UCSF Dyslexia Center Tackles Early Screening for Dyslexia

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An unfortunate fact of life for children with dyslexia is that, at this point in time, they are unlikely to receive the interventions they need until they fall behind their peers. That is why the California Department of Education Dyslexia Guidelines, published in August 2017 as a result of passage of AB 1369, recommend universal screening for dyslexia beginning in kindergarten. The guidelines note that imaging studies show that the brain differences, or “neural signatures,” that characterize dyslexia are present at a very young age, and that an achievement gap between children with dyslexia and typical readers is apparent in first grade.

A research team from the UCSF Dyslexia Center is field-testing a computer app it is developing to meet screening goals in a cost-effective way. Called the Application for Readiness In Schools and Learning Evaluation (AppRISE), it is designed to assess school readiness and dyslexia risk in children from preschool to early elementary grades. The app uses a game-based approach that is appropriate for a wide range of children, including English language learners. AppRISE is currently being field-tested in four Bay Area school districts with more than 200 children, primarily in kindergarten classrooms.

The Summer 2018 issue of IDA’s quarterly publication Perspectives on Language and Literacy is devoted to the benefits and challenges of early identification of reading difficulties. Early intervention is cost effective, compared to waiting until a child requires intensive remediation. Early identification and intervention can also reduce the social and emotional consequences of dyslexia. But there are also challenges to early identification. Screening tools needs to be sensitive enough to capture most children with dyslexia, but specific enough to exclude students who are not at risk. Ideally, screening tools are simple to use and do not require a trained examiner to administer.

The UCSF Dyslexia Center will offer a demonstration of its screening app at IDA Northern California’s fall program, Dyslexia and AB 1369: School and Community Partnership & Critical Next Steps, on Saturday, October 20, 2018, at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley. Or for more information on AppRISE, visit the UCSF Dyslexia Center website.

For additional information on the benefits of universal screening for dyslexia, see this IDA Fact Sheet.