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Two indicators of reading disabilities are children who have a positive family history and are late to talk. If one or both parents have a reading disability, children are nearly 50 percent more likely to also have a reading disability.

“But many children don’t have these signs, so it is vitally important to have early assessment as a part of preschool and kindergarten screenings,” she says. “We need to use a combination of tests to find children at the preschool and kindergarten levels,” including tests of phonological awareness such as sound deletion, and later reading tasks that will capture children’s ability to read words accurately and quickly. If one can identify these children in preschool or kindergarten, then it is possible to teach some of these phonological skills that are so important for early reading.

“In the final analysis, we may not be able to fix a reading problem so that it no longer exists, but with appropriate tools such as systematic phonological approaches to decoding, we can ameliorate these difficulties.”

And even if children don’t have an identified reading disability, some will need extra training to help develop their language skills, precluding their ability to “slide by until about middle school” without notice or intervention.

“I think it’s more harmful for a child, especially a child who’s very capable, to go through school thinking that he or she is not as competent as her or his peers,” says Smith. “Letting (these) children languish without recognizing them for their strengths is doing them a disservice.”


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Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences
5782 Winslow Hall, Rm 2
Orono, Maine 04469
Phone: (207) 581-3206
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469