The gap between dyslexic and typical readers can show up in elementary school and persist into adolescence, researchers found.

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As early as first grade, dyslexic readers can have much lower reading scores and verbal IQs compared with typical readers, suggesting that earlier intervention is needed to help students from falling behind, according to study recently published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

The researchers — from Yale University and the University of California, Davis — found that the gap between dyslexic and typical readers, which often shows up in elementary school, persisted into adolescence.

The study found that the gap didn’t increase over time, but instead was already present when students were in first grade.

“As dyslexic children progress in school, given good instruction, reading accuracy often improves; however, lack of fluency (the ability to read not only accurately, but rapidly and with good intonation) persists and remains a lifelong problem,” the researchers wrote.

Students with dyslexia, as a group, graduate from high school at a lower rate than other students, have lower job earnings and higher levels of unemployment. The researchers concluded that preschool reading programs could help improve the dyslexic students’ prospects.  They also suggest that educators should use verbal exercises to identify students who might be at risk for dyslexia, as dyslexia initially affects spoken language, and then reading.

As many as one in five school-age children has dyslexia, which is defined as unexpected difficulty in reading for a person’s age or intelligence.

The study included 414 people who have taken part in the Connecticut Longitudinal Study, an ongoing study on reading disabilities that has tracked students’ progress for more than 20 years.