Effects of working memory training on reading in children with special needs

Institution: Stockholm University

Title: Effects of working memory training on reading in children with special needs

Researcher(s): Karin I. E. Dahlin

Program: Cogmed RM

Published: Reading and Writing, May 2010

Funding: This study was supported by The Swedish Research Council


This study examined the efficacy of Cogmed training in improving reading comprehension development in 57 Swedish children with special needs.

Another aim of the study was to understand the relationship between working memory and reading achievement given the hypothesis that working memory problems can be a root cause of poor reading comprehension.

Because the researchers saw working memory deficits as a possible explanation for why certain children responded poorly to treatments designed to address reading problems, they hoped that by improving working memory through Cogmed training, these children would improve reading comprehension and academic performance.

The study showed specific improvements in reading comprehension and, as theorized, not in word decoding or orthographic verification tests. This localizes the improvements in the ability to retain information in mind while reading and confirms working memory’s essential role in reading comprehension. As is stated in the article, “This finding suggests that working memory training may facilitate reading comprehension processes directly, and not via improvements in word-level reading”.

The researchers concluded that “the training of working memory may be useful for children with reading comprehension problems, special-education needs, and attention problems”. The researchers also concluded that screening for working memory deficits would be valuable for identifying those at risk to struggle academically – and would also serve as an alternate to clinical diagnosis for identifying those who would benefit from working memory training.

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