UW News

July 1, 1998

Researchers looking for families with multiple dyslexics

Is there dyslexia in your family tree?

University of Washington researchers on a scientific genealogical hunt are looking for 100 families in the Puget Sound area that have a history of dyslexia. The families are needed as volunteers for a study funded by the National Institutes of Health that hopes to find a genetic marker for the early identification of children with dyslexia.

Dyslexia, a reading disorder, is the most common childhood disability, affecting 10 percent to 15 percent of all children, according to Ginger Berninger, professor of educational psychology and principal investigator of the UW’s Learning Disabilities Center.

To be eligible, families must have an elementary school age child with dyslexia. In addition, at least three people over three generations or five people in two generations must have dyslexia.

Participation in the study requires a one-time visit to the university, where families members will be given a series of tests evaluating each individual’s reading and writing. All participants will be given a written report on the test results. A small blood sample also will be drawn.

“Right now, the only way to identify children with dyslexia is to let them fail in school for several years,” says Berninger. “If we had a biological marker, such as a blood test, we might be able to identify young children at risk for reading and writing difficulties and begin interventions earlier than is now possible.”

Families interested in volunteering for the study or learning more details should contact Jennifer Thomson at (206) 616-6377 or thomsonj@u.washington.edu.
For more information, contact Berninger at (206) 616-6372 or vwb@u.washington.edu or Dr. Wendy Raskind, professor of medicine, at (206) 543-3177 or wendyrun@u.washington.edu.