Specific comprehension difficulties are very rarely specific: tales from experimental and data-driven approaches


According to the Simple View of Reading (Hoover & Gough, 1990), reading disorders can arise from difficulties in decoding letters into words and/or in comprehending meaning. Studies of children with specific comprehension difficulty (or “poor comprehenders”) indicate that they have low oral language skills, which provide a promising target for intervention. However, it is not clear how these language weaknesses emerge, and broader cognitive difficulties are likely underestimated by small-group comparisons. In Part 1 of this talk, I will present experimental data to show that poor comprehenders’ learning and consolidation weaknesses are not restricted to the language domain. In Part 2, I will draw upon data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children to examine the nature and specificity of poor comprehenders’ difficulties on a larger scale (using mixture modelling). Both studies converge on the notion that specific difficulties with comprehension are rare: reading difficulties most commonly span decoding and comprehension, and are accompanied by low performance on nonverbal measures. I will discuss alternative ways to consider variation in reading performance, and the need to look beyond language to consider multiple deficits in reading disorders.

8 Mar, 2023 1:00 PM — 2:00 PM
Birkbeck Psychology Seminar
Room 534, Birkbeck
Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HZ
Emma James
Emma James
Developmental Psychologist