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Neuroscience - Pediatrics and Child Health - Public Health and Epidemiology

The Submerged Dyslexia Iceberg: How Many School Children Are Not Diagnosed? Results from an Italian Study
Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Author: Chiara Barbiero et al.

by Chiara Barbiero, Isabella Lonciari, Marcella Montico, Lorenzo Monasta, Roberta Penge, Claudio Vio, Patrizio Emanuele Tressoldi, Valentina Ferluga, Anna Bigoni, Alessia Tullio, Marco Carrozzi, Luca Ronfani, CENDi (National Committee on the Epidemiology of Dyslexia) working group , and for the Epidemiology of Dyslexia of Friuli Venezia Giulia working group (FVGwg)


Although dyslexia is one of the most common neurobehavioral disorders affecting children, prevalence is uncertain and available data are scanty and dated. The objective of this study is to evaluate the prevalence of dyslexia in an unselected school population using clearly defined and rigorous diagnostic criteria and methods.


Cross sectional study. We selected a random cluster sample of 94 fourth grade elementary school classes of Friuli Venezia Giulia, a Region of North Eastern Italy. We carried out three consecutive levels of screening: the first two at school and the last at the Neuropsychiatry Unit of a third level Mother and Child Hospital. The main outcome measure was the prevalence of dyslexia, defined as the number of children positive to the third level of screening divided by the total number of children enrolled.


We recruited 1774 children aged 8–10 years, of which 1528 received parents’ consent to participate. After applying exclusion criteria, 1357 pupils constituted the final working sample. The prevalence of dyslexia in the enrolled population ranged from 3.1% (95% CI 2.2–4.1%) to 3.2% (95% CI 2.4–4.3%) depending on different criteria adopted. In two out of three children with dyslexia the disorder had not been previously diagnosed.


This study shows that dyslexia is largely underestimated in Italy and underlines the need for reliable information on prevalence, in order to better allocate resources both to Health Services and Schools.