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Until the 1950s, developmental dyslexia was defined as a hereditary visual disability, selectively affecting reading without compromising oral or non-verbal reasoning skills. This changed radically after the development of the phonological theory of dyslexia; this not only ruled out any role for visual processing in its aetiology, but it also cast doubt on the use of discrepancy between reading and reasoning skills as a criterion for diagnosing it. Here I argue that this theory is set at too high a cognitive level to be explanatory; we need to understand the pathophysiological visual and auditory mechanisms that cause children's phonological problems. I discuss how the 'magnocellular theory' attempts to do this in terms of slowed and error prone temporal processing which leads to dyslexics' defective visual and auditory sequencing when attempting to read. I attempt to deal with the criticisms of this theory and show how it leads to a number of successful ways of helping dyslexic children to overcome their reading difficulties.

Original publication




Journal article


Brain Sci

Publication Date





Dyslexia, coloured filters, hearing, magnocellular neurons, music, omega 3s, phonology, reading, rhythm, sequencing, temporal processing, timing, transient, vision