Research background

Many students with dyslexia are not identified until they are about 10–12 years of age, by which time they have experienced so much failure that their motivation and self-confidence will have been seriously eroded. The Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice: 0-25 years (Department for Education, 2014) places a legal duty on schools to identify and address all special educational needs (including dyslexia) as early as possible in the student’s school career.

There is a well-established research literature documenting the principal underlying cognitive difficulties associated with the condition. These are in the areas of memory, sequential information processing, phonological awareness, and in some cases, visual-perceptual difficulties (Ellis and Large, 1987; Goswami and Bryant, 1990; Jorm et al., 1986; Pumfrey and Reason, 1991; Singleton, 1987, 1988; Singleton and Thomas, 1994a; Thomson, 1989; Snowling, 2000). The CoPS project used this scientific knowledge of the cognitive precursors of dyslexic difficulties to formulate objective early identification procedures that could be used easily by teachers in the ordinary classroom. The precision, objectivity and flexibility of the computer made it an appropriate and cost-effective tool for assessing such cognitive abilities and deficits, as well as enabling the creation of tests in the form of games which increases the child’s motivation and interest in the task (Singleton, 1997b, 2001, 2003). The overall rationale for the CoPS project was that early intervention with students identified as being at risk of dyslexia or literacy difficulties is not just desirable on educational grounds. It is also more cost effective than waiting until these students have experienced several years of failure and have lagged so far behind their peers that very expensive specialist remediation has to be provided. The early intervention approach means that appropriately structured teaching can be provided in the ordinary classroom.