Cost-effective prediction of reading difficulties

Steve Heath, John Hogben

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


This study addressed 2 questions: (a) Can preschoolers who will fail at reading be more efficiently identified by targeting those at highest risk for reading problems? and (b) will auditory temporal processing (ATP) improve the accuracy of identification derived from phonological processing and oral language ability? A sample of 227 preschoolers was screened for Performance IQ and was tested on phonological awareness (PA). The upper and lower quartiles of the PA distribution were selected as being at lowest and highest risk, respectively, for reading failure. Children with good and poor PA were tested on ATP, phonological short-term memory, rapid automatized naming, oral language, receptive vocabulary, and 2 measures of listening comprehension. Reading outcomes were measured at the end of Year 2. Only 1 child in he good-PA group became a poor reader by the end of Year 2, confirming that being in the top quartile for PA predicts positive reading outcomes. Discriminant analysis using the authors' test battery within the poor-PA group identified poor readers with sensitivity of .91 and specificity of .84, but ATP did not improve classification accuracy afforded by phonological and oral language. A brief screening procedure was formulated using only PA, phonological short-term memory, and demographic variables, with which 80% of children with poor PA who are at risk of reading problems can be identified. Further refinements of this screening procedure would increase accuracy of identification at the cost of only a small increment in required testing time.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)751-765
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, & Hearing Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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