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Reading difficulties from birth to adolescence:
Early predictors and links to motivation and well-being
Minna Torppa
University of Jyväskylä, Finland
Den sjunde nordiska kongressen om dyslexipedagogik
Stockholm 14. – 16.8.2014
OUTLINE
I Decoding skills and dyslexia
II Reading comprehension development
… and how they are linked with:
• Family risk
• Cognitive skills
• Motivation
• Well-being
Data
Jyväskylä Longitudinal Study of Dyslexia (JLD)
• A family risk study for dyslexia
• Four age cohorts followed from birth to age 20
• About 100 children with high familial risk for dyslexia and 100 control children.
•On grades 1,2,3,7, and 9 also classmates were assessed (n ≈ 1500-2500).
•Started: 1993, currently funded until 2019
AIMS OF JLD
(1) Identify predictors of dyslexia
(2) Specify the developmental paths leading to reading difficulties
(3) Examine the contribution of environmental factors associated with
dyslexia
(4) Examine the developmental problems co-occurring with dyslexia
(5) Develop methodology for early assessment and intervention
I Screening
Born at the
hospitals of
Central
Finland
during
01.04.9331.07.96
Short
questionnaire
administered
at the
maternity
clinics
N=8427
parents
N= 9368
infants
Comprehensive
questionnaire
III Screening
AT -RISK
GROUP
Assessment of
parents’
reading and
spelling skills
CONTROL
GROUP
N=410
parents
N=3146
parents
N=117
infants
N=105
infants
III
VII
VIII
IX
grade
grade
grade
grade
grade
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
108
108
85
101
88
18
2
2½
3½
4½
5
5½
6½
I
II
month
month
years
years
years
years
years
years
years
grade
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
Neonatal
6
14
month
N
=
N
=
107 112
II Screening
108
108 107 107 107 107 107 107 107 107
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
96
94
94
95
96
94
95
93
93
93
93
92
92
92
66
81
76
CLASSMATES
N= N= N=
1549 1756 2641
N=
1452
N=
1705
I Decoding skills and dyslexia
• Reading development and dyslexia in grades 2, 3, and 8
• Links to family risk and cognitive skills
• Links to psycho-social functioning
Family risk and dyslexia
Grade 2 dyslexia
- 38 at-risk group children (35.8 %)
- 9 control group children (9.8 %)
About fourfold risk if familial incidence of dyslexia
Early cognitive predictors of Grade 2
dyslexia (mean age 8.9 years)
Logistic regression analyses at ages 3.5 years, 4.5 years,and 5.5 years
with predictors: Family risk, Phonological awareness, Short-term
memory, RAN, Vocabulary, Pseudoword repetition and Letter naming
Significant predictors of dyslexia were:
3.5 years: Familial risk, RAN, and Letter knowledge
4.5 years: Familial risk, Phonological awareness, and Letter knowledge
5.5 years: Familial risk, RAN, and Letter knowledge
Puolakanaho, A., Ahonen, T., Aro, M., Eklund, K., Leppänen, P. H. T., Poikkeus, A.-M., Tolvanen,
A., Torppa, A., & Lyytinen, H. (2007). Very early phonological and language skills: estimating
individual risk of reading disability. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 48(9), 923-931.
Development beyond Grade 2?
Torppa, Eklund, van Bergen, & Lyytinen
Grade 8 dyslexia
- 40 at-risk group children (39.6 %)
- 9 control group children (11.1 %)
 Stability of diagnosis?
Background
 The proportion of late-emerging cases has been
reported to be approximately 40% of all RD cases
(Catts et al., 2012; Leach et al., 2003; Lipka et al.,
2006).
 Surprisingly little research has been conducted on the
characteristics of resolving and late-emerging RD, and
all in English.
Participants
 n = 182, followed from birth to Grade 8
 Children at risk (n = 101) had a parent and one or more
other close family members with dyslexia.
