- Delayed speech and other speech and language difficulties (Rose 2009 p32): This is a strong predictor of risk for subsequent reading
problems and should alert all parents, health and education
professionals that without careful and appropriate teaching
a young child may have difficulty becoming literate. ''In
fact, studies show that between 75 and 100 percent of children
with pre-school language delays have trouble with reading'' (Hall/Moats
p140) This disquieting news needs to be tempered by
the fact that, ''(D)yslexia' doesn't exist in several European
countries'' and, ''If language development really played a causal
role in learning to read one would expect to find the same
incidence of reading problems everywhere, because human language
is a biological trait''. (D.McGuinness.
LDLR p206) ''Overall, a broad range of studies from
variety of disciplines
show that no child, short of being deaf, mute, or grossly mentally disabled,
is prevented by a language delay or deficit from learning
'reading mechanics'' (D.McGuinness. LDLR
- 'Glue ear' or intermittent hearing loss (otitis media) :
The NHS estimates that eight out of every ten children between the
ages of four and ten suffer from undiagnosed glue ear.
If these children are also in receipt of faulty reading
instruction and work in a noisy classroom, they are in great danger of failing
to learn how to read. Because they are unable to hear
the individual sounds in spoken words clearly, they come to depend almost
solely on the visual aspects of text and picture clues
to read. An embedded visual reading
habit can be hard to shift when the child is older despite the hearing problems,
in most cases, having disappeared. Unfortunately, in order to read and spell competently using an Alphabet Code, children need to be adept at phonemic processing (able to hear, recognise and manipulate the code's phonemes),
linking phonemes rapidly to their spellings and vice versa.
Dr.Lindsay Peer says, ''My research with a sample group of one thousand young people shows that the number of dyslexic people with a history of ear infections and Otitis Media (OM) is significantly higher than in other groups of the population'' (Peer. Linking glue ear and dyslexia)
A summary of recent research demonstrating impact of even mild deafness on
''Unless the teacher’s voice is well above the ambient
sound in the classroom they will be unable to follow lessons. Lessons such as
phonics that rely on excellent listening skills will be extremely difficult.''
“To understand almost all speech that is intended for us, say the experts, the speech must be at least 15 decibels louder than other interfering sounds. Most classrooms exceed this level by 10 times'' (www.cllrnet.ca)
- Has a close relative with dyslexia or reading difficulties (Rose. 2009 p11&36,37): As literacy is not a biological trait it cannot be transmitted
genetically, but a familial trait can be transmitted culturally. ''Thus, contrary to what practitioners may sometimes suppose,
family relationship (familiarity) alone is not a reliable
indicator of genetic heritability'' (Rice/Brooks
p32)(Muter p3) The main cultural factors related to literacy acquisition are the transparency of a country's spelling code and the method used by its schools
to teach reading. In English-speaking countries where, every year, at least 20% of children leave school functionally illiterate, nearly everyone has a relative (or several) who failed to learn to read.
- Poor rhyming skills (Rose 2009 p32): *Soft sign. ''Sensitivity to rhyme has not been shown to be a strong predictor of reading skill'' (D.McGuinness. WCCR. p148)
- Poor sense of rhythm: *Soft sign
- Poor short-term (working) memory: *Soft sign. ''In a highly regarded
study conducted by Joseph Torgesen, a psychologist at the
University of Florida, out of 60 children with severe reading
difficulties, only eight had poor short-term memories, while
almost as many – seven – had very good short-term
- Missing out the crawling stage of learning to walk: *Soft
- Left-handed or inconsistent hand preference: *Soft
- Frequent use of letter reversals: *Soft sign
- Slow and inaccurate reading and spelling (Rose. 2009 p32) Inaccurate
word reading and spelling is rarely
seen in countries with transparent spelling codes e.g. Italy,
Spain, Germany and Finland. In fact it is so unusual to find
inaccurate readers in these countries that their tests only
measure reading speed and comprehension (RRF49 McGuinness. p19 & The Science of Reading. Philip Seymour p297)
In English-speaking countries, in schools using mixed methods, children with
excellent visual memories may
seem to take to reading easily and appear to read competently during their early primary
years but, if they are relying almost entirely on whole-word memorisation
and other visual strategies, reading ability is likely to stall at some point, commonly 7-9 yrs, sometimes later if they have good language comprehension -
Older students' reading problems -discusses the '4th grade slump' -is it a knowledge gap, a decoding gap, or both?
