Addressing dyslexia early helps close achievement gap between dyslexic and typical readers

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A large achievement gap between dyslexic and typical readers is already present at first grade and persists throughout school; therefore, it is critical to identify and provide effective interventions at the start of school, according to a report by the University of California-Davis and Yale School of Medicine.

The study is published online in the Journal of Pediatrics and in the Nov. 2015 print issue.

According to the researchers, it is no longer acceptable to wait until a child is in third grade or later before making efforts to identify or address dyslexia.

"These new data represent a paradigm shift in how dyslexia has been perceived up to now, with current emphasis often on reading by grade three," said senior author Sally Shaywitz, M.D., the Audrey G. Ratner Professor of Pediatrics (Neurology) and Professor in the Yale Child Study Center "We now know that the achievement gap between typical and dyslexic readers is already present and large at first grade. Developmentally, we know that reading growth is greatest in the very first years of school. This mandates that the screening and identification of children with dyslexia occur early, even prior to first grade."

Lead author Emilio Ferrer, professor of psychology at UC-Davis added, "If the persistent achievement gap between dyslexic and typical readers is to be narrowed, or even closed, reading interventions must be implemented early, when children are still developing the basic foundation for reading acquisition."

Ferrer and his Yale colleagues, Bennett and Sally Shaywitz, who lead the Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity, conducted a longitudinal study of reading from first grade to 12th grade and beyond. The team found that as early as first grade, compared with typical readers, dyslexic readers had lower reading scores and that their trajectories over time never converge with those of typical readers.

"These data demonstrate that such differences are not so much a function of increasing disparities over time, but instead reflect marked differences already present in first grade between typical and dyslexic readers," the authors write.

Implementing screening and effective reading programs as early as kindergarten or even preschool offers the potential to close the achievement gap, the researchers conclude.

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