 86 girls and 96 boys
Dyslexia Criteria in Grades 2 and 8
Dyslexia criteria were based on the following fluency tasks:
1) Word list reading,
2) Text reading, and
3) Pseudoword text reading.
A cut-off criterion for deficient performance was defined
for each measure, using the 10th percentile in the distribution
of the children without family risk.
Dyslexia = scores below the criterion in at least two out of
three measures of reading speed.
Stability of diagnosis?
 40% had dyslexia in Grades 2 and 8
(persistent-dyslexia),
 27% only in Grade 2 (resolving), and
 33% only in Grade 8 (late-emerging).
Group differences?
Parent’s Educationa
Mother
Father
No-dyslexia
Late-emerging
Resolving
Persistent
n = 127
n = 18
n = 15
n = 22
M
SD
M
SD
M
SD
M
4.52
SD
1.38
4.59
1.70
3.92
1.24
4.12
1.50
3.72
1.42
4.06
1.71
3.64
.81
3.75
1.39
100.74
10.93
100.83
6.04
97.47
9.10
95.00
10.37
Children
IQ
Family risk
44.9%
83.3%
73.3%
81.8%
Girls
49.6%
22.2%
80.0%
45.5%
Cognitive Measures
 Vocabulary . At age 3.5 and 5.5 years the Boston Naming Test (Kaplan, Goodglass, &





Weintraub, 1983). In Grade 2 the WISC-III (Wechsler, 1991).
Memory. Verbal short-term memory: 6.5 years, Grades 3 and 8 with a forward digit
span test.
Phonological awareness At age 4.5, 5.5, and 6.5 years phonological awareness
was measured with a composite mean of z-scores from four tasks: First phoneme
identification, First phoneme production, Segment identification, and Synthesis
Rapid naming. The total naming time of 30 (5.5 years) or 50 objects (6.5 years, and
in Grades 2, 3 and 8 ) (Denckla & Rudel, 1974)
Letter knowledge. All 29 lowercase letters (23 typically used and 6 for the rare
loan words) in the Finnish alphabet were presented at ages 4.5 years, 5.5 years, and
6.5 years.
IQ (Grade 2). Four performance-quotient subtests (Picture Completion, Block
Design, Object Assembly, and Coding) and five verbal-performance subtests
(Similarities, Vocabulary, Comprehension, Series of numbers, and Arithmetic) of the
WISC-III-R were used.
Cognitive skills
• Resolving group improved also in vocabulary, RAN and PA
• Resolving group only had clear early problems in vocabulary
• Late-emerging had clear problems only in RAN
Parental Measures
Parental assessment
 Text-reading fluency. Parents were asked to read aloud two passages (218 and 128 words,
respectively) as fluently and accurately as possible. A measure of reading fluency was the average
reading time for the two texts
 Phoneme deletion. Parents were asked to pronounce a given word without the second
phoneme. The task included 16 words (e.g., kaupunki ‘city’ became kupunki) of 4 to 10 letters with
2 to 4 syllables. Deletion of the second phoneme yielded a pseudoword.
 Rapid Naming (RAN). On each of three tasks, participants were asked to name, as rapidly as
possible, a matrix of 50 items comprising objects, digits, or a mixture of digits, objects, and
letters. A mean composite score of the three standardized RAN scores was calculated for the
prediction analyses .
 Verbal short-term memory. The Digit Span subtest of WAIS-III (Wechsler, 1991) was
administered Two sets of items, one for forward, the other for reverse, were used. Scaled scores
were derived from the manual.
 Vocabulary. In the Vocabulary subtest of WAIS-III (Wechsler, 1991), participants were required to
define 35 words in his/her own words. Scaled scores were derived from the manual.
Parental skills
In sum
 Dyslexia status was not stable.
