Addressing core features of dyslexia – Phonological Processing – part 1 | Dyslexia UK

Addressing core features of dyslexia – Phonological Processing – part 1

March 27, 2023 Keir Williams Comments Off

Whilst dyslexia is a learning difficulty that affects the skills involved in reading and spelling, it can affect people in different ways. There are some common difficulties linked to aspects of language that people with dyslexia experience, although these by themselves are not evidence of dyslexia.

These include difficulties with:

  • motor-co-ordination
  • mental calculation
  • concentration
  • personal organisation

Likewise, people with dyslexia frequently, but not always, have strengths in areas such as:

  • design
  • problems solving
  • creative skills
  • interactive skills
  • oral skills

However, there are four common characteristic features, that strongly indicate the presence of dyslexia. These are difficulties in:

  • phonological awareness
  • phonological memory
  • working memory
  • phonological processing speed
  • visual processing speed

When someone has a dyslexia assessment they will receive a report that outlines their strengths and areas of difficulty. There will be a recommendations section that will suggest interventions to support the person in developing their skills. However, knowing how to address weaknesses the core areas listed above can be challenging.

This series of blog posts will investigate each of these difficulties, the impact it can have one a person’s learning and suggest simple strategies that the learner can do at home to support their difficulties in these areas. This two part blog post will focus on phonological processing speed.

Phonological Processing Speed

Processing speed is the pace at which a person takes in, makes sense of and responds to information. This information could be visual, such as pictures, letters or numbers, or it could be auditory, such as spoken words.

People’s speed of processing varies. Their speed of processing is not related to their intelligence, but is a reflection of how fast they can take in and use information. People with a slow processing speed will take longer than their peers to answer questions and complete tasks. This might mean that they have difficulty processing multi-step instructions and become overwhelmed when given too much information at once, such as long instructions or directions. It can also affect a person’s reading, counting and writing. For example, a person with processing speed difficulties might find it hard to express their ideas clearly and concisely. They could have word retrieval and verbal organisation problems that could make it hard for a listener to understand what they are trying to share.

Watch this video that answers the question: What Is Slow Processing Speed?

Phonological processing and dyslexia

Phonological processing speed is often assessed in a dyslexia assessment using a subtest called Rapid naming. In this subtest the person is asked to read aloud a list of letters, numbers, colours or objects as fast as they can. Their speed is standardised to show whether their verbal processing speed is above, below or within the average range.

It has been shown in many studies that this rapid naming ability is often below average among dyslexic people. The ability to name letters or symbols quick and accurately is, without a doubt, at the heart of being able to read. A person’s verbal processing speed can affect their ability to read because it reflects their efficiency in recognising sections of words and whole words as one unit. For example when looking at the word ‘cat’, a competent reader does not sound it out one letter at a time, but instead would recognise the whole word as one unit. If a person has verbal processing speed difficulties, despite being able to read the word ‘cat’ as a whole unit, it takes them longer to do so, thereby affecting their reading fluency and reading rate. This means that they will not only read slower, but also that their reading is not automatic and requires more mental effort, attention to decode the word accurately. Due to the focus taken for this, reading comprehension levels are compromised.

Next weeks post will focus on support and interventions to address phonological processing speed difficulties.

To read more about why dyslexia affects a person’s reading ability, read this:

For our previous series titled Learning how to learn, start here:

Contact us to discuss processing difficulties with a dyslexia assessor, go to: