Gemma [6 years 9 months]

Gemma made satisfactory early progress in reading but now seems to have hit a barrier and is falling steadily behind the other students in her class. She enjoys stories but prefers being read to rather than to read them herself. When she does read she makes a lot of mistakes and guesses at words she does not recognise rather than sounding them out phonically. As a consequence, she often misunderstands what she is reading. Gemma’s Rapid results are shown in Figure 20.

Rapid has rated Gemma as having a ‘high’ probability of dyslexia. She has significant weaknesses in both phonological awareness and auditory sequential memory. However, her visual-verbal sequential memory is a little better. It is most likely that in her literacy development she has been relying largely on her visual memory. But this has left her unable to decode new or unfamiliar words by sounding them out; in other words, she is struggling with phonics. It should be pointed out that just because children have difficulties learning phonics does not necessarily mean that they are dyslexic. Many students find phonics hard to learn and a great deal depends on the skill of the teacher in teaching these skills. For some students the teaching may be at too fast a pace, with insufficient opportunities to practise and consolidate new learning. In Gemma’s case, however, the poor memory and underlying phonological difficulties point fairly strongly to dyslexia.

Intervention should begin right away, before Gemma loses interest and motivation. The following recommendations about teaching would be made:

● Getting the teaching of phonics right is going to be essential. A well-structured multisensory approach will be necessary to achieve maximum progress. A list of suitable teaching schemes is given in Developing phonic decoding skills. Integration of phonological processing practice activities with phonic decoding would be beneficial, using a teaching scheme such as Sound Linkage. Checking Gemma’s progress in phonics should be carried out regularly.

● Activities to develop Gemma’s memory skills should be built into her school work and her home life as much as possible.

● It is likely that Gemma will find writing the hardest aspect of literacy, because writing places particularly heavy demands on short-term memory. Use of a talking word processor, such as Clicker 7 or SymWriter 2, takes the pressure off short-term memory and should enable her to produce a better standard of written work.

● Many of the computer programs mentioned in the previous section for Marcus would also be helpful for Gemma. In addition, the following computer programs would also be useful for her: Word Builder (phonic skills); Starspell 3 (spelling); and Wordshark 5 (reading and spelling).

If a more detailed understanding of Gemma’s difficulties is required, it is recommended that she should be tested on CoPS. Among other things, this would provide assessment of her visual memory and auditory discrimination, and thus enable a clearer diagnosis to be made.

Figure 20. Rapid results for Gemma