 Family risk high in all dyslexia groups
 Persistent dyslexia linked to difficulties in phonological awareness,
RAN, and letter knowledge
 Late-emerging dyslexia linked to RAN (also parental) and being a
boy
 Resolving dyslexia linked to slow early development also in
vocabulary, phonological awareness, RAN, and letter knowledge and
being a girl
 Implications: It is important to keep following children’s literacy
development beyond the early grades.
I Decoding skills and dyslexia
• Links to family risk and cognitive skills
• Reading development and dyslexia in grades 2, 3, and 8
• Dyslexia and links to psycho-social functioning
Parhiala, Torppa, Eklund, Aro, Poikkeus & Ahonen
Dyslexia & psychosocial functioning
 Dyslexia is linked to difficulties in the social domain, and in
externalizing, and internalizing, and attentional problems
(e.g., Dahle, Knivsberg & Andreassen, 2011; Morgan, Farkas
& Wu, 2012).
 Are problems with psychosocial functioning
secondary problems or co-occurring with dyslexia?
 Previous studies inconsistent in their interpretations and have
typically started after school entry;
I Screening
Born at the
hospitals of
Central
Finland
during
01.04.9331.07.96
Short
questionnaire
administered
at the
maternity
clinics
Comprehensive
questionnaire
N=8427
parents
N=3146
parents
N= 9368
infants
Neonatal
II Screening
# of children who have attended the
last finished assessment phase at the
3rd grade
III Screening
Assessment of
parents’
reading and
spelling skills
N=410
parents
AT -RISK
GROUP
AT -RISK
GROUP
N=117
infants
N=108
infants
CONTROL
GROUP
CONTROL
GROUP
N=105
infants
N=92
infants
6
14
18
2
2½
3½
4
5
5½
6
month
month
month
years
years
years
years
years
years
years
4
years
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
107
112
108
108
107
107
107
107
107
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
N
=
96
94
94
95
96
94
95
93
93
6
School
entry
II
I
grade
N
=N
93 =
93
CLASSMATES
107
N
=N
93=
93
grade
VII VIII
IX
grade
grade
grade
N
=
N
=
N
=
70
82
21
N
=
N
=
N
=
61
76
14
years
years
N
N
N
N
N
=
=
=
=
=
107 107 107
107
9
grade
III
N
=
92
N
N
N
=
=
=
108 108
108
N
=N
92 =
92
N
=
92
N=
N=
1515
2859
Psychosocial functioning measure
 Parent Rating Scale of the Behavior Assessment System for Children
(BASC, Reynolds & Kamphaus, 1992): 4-point scale ranging from “Never”
to “Almost Always”.
1) Adaptive skills (Adaptability, Social skills),
2) Attention problems,
3) Externalizing problems (Aggression, Hyperactivity), and
4) Internalizing problems (Anxiety, Depression, Somatization).
Results
Children with dyslexia:
 More problems in adaptation and social skills prior
to school entry: 4 and 6 years.
 More inattention both prior to school entry and after
school entry: 4, 6 and 9 years.
 No differences in externalizing or internalizing problem
behavior
 Difference in change from age 6 to age 9?
Change from 6 to 9 years
 Adaptation and social skills: Children with dyslexia
improved more in adaptability and social skills than
children without dyslexia
 Inattention: Differential change for girls and boys:
inattention increased across transition to school only
among girls. Both girls with and without dyslexia.
 Externalizing and internalizing problems: no
change
In sum
Inattention:
 problems prior to school entry  not secondary
 Increase for girls both with and without dyslexia  not
secondary
Adaptability and social skills:
 problems prior to school entry  not secondary
 positive change among children with dyslexia  not
secondary
Externalizing & Internalizing problems
 No links to Grade 2 dyslexia
II Reading comprehension
 Simple view of reading
 Reading comprehension in grades 1-2 and 9
 Links to skills and motivation
Background
Simple view of reading (Gough & Tunmer, 1986);
Comprehension
reading = ƒ (decoding and comprehension)
good
Dyslexia
poor
Poor readers
Hyperlexia
poor
good
Decoding
Torppa, M., Tolvanen, A., Poikkeus, A-M. Eklund, K., Lerkkanen, M-K., Leskinen, E., & Lyytinen, H.
