If your child is struggling with reading, consulting a Speech Pathologist can help. We provide assessment and therapy for children struggling with reading in Canberra. We understand that as a parent you may feel left in the dark about how to help your child. It can be frustrating when the strategies suggested by teachers just don’t work for your child. Click here to read a detailed article summarising the research into what does and doesn’t work for helping a child learn to read.

The following statistics have been reported by The Australian Bureau of Statistics regarding literacy in Australia

of Australian adults do NOT have the literacy skills required for their everyday lives
0 %
of adults have literacy levels so low that they are at risk of social exclusion and unemployment.
0 %

How literacy difficulties effect children long term

Research has shown that low levels of literacy can impact the lives of children in the long-term in many ways including:


living in fear that people might find out


increased levels of bullying and social exclusion from peers


becoming reliant on other people to understand written information


difficulty finding a job and reduced career choices


in adulthood is linked with poor literacy

Poor health

lower levels of literacy are predictive of worse health outcomes

Common causes of reading problems

Reading is a learnt skill and is NOT a part of typical development. Difficulties with reading can stem from a number of underlying causes. Worried parents of children with reading difficulties are often instructed to ‘keep doing more reading’ rather than investigating possible underlying causes. Often it is not until the child has fallen a long way behind that parents are encouraged to seek help. Some of the common underlying causes for reading problems are listed below:

Or the awareness of sounds and letters are terms that cover many specific skills such as the ability to identify and produce rhyme, syllables, segment words into sounds, represent these with letters and manipulate words by adding or removing sounds etc. There is extensive scientific evidence examined by several comprehensive government reviews in the US, UK and Australia underlining the undisputable importance of systematic phonics instruction especially for beginning readers. Unfortunately as the title of this article ‘Ending the Reading Wars’ suggests, not everyone in the education system teaches using an evidenced-based approach so many children are lacking these skills.

Does your child have difficulty pronouncing some speech sounds? Research shows that children starting school with a speech sound disorder have lower emergent literacy and word reading skills than their peers. For example children who sound out words with incorrect pronunciation can find it more difficult to learn to read and write e.g. a child who can’t say /g/ may read ‘gate’ as ‘date’. Interestingly, research suggests that this can happen even with mild speech sound disorders as severity is not predictive of future difficulties in reading and writing.  

For example a child who cannot say /g/ will not be able to decode the word ‘got’ accurately and may read it as ‘dot’.

Research shows that the best predictor of reading comprehension is oral language competence e.g. grammar and narrative skills but especially vocabulary size. Many children who progress slowly in reading struggle with reading comprehension. Teachers often describe children who are able to ‘read’ words but not deeply understand what happened in the story. Poor oral language can cause reading problems and often goes undiagnosed. Speech Pathologists are the most qualified profession to diagnose and treat a language disorder as they can conduct the appropriate standardised assessments and design effective interventions thanks to their extensive training.

For anyone learning a new skill it is important to feel successful to stay motivated and enjoy the experience right from the start. For some children, their only experience of reading is struggling through home readers and feeling like a failure. Children who associate books with relaxation, enjoyment and wonder after years of engaging with quality literature tend to approach reading with more motivation and purpose. Additionally, when children read books on a wide range of topics it is helpful if they can draw from their real life experiences such relating to children ‘squelching’ through mud in the story We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, teachers refer to this as background knowledge. For these reasons, we need to consider the skills and experiences of the whole child and family to understand how we can help a child with reading problems.

Reading is supported by a range of cognitive (thinking) skills. Difficulty learning to read is sometimes caused by issues with different types of memory (e.g. retention of site words), attention, processing speed, pattern recognition, visual processing etc. If you are concerned about your child’s cognitive skills it may be worth requesting an appointment with a Psychologist (available through ACT public schools) to request an assessment. Private Psychologists also provide these assessments as do the University Psychology Clinics in Canberra; ANU and UC.

After having cognitive testing, a child Psychologist may recommend further testing to screen for a potential Specific Learning Disorder such as Dyslexia etc

It is worthwhile having a medical review for a child who is struggling with reading to check their general health and well-being. Children do not progress well in literacy or any other learnt skill if their fundamental needs are not being met e.g. physical and emotional safety, security, nutrition, sleep, play etc. Click here to see a pyramid known as ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’ which illustrates the importance of health, safety and emotional wellbeing when looking for the cause of reading problems. Common physical causes of reading problems are often missed, for example blurred vision, hearing loss, poor quality sleep etc. It may be necessary to consult your family doctor if there is any indications your child may have an underlying medical condition such as sleep apnoea, poor attention, iron deficiency or vision impairment. Children who have experienced significant trauma or are exhibiting emotional or behavioural disturbances should be evaluated by a child psychologist and in many cases a Paediatrican.

To book a free hearing test in Canberra contact ACT health Nurse Audiometry on 6207 9977  waitlists apply so get in quick!

How to help a child struggling with reading

Speech Pathologists are well positioned to assist children who are behind in their reading and writing as experts skilled in assisting children with disorders in speech, language, and phonological awareness. We can work with your child’s teacher and conduct a detailed assessment of your child’s speech, language and phonological awareness skills. After this we put together an individualised program and work step by step towards specific goals.

Click to book an appointment today.