Early Identification Of Children (targeting ages 5-6) At Risk Of Literacy Difficulties

Every parent would like their child to have the necessary early literacy skills and disposition to be an active learner in school. However, it is not uncommon to come across pre-schoolers who forget what they have learnt in class, take a long time to recall what is being taught and an even longer time to complete tasks involving reading and writing.

If you observe these in your child, you are not alone. Dyslexia is one of the main learning differences in Singapore. In a class of 40 in our schools, one to two students could be dyslexic.  

In this article, you will find answers to the most common questions about dyslexia and learn about practical steps to support the literacy development of your child.


1. What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that could affect a child’s ability to read, spell and write accurately and fluently. Children with dyslexia could face difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and processing speed.


2. What are the early indicators of early literacy difficulties in a 5 to 6 year-old child?

The early indicators could be classified into the following categories:

Alphabet knowledge

  • Difficulty recognising letters
  • Difficulty writing letters, including letter reversal

Phonological awareness

  • Challenges in identifying rhymes (e.g.: hat and cat) and counting syllables (e.g.: two syllabus in the word ‘rabbit’)
  • Difficulty matching letter with letter sound (e.g.: the letter ‘a’ makes the /a/ sound like in ‘apple’)
  • Challenges in joining sounds to read a word (e.g.: /c/ /a/ /t/ to read ‘cat’)
  • Difficulty identifying beginning, middle and ending sounds in a word (e.g.: three sounds in the word ‘pen’; /p/ /e/ /n/)

Word recognition

  • Difficulty recognising high frequency words such as ‘the’, ‘and’, ‘I’ and ‘you’
  • Reading words ‘no’ as ‘on’ and ‘saw’ as ‘was’


3. How will early intervention help my child?

The purpose of early intervention is to improve learning outcomes for a child. Early intervention is the key to unlocking children’s potential, as it gives them timely support to narrow the literacy gap between them and their peers in school.

Preschoolers will learn strategies for building a strong early literacy foundation that will support them in building confidence, self-esteem and a positive learning attitude. As English is the main medium of instruction in school, this foundation will also facilitate them in accessing the curriculum in primary school.

When a preschooler receives early literacy intervention, it does not necessarily mean he or she has dyslexia. A formal psychological assessment will be required to assess for dyslexia or other learning difficulties.


4. Why is early intervention important?

For children who are experiencing early literacy difficulties, the literacy gap will continue to widen over the years. During the process, they may struggle in school or experience failures.  Over a period of time, they may develop low self-esteem which could lead to negative experiences towards learning. It is therefore vital that any signs of literacy difficulties are detected early and for intervention to be delivered quickly.


5. Where do we seek help?

The Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS) conducts FREE preschool screening to identify pre-schoolers in K1 and K2 with learning difficulties. These learning difficulties could include challenges with reading, spelling and/or writing. The DAS Educational Therapists will conduct a short screening to identify your child’s literacy profile and provide advice based on your child’s literacy ability.

The next screening will be held on 16 March 2021 (Tuesday) at the DAS Jurong Point Learning Centre. For other screening dates, please go to: https://das.org.sg/services/outreach-and-awareness/dyslexia-screening.html#screening-dates

You can also call the customer service hotline at 6444 5700 to arrange for an individual appointment.


6. How is early literacy intervention different from enrichment classes?

DAS offers specialised support to preschoolers. The DAS Preschool Early Literacy curriculum is an evidence-based programme that has supported pre-schoolers with early literacy difficulties since 2006.

Lessons are tailored and customised according to a child’s learning needs. It is multi-sensory and supports mastery, retention and understanding of learned concepts. An Individualised Educational Plan (IEP) is implemented for every student and student progress is closely monitored through formal and informal literacy assessments throughout the year. 

DAS’ in-house Educational Therapists are also trained to work with pre-schoolers with early literacy difficulties. They have relevant degree or diploma in the fields of Early Childhood, Early Intervention and/or related fields. They also undergo training to obtain qualifications such as Certificate in Dyslexia and Literacy Teaching, Certificate in Preschool Literacy Intervention and Certificate in Dyslexia Studies.


7. Can I guide my child on my own without sending him/her to educational institutions for interventional support?

It is highly recommended to seek professional advice if you suspect that your child requires intervention support. A parent-therapist partnership is important to help your child. Depending on the intervention goals, your child’s therapist would be able to advise how you can support, guide and reinforce learning at home. This also ensures the support you provide is appropriate and achievable. It will help your child experience success that will motivate them in their learning.

Interested to find out more about early identification and intervention for children with literacy difficulties? What about strategies to promote grit and executive functioning skills to help your child achieve more? Join the DAS Preschool Seminar happening on 17 March 2021. The seminar is open to all parents, educators or individuals working to support young children on their educational needs. It will be held online this year in consideration of safety of participants and to allow more participants to join from the comfort and convenience of their homes.


For more information, visit the official website at: https://www.das.org.sg/news-events/conferences/preschool-seminar-2021.html



Writer Profile

Weng Yiyao is a Lead Educational Therapist at DAS. She holds a Master of Arts in Special Educational Needs (SEN) with the University of South Wales (USW) in UK, a degree in Psychology and a Specialist Diploma in Preschool Education. She has presented her research under the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) in 2018 on the importance of family literacy programme, the importance and development of early literacy skills at the 2018 UNiTE SpLD Conference, 2016 and 2017 DAS Preschool Seminars, and the 2016 Early Childhood Conference. Yiyao is also a member of the Register of Educational Therapists Asia (RETA).