(2007). Reading Development Subtypes and Their Early Characteristics. Annals of Dyslexia, 57, 3-32.
Decoding and reading comprehension in JLD
A 2-year follow-up data with four group assessments of 1750 children
from 93 classrooms.
SC
D
1st grade
fall
D
1st grade
spring
TC
TC
D
D
2 nd grade
fall
2 nd grade
spring
SC = Sentence Comprehension, TC = Text Comprehension, D = Decodi ng
Identification of Subtypes: a 2-level Mixture Model
C
fwr1
fwr2
fwr3
fwr4
rc1
Wfwr
rc2
The search for
subtypes was
based on
individual variation
rc3
Wrc
Within
Between
fwr1
fwr2
fwr3
fwr4
rc1
Bfwr
rc2
Brc
C
C = latent categorical variable (subtyping),
fwr = fluent word recognition
rc = reading comprehension.
W = within-level, B = between-level.
Numbers denote assessment time-point.
rc3
Classroom effect was
significant and ranged
between 4 % and 10 %
(Intraclass correlation).
5 Reading subtypes were identified
Standard score
2
1
0
-1
-2
1st grade
fall
1st grade
spring
2nd grade
fall
2nd grade
spring
Fluent Word Recognition
Good readers (n=176)
Slow decoders (n=411)
Poor comprehenders (n=179)
1st grade
spring
2nd grade
fall
2nd grade
spring
Reading Comprehension
Average readers (n=692)
Poor readers (n=210)
Group differences in:
• family risk for dyslexia
• early cognitive development profiles?
Reading Subtypes and Family Risk for Dyslexia
Table 6. Crosstabulation of the Reading Subtypes by Study Groups (Frequencies in Parentheses)
Good readers (n = 167)
Average readers (n = 643)
Slow decoders (n = 478)
Poor comprehenders (n = 241)
Poor readers (n = 221)
Total n
Classmates
JLD at-risk group
JLD control group
10.3 % (160)
9.6 % (10)
20.7 % (18)
42.0 % (655)
30.8 % (32)
43.7 % (38)
24.6 % (383)
35.6 % (37)
14.9 % (13)
10.6 % (166)
6.7 % (7)
11.5 % (10)
12.5 % (195)
17.3 % (18)
9.2 % (8)
1559
104
87
Early cognitive development 1-6 years
Standard score
2
1
0
-1
-2
1y
2y
3.5 y 5.5 y
Expressive vocabulary
Good readers
Poor readers
3.5 y 4.5 y 5.5 y 6.5 y
3.5 y 4.5 y 5.5 y 6.5 y
Phonological awareness
Average readers
Poor comprehenders
Letter knowledge
Slow decoders
3.5 y 5.5 y 6.5 y
RAN
Book reading: alone and with parent
1
z -score
0,5
0
-0,5
-1
4y
5y
6y
7y
8y
2y
Reading alone
4y
5y
6y
7y
8y
Shared Reading
Good readers (n = 28)
Average readers (n = 70)
Poor comprehenders (n = 16)
Poor readers (n = 26)
Slow readers (n = 51)
In sum:
- Already in grade 2 differentiation in fluency and comprehension
- Poor readers with both fluency and comprehension problems had
the poorest cognitive skills.
- Poor comprehension linked particularly to vocabulary
- Slow reading linked particularly to RAN
- Family risk for dyslexia was a risk for reading speed but not for
reading comprehension
Grade 9 PISA reading comprehension
Minna Torppa, Kenneth Eklund, Sari Sulkunen, and Pekka Niemi
background
 PISA is today the most well-known assessment and comparison
tool of adolescent’s reading skill in different countries around the
world and its influence on the development of educational systems
is enormous.
 All 34 OECD member countries and 31 partner countries and
economies participated in PISA 2012 representing more than 80%
of the world economy (OECD, 2013).
