Teachers and parents are often on the lookout for disabilities in children just learning to read, but a new study suggests that adults should keep an eye on the skills of slightly older children as well.
In a study of 161 fourth- and fifth-graders, researchers from Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and Haskins Laboratories in Connecticut found that less than a third of the 31 children suffering from late-emerging reading problems--those that appear in the fourth grade or later--had been flagged by their schools. A third of children with late-emerging reading disabilities had poor reading comprehension but showed strong word recognition, a pattern rarely seen in kids with early reading problems. The study was published in the Journal of Educational Psychology.
"It's unexpected. No one's looking for it," says Hollis Scarborough, a senior research scientist at Haskins Laboratories and coauthor of the study. She says late-emerging reading disabilities can be quite abrupt in onset, but are often dismissed as a temporary slump in learning. This oversight can lead to problems that may become particularly debilitating in high school and college if left unaddressed.