TAU Researchers Identify Dyslexia in Sign Language

Groundbreaking finding can help deaf people overcome reading disorders early on
08 June 2021

MiLa Center doctoral candidate Doron Levy. Photo: Yoram Reshef

Common reading disorders also affect deaf people who “read” sign language. This groundbreaking finding was made by Prof. Naama Friedmann, academic director of the MiLa Center – the Cukier, Goldstein-Goren Center for Mind and Language at Tel Aviv University. The research was conducted in cooperation with PhD candidate Doron Levy whose mother tongue is sign language—and serves as a basis for new diagnostic tools and interventions.


Signers of Israeli Sign Language use finger-spelling to convey names of people, places or brand names that do not have a designated sign. The TAU researchers discovered letter-position dyslexia among some deaf signers, a deficit that causes confusion in the order of letters both in written words and in finger-spelled words. The team also developed the world’s first tool for diagnosing the disorder. Together with PhD candidate Neta Haluts, they are developing additional tests to diagnose other common disorders among users of Israeli Sign Language.


Levy, the only deaf student currently pursuing a PhD at TAU, is the former Chairman of the Association of the Deaf in Israel. “Until now assessment tools for reading disorders in sign language have been lacking,” he says. “This research is vital for identifying problems early on and designing better treatments. It could also shed light on how our mind reads and interprets language.”


In addition to her role at the MiLa Center, Friedmann is a researcher at TAU’s Constantiner School of Education and Sagol School of Neuroscience.


The MiLa Center was established in 2018 through the generosity of the Cukier, Goldstein-Goren Foundation, a longstanding supporter of TAU.





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