Michael Waterman





Identifying Reading Difficulties

I often have parents discuss with me their confusion regarding the diagnosis of a Specific Learning Disorder. One issue of potential misunderstanding is that Reading Difficulties are often referred to by alternative terms. Secondly, there is often confusion regarding what defines disordered reading levels from a child with some reading difficulties.

Firstly, a Specific Learning Disorder (With impairment in Reading) is sometimes referred to as Dyslexia. A key component of the diagnosis is that the learning difficulties are unexpected in that other aspects of your child’s development appear within normal range. More specifically, a child’s reading and/or spelling ability is substantially lower than their peer age-group for a diagnosis of Specific Learning Disorder. If your child suffers from this disorder they are likely to have significant difficulty with word reading accuracy, reading rate or fluency (appear to struggle to get their words out) or reading comprehension (understanding what they have read). Furthermore, they may struggle to spell words accurately and may have a tendency to spell words as they sound rather than understanding the spelling rules such as spelling right as rite. Alternatively, they may also have difficulty with decoding skills such as understanding how to reproduce familiar and unfamiliar words. This often leads to your child having difficulties with reading accuracy.

There are a number of ways we can assist a child with a Specific Learning Disorder (With impairment in reading) depending on their age and readings ability. For instance, if your child has difficulties with reading fluency this is likely to interfere with their ability to understand what they are reading. In other words, your child is likely to be so tired from just reading the paragraph they will be unlikely to retain what they have read. In this instance a useful recommendation can be to encourage your child to re-read the book, the first read through is to work out the actual words, the second read through is for understanding the story. Alternatively, if your child suffers from reading accuracy a number of accommodations could be instigated. For example, the teacher can save your child the ordeal of having to ‘read aloud in class’. Ensure reading is reserved for a quiet time with the class teacher. Secondly, your child will require more time to read questions and answers when completing assignments or tests.

Lastly, a psychoeducational assessment can assist you understand your child’s reading ability and provide recommendations to assist them fulfil their reading potential.