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Reading comprehension impairment


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Slideshow to accompany RALLI presentation on SLI and reading impairment: 2 - reading comprehension by Prof Maggie Snowling. The film can be found at References can be found at

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Reading comprehension impairment

  1. 1. Reading Comprehension Impairment
  2. 2. The Simple View of Reading• Understanding what you read depends upon 1 Comprehension decoding skill and Fluent language comprehension Reading• Both skills are necessary 0 Decoding 1• Neither skill is sufficient for reading 0 R=DXC
  3. 3. What is decoding skill?• Decoding refers to the ability to translate letters into sounds• It is sometimes called ‘phonics’• If you can’t decode the words on a page, then you can’t understand what is written• So, poor decoding is a bottleneck to reading comprehension
  4. 4. What is Language Comprehension?• Language Comprehension refers to the processes used to understand spoken language• If you can’t understand spoken language then no matter how well you can decode, you won’t understand what you read• Poor language comprehension is an obstacle to reading comprehension• As the next slide shows, Language Comprehension is a complex process
  5. 5. What is Language Comprehension?• Basic processes – Vocabulary (knowledge of word meanings) – Sentence comprehension• Higher level processes – Pragmatics (going beyond literal meaning to understand what is relevant) – Inferencing – integrating sentences and background knowledge• Difficulties in any of these areas will affect a child’s ability to understand text
  6. 6. Additional Issues• Text Comprehension also depends upon higher level skills such as: – Metacognitive strategies • Understanding Story Structure • Comprehension monitoring• Cognitive control (executive) processes – Working memory » Because meanings have to be integrated across different parts of the text » Attentional capacity – sustained attention to keep on task – Inhibition / suppression » To ensure selective attention to the main theme of the text and to avoid distracting details
  7. 7. ‘Poor comprehender’• The term ‘poor comprehender’ is used to refer to a child who can decode well but who has below average reading comprehension for their age• In extreme cases, the term ‘hyperlexia’ has been used when decoding exceeds mental age and comprehension is poor – Profile often associated with autism
  8. 8. Problems of Reading Comprehension• More generally, children with language learning impairments often have reading comprehension problems – Some are ‘poor comprehenders’ – Others have problems of decoding AND comprehension; it can be said that they have ‘dyslexia with poor reading comprehension’.
  9. 9. Cognitive Profile• Nation, Clarke, Marshall and Durand, 2004 JSLHR – Reported that 35% of poor comprehenders meet criteria for specific language impairment – They showed poor performance on measures of: • Vocabulary • Recalling sentences • Use of past-tense forms • Understanding of Grammar (TROG) – All of these skills are important for understanding what we read.
  10. 10. What causes reading comprehension impairments?• Need evidence from: – Longitudinal studies • Tracking children’s progress over time – Training studies
  11. 11. Developmental Picture Nation, Cocksey, Taylor & Bishop, 2010• Longitudinal study of 242 children seen at 5, 6, 7, 8 years• Age 8, 15 children were poor comprehenders; could read accurately, but had poor understanding of what they read• These children were compared with other children matched on word-level reading accuracy• PCs showed poor reading comprehension at each time point and few gains between 6 and 8 years• Phonological skills (analysing/remembering speech sounds) normal throughout – very different from classic dyslexia• Impairments of language and listening comprehension throughout indicative of possible causes
  12. 12. Developmental Profile Catts, Adlof & Ellis Weismer (2006)Word Identification Word Attack GORT Passage Comprehension Comprehension
  13. 13. How can poor reading comprehension be identified?• Informally, by asking a child to read a passage – Ask questions such as • Who was in the story? • What did they do? • Why did they do that? • What do you think happens next? • Can you re-tell the story? – If the child had read the story accurately but has trouble with these questions, then they may have a reading comprehension problem
  14. 14. Formally Assessing Reading Comprehension• An objective test should go beyond decoding• First, check that the child can decode adequately (using a test of single word reading)• Second, use a test which taps both literal understanding and the ability to make inferences• AVOID a group administered test – these depend too strongly on decoding skills• A suite of tests for assessment of children at primary and secondary levels is the YARC
  15. 15. Helping Poor Comprehenders• Evidence suggests that promoting oral language comprehension can help reading comprehension – Boosting vocabulary is particularly important• Poor comprehenders can also be helped by working on inferencing and other metacognitive skills, such as comprehension monitoring
  16. 16. Conclusions• Children with weak oral language skills often have problems with reading comprehension• In addition to their language difficulties they may have impairments in making inferences, meta-cognitive skills (eg use of story structure; comprehension monitoring) and working memory• Impairments in vocabulary (semantic) deficits appear to be critical – training vocabulary can improve reading comprehension• Reading comprehension difficulties should be viewed within the wider context of children’s cognitive and linguistic skills
  17. 17. For References and Additional Information see ng-comprehension-reference-list