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Rapid Automatized Naming and Dyslexia: What Research Reveals

Rapid naming refers to the speed with which the names of symbols (letters, numbers, colors, or pictured objects) can be retrieved from long-term memory. This process is often termed rapid automatized naming.

People with dyslexia typically score poorer on rapid automatized naming assessments than normal readers (Elliott & Grigorenko, 2014). Deficits in rapid naming are often viewed as part of the phonological deficit in poor readers. Phonological processing skills are believed to play an important role in the development of reading. Deficits in phonological processing form a core deficit, leading to reading difficulties. It is believed to consist of three main components:

  • phonological awareness,
  • phonological or verbal short-term memory, and
  • rapid automatized naming.
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Phonological awareness involves the detection and manipulation of sounds at three levels of sound structure: (1) syllables, (2) onsets and rimes, and (3) phonemes. A syllable is a unit of pronunciation having one vowel sound, with or without surrounding consonants, forming the whole or a part of a word; for example, there are two syllables in water and three in inferno. The onset is the consonant sound or sounds at the beginning of a syllable. The rime is usually the portion of a syllable from the first vowel to the end. For example, /æt/ is the rime of all of the words atsat, and flat. A phoneme is a unit of sound that distinguishes one word from another in a particular language. For example, the sound patterns /sɪn/ (sin) and /sɪŋ/ (sing) are two separate words that are distinguished by the substitution of one phoneme, /n/, for another phoneme, /ŋ/. Phonological or verbal short-term memory codes auditory information for temporary storage.

While some view rapid naming as part of the phonological deficit in poor readers (Ramus & Szenkovits, 2008), others like Wolf and Bowers (1999) claim that it constitutes a separate construct that is related to reading independently. According to Wolf and Bower’s double deficit hypothesis model, people with dyslexia can be subdivided into three groups: those with phonological awareness difficulties but with average rapid automatized naming ability, those with a rapid automatized naming deficit but average phonological awareness, and those with both phonological awareness and rapid automatized naming difficulties. According to this model, those with a double deficit would be likely to have the most severe form of reading difficulties.

In a longitudinal study, Landerl et al. (2018) examined 1,120 children acquiring one of five alphabetic orthographies with different degrees of orthographic complexity (English, French, German, Dutch, and Greek). While rapid automatized naming was a universal predictor of reading in five alphabetic orthographies varying in consistency, no consistent pattern appeared for the phonological awareness–reading relationship. The researchers conclude that phonological awareness’s direct contribution to reading development might be less causal than is generally assumed. They speculate that instead of being a prerequisite for learning to read, phonological awareness may function as a corequisite skill for typical reading development. Ziegler et al. (2010), however, found the opposite. The researchers examined the influence of phonological awareness and rapid automatized naming across five languages lying at different positions along a transparency continuum (Finnish, Hungarian, Dutch, Portuguese, and French). They found phonological awareness to be the main factor associated with reading performance in each language; its impact was stronger in less transparent orthographies. The influence of rapid automatized naming was rather weak and limited to reading and decoding speed..

Is a rapid naming deficit holding your child back?

Edublox Online Tutor is an online platform that houses a range of products and services to improve various aspects of learning. Our programs include Development Tutor, Reading Tutor, and Live Tutor. Live Tutor works in conjunction with Development Tutor, is recommended for students with mild to severe dyslexia, and aims at

  • strengthening cognitive skills including rapid automatized naming;
  • teaching decoding, a key skill for learning to read that involves taking apart the sounds in words (segmenting) and blending sounds; and
  • developing orthographic mapping.
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Book a free consultation to discuss your child’s learning needs after watching the video below.
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Susan’s story

Meet Susan, Vivienne’s mom. Vivienne was adopted from China at age 5. This video is about Susan helping her 11-year-old daughter catch up on development delays, including dyslexia. They started with the Edublox program 13 weeks ago. 
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Authored by Susan du Plessis (B.A. Hons Psychology; B.D.) who has 30+ years’ experience in the LD field.
Page last reviewed: May 28, 2021.
Next review due: May 28, 2023.


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References and sources:

De Jong, P. F., & van der Leij, A. (2003). Developmental changes in the manifestation of a phonological deficit in dyslexic children learning to read a regular orthography. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95(1), 22-40.

Elliott, J. G., & Grigorenko, E. L. (2014). The dyslexia debate. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Landerl, K., Freudenthaler, H. H., Heene, M., de Jong, P. F., Desrochers, A., Manolitsis, G., … Georgiou, G. K. (2018). Phonological awareness and rapid automatized naming as longitudinal predictors of reading in five alphabetic orthographies with varying degrees of consistency. Scientific Studies of Reading, 1-15.

Ramus, F., & Szenkovits, G. (2008). What phonological deficit? Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 61(1), 129-141.

Wolf, M., & Bowers, P. G. (1999). The double-deficit hypothesis for the developmental dyslexias. Journal of Educational Psychology, 91(3), 415-438.

Ziegler, J. C., Bertrand, D., Tóth, D., Csépe, V., Reis, A., Faísca, L., … Blomert, L. (2010). Orthographic depth and its impact on universal predictors of reading. Psychological Science, 21(4), 551-559.