New Research in Dyslexia Screening

“Family History Is Not Useful in Screening Children for Dyslexia” Journal of Pediatric Neuropsychology, Volume 8, pages 15–21, published 2022 


New Research in Dyslexia Screening

Dyslexia is a learning disorder that involves difficulty in reading due to problems in identifying speech sounds and how they relate to letters and words. Early assessment and intervention are very important in helping children with dyslexia. This assessment usually involves looking at family history and completing tests. Recently, a study by Emilio Ferrer, Bennett A. Shaywitz, John M. Holahan, and Sally E. Shaywitz titled “Family History Is Not Useful in Screening Children for Dyslexia,” published in volume 8 of the Journal of Pediatric Neuropsychology, challenged the idea of using family history as a screening tool for dyslexia.

The study tracked 398 children from age 5 through adulthood to evaluate the effectiveness of using family history as a screening measure for dyslexia. The researchers compared the predictive value of family history against evidence-based early screening measures. The researchers looked at how sensitive family history was in predicting dyslexia. They found it was ineffective across all family member groups, with its sensitivity rates ranging from as low as 5% (for grandparents) to a maximum of 51% (for first- and second-degree relatives). These low sensitivity rates indicate that relying on family history alone would result in many dyslexic children being misclassified as typical readers. Evidence-Based Screening, however, was significantly more effective in detecting dyslexia, and even adding family history to the screening process did not improve the accuracy.

The findings suggest that using family history to identify dyslexia is not only inadequate but potentially harmful because misclassification can delay intervention for dyslexic children, negatively impacting their education. Instead, evidence-based screening tools that are specifically designed to identify early signs of dyslexia are encouraged. These tools focus on measurable skills such as letter knowledge and phonological awareness, which are more reliable indicators of dyslexia risk.

Effective early screening for dyslexia is crucial for timely intervention and support and validated, evidence-based screening measures can help to improve the accuracy of dyslexia identification and provide better outcomes to ensure that all children at risk of dyslexia are accurately identified and receive the necessary support to thrive in their educational journey.

If you are concerned about your child’s reading abilities, please call our office to schedule a consultation.



Steven P. Greco, Ph.D., ABN
Board-Certified in Neuropsychology #485
Partner, Neuropsychological Rehabilitation Services|LifeSpan
Post-Doctoral Fellowship Supervisor
Jersey Shore University Medical Center, Neuroscience Division
Department of Neurology and Psychiatry
Clinical Assistant Professor, Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
Clinical Assistant Professor, Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine