dyslexia show deficits in reading and spelling skills, but early markers of later dyslexia are already present in infancy in auditory processing and phonological domains. Deficits in lexical development are not typically associated with dyslexia. Nevertheless, it is possible that early auditory/phonological deficits would have detrimental effects on the encoding and storage of novel lexical items. Word-learning difficulties have been demonstrated in school-aged dyslexic children using paired associate learning tasks, but earlier manifestations in infants who are at family risk for dyslexia have not been investigated. This study assessed novel word learning in 19-month-old infants at risk for dyslexia (by virtue of having one dyslexic parent) and infants not at risk for any developmental disorder. Infants completed a word-learning task that required them to map two novel words to their corresponding novel referents. Not at-risk infants showed increased looking time to the novel referents at test compared with at-risk infants. These findings demonstrate, for the first time, that at-risk infants show differences in novel word-learning (fast-mapping) tasks compared with not atrisk infants. Our findings have implications for the development and consolidation of early lexical and phonological skills in infants at family risk of later dyslexia.