Researchers have identified three kinds of developmental reading disabilities that often overlap but that can be separate and distinct. These include phonological deficit, processing speed deficit, and comprehension deficit.
What are characteristics of a reading disability?
There are three kinds of reading disabilities that often overlap. These include:
Phonological deficit, implicating a core problem in the phonological processing system of oral language.
Processing speed/orthographic processing deficit, affecting speed and accuracy of printed word recognition (also called naming speed problem or fluency problem).
Comprehension deficit, often coinciding with the first two types of problems, but specifically found in children with social-linguistic disabilities (e.g., autism spectrum), vocabulary weaknesses, generalized language learning disorders, and learning difficulties that affect abstract reasoning and logical thinking.
For purposes of research, children with reading disability may be all those who score below the 30th percentile in basic reading skill. Among all of those poor readers, about 70-80 percent have trouble with accurate and fluent word recognition that originates with weaknesses in phonological processing, often in combination with fluency and comprehension problems. These students have obvious trouble learning sound-symbol correspondence, sounding out words, and spelling. The term dyslexic is most often applied to this group.
Another 10-15 percent of poor readers appear to be accurate but too slow in word recognition and text reading. They have specific weaknesses with speed of word recognition and automatic recall of word spellings, although they do relatively well on tests of phoneme awareness and other phonological skills. They have trouble developing automatic recognition of words by sight and tend to spell phonetically but not accurately. This processing speed/orthographic subgroup generally has milder difficulties with reading than students with phonological processing deficits.
Yet another 10-15 percent of poor readers appear to decode words better than they can comprehend the meanings of passages. These poor readers are distinguished from dyslexic poor readers because they can read words accurately and quickly and they can spell. Their problems are caused by disorders of social reasoning, abstract verbal reasoning, or language comprehension.
What is phonological awareness?
Phonological awareness consists of skills that typically develop gradually and sequentially through the late preschool period. They are developed with direct training and exposure. Phonological awareness is a key component of learning to read. Children typically gain phonological awareness skills around age four.
Common phonological awareness skills include:
- Awareness of sounds in a language
- Ability to talk about, reflect upon, and manipulate sounds
- Understanding the relationship between written and spoken language
- Detecting rhyme and alliteration (use of similar consonants)
- Identifying rhymes and words that start/end with the same sounds
- Awareness that sentences can be broken down into words, syllables, and sounds
- Segmenting words into smaller units, such as syllables and sounds, by counting them
- Understanding that words are made up of sounds represented by symbols or letters
- Manipulating sounds in words by adding, deleting, or substituting
- Blending separated sounds into words
How do I know if my child has a reading disability?
A reading disability is diagnosed or ruled out through a series of assessment tools that look at a range of reading skills. Because phonological awareness skills form the foundation of reading, these skills are included in the assessment process. A certified speech-language pathologist is able to conduct this series of assessment tools to help determine how to best meet your child’s needs.
How can reading therapy help?
CSLOT’s multi-tiered reading therapy program addresses both the neurological underpinnings of reading as well other foundational aspects of reading such as sound identification, speed, and fluency. Reading therapy can help your child move toward reading at or above grade-level.