Authors: Snowling, Margaret J.
Publication: Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs (Wiley). vol. 13 (1): 7-14, January 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-3802.2012.01262.x
This paper reviews current proposals concerning the definition of dyslexia and contrasts it with reading comprehension impairment. We then discuss methods for early identification and review evidence that teacher assessments and ratings may be valid screening tools. Finally, we argue that interventions should be theoretically motivated and evidence based. We conclude that early identification of children at risk of dyslexia followed by the implementation of intervention is a realistic aim for practitioners and policy‐makers.
Following the recommendation of Rose (2006), many primary schools in England implemented a systematic phonics approach to the teaching of reading. A large body of evidence suggests that such an approach is very effective for teaching children to read (National Reading Panel, 2000; Brooks et al., 2006). It follows that children who are finding reading difficult despite this quality approach are likely to be at risk of dyslexia.
Using school records, our criterion for ‘dyslexia risk status’ was taken to be ‘not secure in phonic phase 2 at the end of the fourth term in school’. Phonic phase 2 requires the child to be able to provide the sound when shown any grapheme that has been taught – particularly being secure with the sounds of s, a, t, p, i and n; to select the correct grapheme to represent any of the 19 phonemes taught in this phase; and to blend and to segment CVC and VC words. Based on these criteria, 16.4% of the school population was assessed as ‘behind expectation’ in phonic skills.
However, a further question we wanted to address was whether these children could be described as dyslexic?
We proceeded to ask whether the group of children identified as ‘at risk’ showed the core characteristics of dyslexia – poor phonological awareness, poor verbal memory and slow verbal processing speed. This was indeed the case, and on tests of phoneme deletion, verbal working memory and rapid automatised naming, the children we identified showed impairments relative to their peers.