Difficulty Reading Can Lead to Difficulty Comprehending

This statement may seem like common sense, but is often something that is misunderstood. It’s always important to consider why someone is having difficulty with comprehension. There are students who can read beautifully with very smooth fluency, yet not comprehend anything they’ve read. This is often the case with someone who has autism. This is not a characteristic of dyslexia.

Recently, I’ve received more questions about reading comprehension. I work with children and adults who have dyslexia. The three main characteristics of dyslexia are difficulty when reading words in isolation, poor spelling ability and poor reading fluency. There are many other signs and symptoms of dyslexia, but these are the big three. If you would like a more comprehensive list of the characteristics of dyslexia, please request the, “Characteristics of Dyslexia Resource Guide” through my website.

If you look at a list of dyslexic characteristics, you will notice reading comprehension further down the list. Characteristics are generally grouped by age/grade level, so further down the list would mean the symptom is more likely to show up during later elementary, middle, or high school years as opposed to early elementary years. Why is this?

Dyslexia doesn’t inherently cause reading comprehension problems. In fact, one way to tease out a true comprehension problem versus a decoding problem, with a young child, is to test the student’s listening comprehension and compare this to their silent reading comprehension. Parents and educators are often surprised at the discrepancy between these two skills when working with dyslexic students. Listening comprehension is typically very strong because, at this point, there is nothing wrong with a child’s understanding of language. Silent reading comprehension is often below grade level because the student is struggling to read words accurately and fluently enough to understand what they have read. As you can see, what appears to be a reading comprehension issue is not always a true reading comprehension issue. Instead, it is a decoding problem – the inability to read words on the page with enough fluency to comprehend what was read. Reading fluency is an important indicator of comprehension. This is important to know because text can’t be understood if a child takes too long to read the words on the page. This is compounded if the words read are mostly inaccurate. As a child matures and reaches upper elementary grades and beyond, a true comprehension problem may develop as a secondary issue because of the effect of the dyslexia on their inability to read at the same pace as their peers. Let’s take a look at what this means.

This is an excerpt form an article posted in HERD publications.  Check back next Friday for more!