Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies

SPELD NZ Remedial Intervention for Dyslexia

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies

SPELD NZ Remedial Intervention for Dyslexia

Article excerpt


Intensive tutoring has been shown to be effective in improving the academic skills of children with reading disabilities. This study investigated the efficacy of SPELD NZs' specialist intervention. The 42 participants were aged seven years and in Year 3 in 2011. The teaching provided was one to one from qualified SPELD NZ teachers. Analyses were conducted on students' Woodcock-Johnson III (WJIII) scores post-test compared to pre-study assessment. Analyses revealed significant scores gains in both the WJIII Cognitive Abilities and Test of Achievement. Noteworthy were the large effect sizes post-remediation from the broad reading skills cluster, the word attack subscale and verbal comprehension. Less expected, however, were the large gains from measures of cognitive efficiency and processing speed. Taken together, the findings support the conclusion that SPELD NZ interventions can be most effective in lifting specific and broad achievement levels for students with dyslexia.

Keywords: SPELD; remediation; school intervention; specific learning disability; dyslexia.


Some children have great difficulty attaining fluent single word reading and, if it persists, they may have a specific reading disability (herein called dyslexia). Dyslexia is a persistent and unexplained failure to achieve accurate and/or fluent word recognition skills, despite adequate intelligence, intact senses, and proper instruction (Lyon, Shaywitz & Shaywitz, 2003). While many adults who struggle to read in childhood are eventually able to read accurately, their reading often remains slow and effortful with persistent spelling and written expression deficits.

The primary cognitive deficit in dyslexia can be traced back to deficient phonological coding (Pennington, Van Orden, Smith, Green, Haith, 1990; Snowling, 2000), which impairs the way that speech sounds are represented, stored and retrieved (Lyon et al., 2003). As dyslexia is not related to any lack of intellectual ability, there is a similar bell curve distribution of intellectual ability in the population of those with dyslexia as in the general population. It can thus be argued that the dyslexic population is one that is likely to be very responsive to appropriate remedial intervention which may also apply to the wider student population. Indeed, although dyslexia is often resistant to regular classroom instruction, intensive tutoring has been shown to be very effective in improving reading skills (Lyon, Fletcher, Fuchs & Chlabra, 2006). This is one of the propositions underlying the study reported on here.

There is not an extensive body of published Australasian research on remedial interventions which are specifically focused on dyslexia, despite dyslexia being a fairly common presenting problem in New Zealand schools. The studies in New Zealand by Tunrner et al. (e.g., Tunrner, Chapman, Greaney, Prochnow & Arrow, 2013) and in Australia by the Wheldall group at Macquarrie University (Wheldall & Madelaine, 2006) provided a useful springboard when designing this study. Among examples of programme evaluation is the work of Firth and colleagues (Firth, Frydenberg & Greaves, 2008; Firth & Frydenberg, 2011; Firth, Frydenberg & Bond, 2012; Torgesen, Alexander, Wagner, Rashotte, Voeller & Conway, 2001). These studies show that while dyslexia is increasingly recognised as a specific learning disability, far more work needs to be done researching the efficacy of interventions. A report by Graham, Bellert, Thomas and Pegg (2007) also revealed significant student gains following a basic academic skills intervention for low achieving students (not dyslexic by definition or assessment). These researchers placed 42 students in small groups receiving targeted 30-minute sessions weekly for 26 weeks. The authors conclude that remedial intervention is capable of narrowing the academic gap between students with specific learning disabilities and their average peers. …

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