- Unable to remember common word sequences such as the months
of the year and the times tables. *Soft sign
- Problems with 'naming' and word finding / verbal processing speed (Rose. 2009 p32) *Soft sign. ''The
fact that RAN [rapid automatic naming tasks] using digits
and letters predict reading so much better than RAN colours
and objects do, means that naming speed per se is not a factor
in learning to read'' (D.McGuinness
LDLR p388) ''Naming objects and colours is a truer reflection of natural or biological based ability'' (D. McGuinness. WCCR p131) ''Rapid naming, phonological awareness, and
reading. A meta-analysis of the correlational evidence. The
results suggested that the importance of RAN and PA measures
in accounting for reading performance has been overstated'' (Swanson/Trainin/Necoechea/Hammill.
Review of Educational Research.73. 2003)
- Organisational difficulties. *Soft sign. Many excellent readers have poor organisational skills.
- ''Visual stress'' (Rose 2009. p115) *Soft sign. ''There are a lot of abnormalities
of the eyes that normal readers have as well, so tinted lenses
and overlays have no foundation as a bona fide treatment for
reading problems in any research that I'm aware of'' (Vellutino quote in Mills. The
''Teams from Bristol and Newcastle universities
carried out eye tests on more than 5,800 children and did not find any
differences in the vision of those with dyslexia''
The Role of Vision in Reading
- Immature social skills. *Soft sign
- Reluctance to attend school; 'disaffection and disengagement from education' (Rose 2009 p38)
- Low self-image
- Anxiety when asked to read aloud
* All descriptions of 'dyslexia' include many 'soft' signs i.e. they are not based on data that is readily
quantifiable or amenable to experimental verification. Soft signs ''are found in some people without learning problems
and absent in others who experience learning difficulties'' (Rice/Brooks p22) Furthermore, ''Soft signs are not additive in the traditional sense: ''the presence of more than one soft sign does not make a hard sign''(Encyclopedia of Special Education.Vol 3 p1887)
Common Co-occurring Difficulties:
- Lack of concentration / disruptive behaviour / Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), BUT frustration,
stress and boredom can also cause or increase an inability
to attend. ''When children are highly distractible, overly
disruptive and unable to stay 'on task', this usually means
they can't do the task'' (D. McGuinness.
WCCR. p188) "Hospitals are complaining that their
clinics are being filled with kids who are being referred
for things like Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder,"
said Dr Rowe, who was last week appointed by the federal Education
Minister to run the inquiry. "But once the pediatricians
sort out the children's literacy problems, the behaviour problems
disappear. What is essentially an education issue has become
a health issue.” (Milburn.Children
in crisis:The real diagnosis)
In her chapter in Fisher and Greenberg's The Limits of Biological Treatments for Psychological Distress, Prof. Diane McGuinness refers to ADHD as "the emperor's new clothes." She observes, "It is currently fashionable to treat approximately one third of all elementary school boys as an abnormal population because they are fidgety, inattentive, and unamenable to adult control." She concludes that, "(T)wo decades of research have not provided any support for the validity of ADD" or hyperactivity. Neither clinical studies nor psychological testing has been able to identify such a group''. The problem, according to McGuinness, is how to get professionals to give up such a vested interest in the use of this powerful label''.
Recommended reading: Book 'When Children Don't Learn'
Diane McGuinness. Ch9. Hyperactivity: a diagnosis in search of a patient.
Psychiatric fads, overdiagnosis, and 'epidemics'
- Auditory Processing Disorder (APD): Where commercial and clinical interests collide: ''Given the lack of agreement on diagnostic criteria and lack of recognition in formal guidelines, it’s impossible to find sensible epidemiological data on APD''
- Developmental Coordination Disorder (dyspraxia / clumsy-child syndrome): severe difficulties with
gross and/or fine motor skills such as handwriting or learning
to ride a bicycle (see 'Exercises for
Dyspraxics' page). ''There's really no evidence that
improving co-ordination is going to make it easier for you
to learn to read. (Prof. Bishop quote in Mills. The
Professor of Psychology, Dr.Galen Alessi, asked 50 school
psychologists to list the causes of the learning difficulties
of about 5,000 students. According to the psychologists, zero
percent of the 5,000 students’ problems were the result of bad
teaching, while 100% were the fault of the students.
Important: In all cases of literacy difficulty, vision and hearing must be thoroughly checked.
It is possible that an auditory or visual weakness may be
causing the problems or be adding to them. Many children have
mild visual impairments or unstable eye control.