 Despite its widely accepted stature and influence on global
educational debate and policy making, empirical research on
explanations of the success and failure in PISA tasks are scarce
participants
N=1309 9th grade Finnish-speaking students from 95
classrooms
All schools were typical Finnish schools organizing teaching
according to national curriculum.
PISA reading measure
 PISA reading literacy link items which are items used repeatedly in each
cycle of the survey to ensure the comparability of the measurement (OECD
2010b, 26; 2013, 45).
 In the booklet, there were 8 different texts which the students were asked to
read and answer several questions per material. The reading materials included
texts, tables, graphs, and figures.
 Of the questions, 12 required students to access and retrieve information, 12
to integrate and interpret information, and seven to reflect and evaluate
information.
 Students were allowed to use 60 minutes for completing the task.
 Cronbach’s alpha reliability coefficient for the total score in this sample was .80.
Reading fluency
(1) Sentence reading fluency task: The task was to read as many
statements in 2 minutes and decide if the sentence was true by answering ‘yes’ or
‘no’.
(2) Error search task: The task was to proofread words written on a sheet of
paper and mark as many incorrectly spelled (either a wrong letter, extra letter or
missing letter) words as possible in 3 minutes.
(3) Word chains: The task was to mark with a pencil as many word boundaries
(i.e. places, where one word ends and another one begins) as possible in 90
seconds.
Cronbach’s alpha reliability coefficient for reading fluency composite
score was .78.
Motivation
Reading self-concept: Students were asked to evaluate their reading skills in
comparison to their peers. Three items were included, one for reading accuracy, one for
reading fluency, and one for reading comprehension. Cronbach’s alpha reliability
coefficient was .75.
Task avoidance: The children’s task-avoidant behavior was measured using the
Behavioral Strategy Rating Scale (BSR; Onatsu & Nurmi, 1995; see also Zhang, Nurmi,
Kiuru, Lerkkanen, & Aunola, 2011). The measure includes five statements concerning
behavior when facing difficult tasks. Cronbach’s alpha .79
Persistence: The children’s task-avoidant behavior was measured using the Behavioral
Stratety Rating Scale (BSR; Onatsu & Nurmi, 1995; see also Zhang, Nurmi, Kiuru,
Lerkkanen, & Aunola, 2011). Four statements. Cronbach’s alpha .71
Leisure-time reading: how often they read different printed materials with a five-point
Likert –scale-Three items, one for books, one for comics, and one for newspapers and
magazines.
Grade 9 SEM for explaining PISA
(χ2 (145) = 321.02, p= .00, CFI=.97, TLI=.96, RMSEA=.03, SRMS=.04
Some general conclusion
 Reading as decoding and comprehension
 Developmental paths and varying pace of development
 Family riskfor dyslexia and cognitive skills (RAN, LK, PA)
are strong predictors of decoding, but not so much for
comprehension
 Also persistence and leisure time reading are linked to
reading skills
 Psychosocial functioning and dyslexia: no evidence for
dyslexia being a risk factor for psychosocial functioning in the
early grades.
Thank you!
[email protected]
JLD & Dyslexia diagnosis
Exclusion criteria:
Standard score of < 80 in both performance or verbal IQ (assessed with WISC-R at 8 years e.g.
2nd grade) was applied, but all participants had scores above the criterion.
8 Measures:
4 ACCURACY measures:
Word and pseudo-word reading, Word and pseudo-word spelling, Text reading, Pseudo-word text reading
4 FLUENCY measures:
Word and pseudo-word reading, Text reading, Pseudo-word text reading, Word list reading
A child was considered to have deficient skills in each respective task if his or her
score fell to the 10th percentile or below (JLD control group distribution).
To be classified with Dyslexia the child’s skills were at or below the 10th percentile either
a) in at least three out of the four accuracy measures or at least three out of the four fluency measures,
or
b) in two accuracy measures and in two fluency measures.

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