The Importance of Early Intervention: Identifying and Addressing Reading Difficulties

The Importance of Early Intervention: Identifying and Addressing Reading Difficulties

April 10, 2024 5:34 pm

Education is the cornerstone of a good life. However, since learning involves a lot of reading and writing, it is essential to identify a student struggling with these skills as early as possible. 

Let’s explore how teachers and families can identify the signs of dyslexia or other reading difficulties, and strategies are recommended to provide support to struggling readers.

What Is the Definition of Reading Difficulties?

Reading difficulties is an umbrella term for several disorders or challenges individuals might encounter in an educational setting. These challenges can appear in various ways, including struggling with comprehension, reading fluency, and decoding. 

 When a child is struggling to read, someone will probably suggest that he or she be tested for dyslexia. A full and complete evaluation of your child must be done, not just a screening.  If your child is in public school, you can request that the school district evaluate your child.  The request for testing must be made in writing and submitted to the administration at your child’s school. If your child is in a private school, you have the right to request testing from the school district that your child is zoned to attend.

Evaluation is a more accurate word to describe the process of determining if someone has dyslexia. The word evaluation encompasses identification, screening, testing, diagnosis, and all the other information gathering involved when the student, his or her family, and a team of professionals work together to determine why the student is having difficulty and what can be done to help.

Recognizing Reading Difficulties Early – What Are the Signs?

A full and complete evaluation is important to determine any or all of the challenges your child may be experiencing with the learning process.  

Dyslexia is one type of learning disability. Some students may also have other difficulties in addition to dyslexia that interfere with the learning process.  Other difficulties may include the following:

Dyscalculia – a mathematical disability in which a person has unusual difficulty solving arithmetic problems and grasping math concepts. Symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty counting accurately
  • Number reversals (sometimes)
  • Difficulty memorizing math facts
  • Difficulty copying math problems and organizing written work
  • Many calculation errors
  • Difficulty retaining math vocabulary and/or concepts

Dysgraphia – a condition of impaired handwriting that can interfere with learning to spell words when writing and in the speed of writing text. Children with dysgraphia may exhibit the following struggles:

  • Uncertainty about right or left-handedness
  • Poor or slow handwriting
  • Messy and unorganized papers
  • Difficulty copying
  • Poor fine motor skills
  • Spelling inaccuracy
  • Grammar and punctuation inaccuracy
  • Lack of clarity or organization of written expression

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) can and do impact learning but it is not a learning disability. An individual can have more than one learning or behavioral disability. In various studies, as many as 50% of those diagnosed with a learning or reading disability have also been diagnosed with AD/HD.  Although disabilities may co-occur, one is not the cause of the other. Symptoms include:

  • Inattention
  • Inconsistent attention, based on interest level
  • Distractibility
  • Impulsiveness
  • Over-activity
  • Loses papers
  • Poor sense of time
  • Forgets homework
  • Messy desk
  • Overwhelmed by too much input
  • Works slowly
  • Things are “out of sight, out of mind”

Other difficulties: Some other factors to be aware of that may signal that your child is struggling with the learning process include:

  • Difficulty naming colors, objects, and letters (rapid naming)
  • Memory problems
  • Needs to see or hear concepts many times in order to learn them
  • Distracted by visual stimuli
  • Downward trend in achievement test scores or school performance
  • Inconsistent schoolwork
  • Teacher and/or parents say, “If only she would try harder,” or “He’s lazy.”
  • Relatives may have similar problems

Full and complete psycho-educational testing is important to determine all of the challenges your child may be experiencing with the learning process. We also encourage you to read Dyslexia Assessment: What Is It and How Can It Help?

What Are the Best Early Literacy Intervention Strategies?

A reading program that is evidence-based, multisensory, and provides structured literacy instruction is most effective for students with dyslexia or other reading challenges. The program must be intentional, systematic, and cumulative in its delivery. The components of instruction include:

  • Phonology: the speech and sound system of language
  • Sound-symbol association: The relationship between letter names and the sounds made by them
  • Syllable instruction: recognizing syllable types and applying syllable division rules to break up longer multisyllabic words
  • Morphology: the meaningful part of words
  • Syntax: the form and structure of sentences
  • Semantics: words meanings and word relationship

Additional resources about dyslexia and related disorders can be found in the International Dyslexia Association (IDA), including the following fact sheets: Assessment of DyslexiaEffective Reading Instruction, and Structured Literacy

Connect with us to learn more about dyslexia and other reading challenges,  and how Neuhaus Education Center can help you navigate more successfully as an educator and provide support to families and adult learners.