Research Update: “Nonresponders” and dyslexia

A new study confirms that the children who fail to progress with traditional, phonics-based interventions are highly likely to be dyslexic:

Following the recommendation of Rose (2006), many primary schools in England implemented a systematic phonics approach to the teaching of reading. A large body of evidence suggests that such an approach is very effective for teaching children to read (National Reading Panel, 2000; Brooks et al., 2006). It follows that children who are finding reading difficult despite this quality approach are likely to be at risk of dyslexia. 

The local authority with which we had worked for the EYFSP research had implemented a systematic phonics curriculum from 2006…. Because we had collected data from whole cohorts of children on a termly basis, we were able to use this to identify children who were ‘failing to thrive’ in terms of their phonics progress…..

Using school records, our criterion for ‘dyslexia risk status’ was taken to be ‘not secure in phonic phase 2 at the end of the fourth term in school’. …. Based on these criteria, 16.4% of the school population was assessed as ‘behind expectation’ in phonic skills…. this is well above reported prevalence rates for dyslexia (typically 7–10%), ….

… [A] further question we wanted to address was whether these children could be described as dyslexic? ….

We proceeded to ask whether the group of children identified as ‘at risk’ showed the core characteristics of dyslexia – poor phonological awareness, poor verbal memory and slow verbal processing speed. This was indeed the case….


Snowling, M. J. (2012), Early identification and interventions for dyslexia: a contemporary view. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-3802.2012.01262.x

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Is Your Child a “Nonresponder?”