Reading & Literacy Report Roundup

Signs of Dyslexia Emerge Before 1st Grade, Study Says

By Sarah D. Sparks — January 05, 2016 1 min read
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The academic gaps related to dyslexia can show up in verbal deficiencies years before children traditionally are expected to read, and can continue well into the teenage years, according to a study.

Dyslexia, a persistent difficulty in reading, is the most common learning disability, affecting about 1 in 5 school-age students.

For their research, which was published late last year in the Journal of Pediatrics, Sally and Bennett Shaywitz, the co-directors of the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, tracked a subsample of 414 participants from the Connecticut Longitudinal Study, a 33-year, ongoing study of the emergence and effects of reading disabilities.

The Shaywitzes found that students with dyslexia in 1st grade performed 1.5 standard deviations below typically developing readers, and those skills gaps remained at a full standard deviation in 12th grade. To put that in perspective: Students with dyslexia were still below a typical 1st grade reader’s skills in word identification and comprehension when they were in 2nd grade and were not decoding as well as a typical 1st grade reader in 3rd grade.

The researchers also identified signs of dyslexia even before children start school, including mispronouncing words, having difficulty learning the names of letters in the alphabet, or being unable to find an object that starts with a particular sound—for example, pointing to a ball when told “buh.”

“You can look for signs when the child has trouble learning common nursery rhymes,” Sally Shaywitz said in an interview. “In order to appreciate common rhymes, you have to be able to pull apart spoken words to their component sounds, and the child can’t do that.”

She said the study findings suggest that schools should consider screening students for potential reading difficulties even before they begin formal reading.

A version of this article appeared in the January 06, 2016 edition of Education Week as Signs of Dyslexia Emerge Before 1st Grade, Study Says


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