ERIC Identifier: ED385095
Publication Date: 1995-08-00
Author: Frost, Julie A. - Emery, Michael J.
Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education Reston VA.
Academic Interventions for Children with Dyslexia Who Have
Phonological Core Deficits. ERIC Digest E539.
Approximately 3% to 6% of all school-aged children are believed to have
developmental reading disabilities, or dyslexia. In fact, almost 50% of children
receiving special education have learning disabilities, and dyslexia is the most
prevalent form. Consequently dyslexia has been given considerable attention by
researchers and extensive literature exists on instruction and remediation
Dyslexia is a neurocognitive deficit that is specifically related to the
reading and spelling processes. Typically, children classified as dyslexic are
reported to be bright and capable in other intellectual domains. Current
research indicates that the vast majority of children with dyslexia have
phonological core deficits. The severity of the phonological deficits varies
across individuals, and children with these deficits have been shown to make
significantly less progress in basic word reading skills compared to children
with equivalent IQs. For example, some experts report that between ages 9 and
19, children with dyslexia who have phonological deficits improve slightly more
than one grade level in reading, while other children with learning disabilities
(LD) in the same classroom improve about six grade levels. Without direct
instruction in phonemic awareness and sound-symbol correspondences, these
children generally fail to attain adequate reading levels.
Phonological core deficits entail difficulty
making use of phonological information when processing written and oral
language. The major components of phonological deficits involve phonemic
awareness, sound-symbol relations, and storage and retrieval of phonological
information in memory. Problems with phonemic awareness are most prevalent and
can coexist with difficulties in storage and retrieval among children with
dyslexia who have phonological deficits.
Phonemic awareness refers to one's understanding of and access to the sound
structure of language. For example, children with dyslexia have difficulty
segmenting words into individual syllables or phonemes and have trouble blending
speech sounds into words.
Storage of phonological information during reading involves creating a
sound-based representation of written words in working memory. Deficits in the
storage of phonological information result in faulty representations in memory
that lead to inaccurate applications of sound rules during reading tasks.
Retrieval of phonological information from long-term memory refers to how the
child remembers pronunciations of letters, word segments, or entire words.
Children with dyslexia may have difficulty in this area, which leads to slow and
inaccurate recall of phonological codes from memory.
CLASSIFICATION AND IDENTIFICATION
classification criteria for developmental dyslexia have been vague and,
consequently, open to interpretation. For example, according to the "Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders," revised 3rd edition (DSM-III-R),
developmental reading disorder (dyslexia) may be diagnosed if reading
achievement is "markedly below" expected level; interferes with academic
achievement or daily living skills; and is not due to a defect in vision,
hearing, or a neurological disorder. Because of such imprecise guidelines,
educators and clinicians use a wide variety of criteria when defining dyslexia.
School psychologists classify children based on federal and state learning
disability placement criteria. The federal guidelines for LD placement are as
1. Disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes (memory,
auditory perception, visual perception, oral language, and thinking).
2. Difficulty in learning (speaking, listening, writing, reading, and
3. Problem is not primarily due to other causes (visual or hearing
impairment, motor disabilities, mental retardation, emotional disturbance, or
economic environment or cultural disadvantage).
4. Severe discrepancy between apparent potential and actual achievement.
While the federal guidelines are more specific than the DSM-III-R criteria,
they are still rather nonspecific. Consequently, eligibility criteria for LD
services for reading disabilities vary from state to state.
Fortunately, there is some general agreement among educators, clinicians, and
researchers in terms of identifying phonological deficits in children with
dyslexia. Phonological processing impairment is generally identified by
significantly impaired performance (generally, a standard score less than 85) on
phonological processing tasks. The following include some assessment measures
that may be used to identify these phonological core deficits:
Achievement Tests - Reading
Oral Reading Tests, 3rd Ed.
SB-4-Memory for Sentences
Verbal Selective Reminding Test
Rapid Automatized Naming Test
Boston Naming Test
Test of Awareness of Language Segments (TALS)
Test of Auditory Analysis Skills (TAAS)
Lindamood Auditory Conceptualization Test
Decoding Skills Test
Teach metacognitive strategies. Teach children similarities and differences
between speech sounds and visual patterns across words.
Provide direct instruction in language analysis and the alphabetic code. Give
explicit instruction in segmenting and blending speech sounds. Teach children to
process progressively larger chunks of words.
Use techniques that make phonemes more concrete. For example, phonemes and
syllables can be represented with blocks where children can be taught how to
add, omit, substitute, and rearrange phonemes in words.
Make the usefulness of metacognitive skills explicit in reading. Have children
practice them. Try modeling skills in various reading contexts. Review previous
reading lessons and relate to current lessons.
Discuss the specific purposes and goals of each reading lesson. Teach children
how metacognitive skills should be applied.
Provide regular practice with reading materials that are contextually
meaningful. Include many words that children can decode. Using books that
contain many words children cannot decode may lead to frustration and guessing,
which is counterproductive.
Teach for automaticity. As basic decoding skills are mastered, regularly expose
children to decodable words so that these words become automatically accessible.
As a core sight vocabulary is acquired, expose children to more irregular words
to increase reading accuracy. Reading-while-listening and repeated reading are
useful techniques for developing fluency.
Teach for comprehension. Try introducing conceptually important vocabulary prior
to initial reading and have children retell the story and answer questions
regarding implicit and explicit content. Teach children the main components of
most stories (i.e., character, setting, etc.) and how to identify and use these
components to help them remember the story.
Teach reading and spelling in conjunction. Teach children the relationship
between spelling and reading and how to correctly spell the words they read.
Provide positive explicit and corrective feedback. Reinforce attempts as well as
successes. Direct instruction and teacher-child interactions should be
RESOURCES FOR TEACHERS
Adams, M. J. (1990). Beginning
reading instruction in the United States. ERIC Digest. Reston, VA: ERIC
Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted Education. ED 321 250
Bradey, S., & Shankweller, D. (Eds.) (1991). Phonological processes in
literacy. Mahwah NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Lyon, G. R., Gray, D. B., Kavanagh, J. F., & Krasnegor, N. A. (Eds.)
(1995). Better understanding learning disabilities: New views from research and
their implications for education and public policies. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes
Stahl, S. A. (1990). Beginning to read: Thinking and learning about print: A
summary. Cambridge, MA: University of Illinois Center for the Study of Reading.
ED 315 740
Wong, B. Y. L. (1991). Learning about learning disabilities. San Diego:
Division for Learning Disabilities (DLD), The Council for Exceptional
Children, 1920 Association Drive, Reston, VA 22091 703/620-3660
Learning Disabilities Association (LDA), 4156 Library Road, Pittsburgh, PA
National Adult Literacy & Learning Disabilities (ALLD) Center, Academy
for Educational Development, 1875 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009
National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) , 99 Park Avenue, 6th Floor,
New York, NY 10016 212/687-7211
Orton Dyslexia Society, 724 York Road, Baltimore, MD 21204 800/222-3123
Digests published by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Disabilities and Gifted
Education are available for downloading or online reading on the AskERIC Virtual
The following Internet sites provide additional information on students with
Rehabilitation Resource Center
disability information exchange
to: [email protected]
issues in special education;
to: [email protected]
education students list
to: [email protected]
From Frost, J. A., & Emery, M. J. (1995). Academic interventions for
dyslexic children with phonological core deficits: Handout for teachers.
Communique, 23(6). National Association of School Psychologists, Silver Spring,
MD. Adapted by permission.