Low IQ poor readers face similar difficulties to dyslexics

Published: 13 September 2016 at 14:43

A boy struggling to read a textbook

Anglia Ruskin psychologist looks at problems faced by dyslexic and low IQ children`

Untitled PageNew research shows that poor reading skills amongst young children, regardless of whether they have dyslexia or low IQ and poor reading, are related to difficulties with the auditory processing of rhythm, although these difficulties are experienced in different ways.

The study, which will be presented at the British Psychological Society’s Developmental Section Annual Conference in Belfast tomorrow, is co-authored by Dr Sarah Kuppen of Anglia Ruskin University and Professor Usha Goswami of the University of Cambridge.


The academics used the developmental trajectories approach, which is a new way of studying language and cognitive impairments in developmental disorders.  

Published in the journal Developmental Psychology, the research uses data from 154 children (average age of eight years and one month) and found that both groups of poor readers – dyslexic children with a typical IQ and low IQ children with poor reading – exhibit difficulties in phonological skills and auditory processing. 

Regarding the cognitive predictors of reading, which are phonological awareness, phonological short-term memory (PSTM) and rapid automatized naming (RAN), the method showed that the developmental trajectories for the two groups diverged. 

Children with dyslexia showed atypical development in phonological awareness, while low IQ poor readers showed developmental delay in phonological awareness.  Low IQ poor readers showed atypical PSTM and RAN development, but children with dyslexia showed developmental delay in both of these areas.  These divergent trajectories may have important implications for providing targeted support for each type of poor reader. 

Dr Kuppen, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Anglia Ruskin University, said: 


“The data shows that, regardless of IQ, poor readers have developmental trajectories that differ from typically developing children. 

“The trajectories approach enables differences in trajectory classification to be identified across poor reader group, as well as specifying the individual nature of these trajectories.  This could help parents and teachers to provide targeted support for young children struggling with their reading.

“Detailed longitudinal work may be able to determine whether an atypical trajectory means that these children follow a different developmental path, or whether they follow the same developmental path, but less successfully, and whether they can ever achieve the same end point as the typically developing children.”