Children with reading difficulties may have undiagnosed hearing problems

A report published by the Nuffield Foundation, which compared a group of children with dyslexia to children with a history of repeated ear infections (otitis media with effusion, OME) to see if there were any similarities in their phonological and literacy difficulties, has found that their difficulties may be due in part to undiagnosed hearing problems.

Julia Carroll and Helen Breadmore compared a group of 36 children with dyslexia to 29 children with OME, and also to control groups of typically developing children of the same age and groups of younger children at the same reading level. This made a total sample size of 195 children, ages 8 to 10, from 20 schools in the UK. All of the children completed a series of tests to establish their reading and writing skills and also their phonological skills (ability to manipulate speech sounds) and morphological skills (knowledge of grammatical word structure). Eighteen months later, the children’s reading, spelling and phonological awareness was re-tested, and a hearing screening conducted.

The results showed that the children with dyslexia had different patterns of literacy difficulties than children with OME, although there were some overlaps. The children with dyslexia showed difficulties with both phonological and morphological skills, whereas children with OME had difficulties only on phonological tasks. Both dyslexic children and children with OME had lower levels of reading than the age-matched control children.

The results from the hearing screening eighteen months later found that 9 of the 36 children with dyslexia had mild or moderate hearing impairments, of which their parents and teachers were unaware. The researchers suggest, therefore, that children with reading difficulties should be screened for hearing problems so that they are able to receive more structured support that could help them improve their literacy skills.

Source: Morphological processing in children with phonological difficulties (October 2017), Coventry University and University of Warwick Briefing Paper for The Nuffield Foundation

Text messaging does not affect children’s grammatical development

Researchers from Coventry University carried out a longitudinal study to investigate whether “text speak” had any detrimental impact on grammatical development and other related literacy and language skills over the course of a year. They assessed the spelling, grammar, understanding of English, and IQ of three groups of children and young people (83 primary school children, 78 secondary school children, and 49 undergraduates), and compared those skills with a sample of their text messages.

There was no evidence of any significant relationships between poor grammar in text messages and their understanding of written or spoken grammar. For the primary school children, there was an association between punctuation errors in text messages and spelling ability. Children who made fewer punctuation errors when texting tended to be better at spelling and quicker to process writing than those who made more errors in their text messages.

For the undergraduate group, there was some evidence of a link between punctuation errors in text messages and the spelling ability and grammatical understanding of participants. However, this link was weak, and researchers concluded that it was probably related to children’s IQ score.

Source: Text messaging and grammatical development (2012), Nuffield Foundation