How to tell the difference between dyslexia and other reading problems

Many researchers think there is a difference between dyslexia and other reading problems. One way to spot the difference is to use the Simple View.

Simple View of Reading

Listening Comprehension
HighSpecific language problemsThe reader
LowGarden VarietyDyslexia 
  1.  Specific language problems. High decoding, low language comprehension. Teach them vocabulary learning and grammatical skills, and general knowledge through reading or listening to stories and articles to deepen language knowledge.
  2. Dyslexia. High listening comprehension, low decoding. Strength is language – this is their creative side. Good vocabulary and general knowledge but can’t access this area because can’t decode. Teach them phonics and give lots of reading practice at the right difficulty level.
  3. Garden Variety. Low decoding, low language comprehension. They need the kind of help you would give to both of the other two kinds of struggling reader.

Simple View of Writing

Ideas for Writing
HighGood spelling but weak in ideasThe writer - good spelling and good ideas
LowGarden Variety - weak in spelling and ideasDyslexia - good ideas but weak in spelling
  1.  High spelling, low ideas. Teach them how to think of good ideas for writing. For example, to write a good story think of a problem facing the main character, a response to the problem, how the character tries to deal with the problem, and how the problem is resolved.
  2. High ideas, low spelling. Many dyslexic pupils have good ideas but you can’t read what they write because of their weak spelling. Teach them spelling rather than ideas.
  3. Low spelling, low ideas. These pupils need the kind of help that you would give to both of the other two kinds of struggling writer.

Summary: The Simple View can help the classroom teacher to decide which pupils are likely to be “dyslexic” readers and writers.

About the author:
Tom Nicholson is at Massey University Auckland, Co-Director of the Centre of Excellence for Research on Children’s Literacy (CERCL), and author of Phonics Handbook (Wiley, 2006).
Web page: 

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