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Areas of learning

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  • 6 Key Points
  • ? The most common area of difficulty is in phoneme segmentation, the process by which an unfamiliar word is broken up by the brain into its component sounds.
  • ? There is general agreement that for most children with specific reading difficulty, a carefully structured linguistic (phonetic) scheme works best.
  • ? Parents can play a major role in augmenting their child’s reading programme.
  • ? There are now many ways of circumventing reading difficulties.

When the English tongue we speak Why is ‘break’ not rhymed with ‘freak’ Will you tell me why it’s true We say ‘sew’ but likewise ‘few’?

And the maker of a verse Cannot cap his ‘horse’ with ‘worse’ ‘Beard’ sounds not the same as ‘heard’, ‘Cord’ is different from ‘word’.

‘Cow’ is ‘cow’, but ‘low’ is ‘low’,

‘Shoe’ is never rhymed with ‘roe’.

Think of ‘hose’ and ‘dose’ and ‘lose’

And think of ‘goose’ and yet of ‘choose’. Think of ‘comb’ and ‘tomb’ and ‘bomb’, ‘Doll’ and ‘roll’, and ‘home’ and ‘come’. And since ‘pay’ is rhymed with ‘say’, Why not ‘paid’ with ‘said’, pray?

We have ‘blood’ and ‘food’ and ‘good’,

‘Mould’ is not pronounced like ‘could’.

Wherefore ‘done’, but ‘gone’ and ‘lone’

Is there any reason known?

And, in short, it seems to me,

Sounds and letters disagree!

Lord Cromer, 1902

Specific reading difficulty is the best known, and best studied, form of specific learning difficulty. This is the condition that many refer to as ‘dyslexia’.

We will define specific reading difficulty as a significant, unexplained delay in reading in a child of average, or above average, intelligence. A significant delay is usually defined as a reading level more than two standard deviations below the mean for the child’s age (see Chapter 1, p. 5 for the explanation of this term). Specific reading difficulty is, therefore, a form of specific learning difficulty where reading is the particular learning skill affected. Other forms of specific learning difficulty may also be present, particularly spelling, writing, and spoken language difficulties.

It should be noted that the diagnosis of specific reading difficulty is based on the degree of delay in reading, rather than on the particular type of errors that the child makes. Much has been made of certain characteristics of children’s reading, such as difficulty in distinguishing ‘b’ from ‘d’, reluctance to read aloud, a monotonous voice when reading, and a tendency to follow the text with the finger when reading. There is nothing diagnostic about these characteristics. They are seen in many children when they first start learning to read (and some are seen in adults when they learn to read a foreign language). The diagnosis of specific reading difficulty should only be made after a comprehensive assessment of intellectual and reading ability, and an exclusion of other causes of poor reading attainment (see Chapter 2).

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