Research context

Many of the specific research projects on which this website is based have been informed by the Wellcome Language and Reading Project. Led by Professor Maggie Snowling, Professor Charles Hulme and Dr Emma Hayiou-Thomas this six-year longitudinal study from 2007, funded by the Wellcome Trust, investigated the nature of the developmental relationships between dyslexia and Developmental Language Disorder (DLD).

The project produced a number of important findings:

  • Many children with concerns about their language development in preschool resolved their language difficulties by school age. Among children whose language difficulty persisted, 53% were identified as dyslexic
  • In the preschool phase, phonological deficits (primarily problems with memory processes) were observed in children at family-risk of dyslexia and children at risk of DLD. These are major risk factors for dyslexia. Children at risk of DLD scored poorly across multiple domains of language and on tests assessing executive attention and motor skills; such co-occurring impairments were much less common in the family-risk group. Co-morbidities in executive attention and motor skills can be expected to affect school readiness and learning across the curriculum. Consistent with this, executive attention at 4.5 years old and motor skills at 6 years old are significant predictors of individual risk of dyslexia. Measures of language and executive attention also predicted arithmetic development
  • Socioeconomic status, home literacy environment and early child health independently predicted school readiness. It was notable that the effects of socioeconomic status on early literacy were mediated by two parenting practices: storybook reading and direct print instruction. Both were more important for the development of phonological awareness in family-risk children than for controls
  • We have shown that a nine-week intervention can support the development of basic reading skills, phonological awareness and vocabulary development in children at risk of dyslexia at 6 years old. However the effects were small and gains in decoding skills were not significantly different in the control group who received phonics instruction in the classroom. Response to intervention was predicted by initial level of reading and phonological skills
  • Deficits in auditory processing and in speech perception are strongly associated with language difficulties and are not specific risk factors for dyslexia

Research collaborators

The projects here could not have happened without collaborations with many other researchers and research groups, including:

Thank you to them all.