Kindergarten Dyslexia Screening Project

Early Detection of Dyslexia: Study Overview

Working in partnership with the Laboratory for Applied Research in Neurovision (LAPAN) in Minas Gerais, Brazil, the Screening Unit is conducting a collaborative study to learn more about the early signs of dyslexia in kindergarten students. Recent evidence indicates that children who are at risk for developing dyslexia can be identified through assessments of saccade control (small, involuntary movements of the eyes) and phonological awareness (the ability to map discrete sounds to letters and syllables). Eye tracking technology and phonological awareness assessments may enable early screening to identify dyslexia in kindergarten, before it affects reading development.

Results from the study will contribute information about the extent to which eye tracking and phonological awareness screening measures at kindergarten can predict diagnostic outcomes in Grade 1. The study will also assess how results may differ across neighbourhoods by socioeconomic status. By detecting potential pre-literate markers of dyslexia, the study will help facilitate early identification and intervention. This study, supported by the UBC Martha Piper Research Fund, is to be piloted in four elementary schools in the Burnaby School District.

Important Information for Parents

HELP is working with select schools in the Burnaby School District to identify early signs of dyslexia among Kindergarten students. Dyslexia is a learning disability that causes difficulty with reading in people who have the intelligence, motivation, and education for successful reading (Shaywitz, et al.). It affects 5 to 17% of children (Temple, et al.) and its impacts are far reaching. For example, a student who cannot read adequately in Grade 1 has a 90% chance of reading poorly in Grade 4 and a 75% chance of reading poorly in high school (Gabrieli). Dyslexia is usually diagnosed at age 7 or 8, after reading is taught at school (Gabrieli) and after reading difficulties are observed at school or home. Recent research has found early signs of dyslexia in a child’s “phonological awareness” (the ability to detect the sound structure of spoken words, such as syllables and rhyming) and in small movements of the eyes.

If your child attends one of the selected schools, he or she is invited to participate in an eye tracking activity to better understand the early signs. Results from the activity will help us find signs of dyslexia earlier, before it affects a student’s reading development. Your child can take part in this study if your child is in kindergarten and does not have a severe, diagnosed vision disorder or impairment and/or hearing loss.

Benefits of the Study

By allowing your child to participate in this study, you can help us better understand learning disabilities before they become a serious problem in later grades. If your child shows eye movements that are irregular or usually linked to dyslexia, we will contact you to make an appointment with a school psychologist for further testing and referral to other resources if necessary.

What information will be collected about your child?

The data include information that you provide in the Background Information Questionnaire, your child’s results from the eye tracker activity, the vision check, and school psychologist assessment (if applicable). Any information that can identify you or your child will be kept confidential and these data will be kept separately from your name or your child’s name.

The summary of all the results may be published in an academic journal or presented at a conference. Neither you nor your child will be identified in any reports or publications that may result from this study.

HELP’s research depends on quality and accurate data, including personal information, so safeguarding that data is a responsibility HELP takes very seriously. HELP follows the highest standards available to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of individuals. Please visit the Safeguarding Personal Information page to learn more.


Your consent to your child’s participation in this study is entirely voluntary and you may refuse to participate or withdraw your child from the study at any time without consequence to your child or yourself. There will be no penalty if your child chooses not to participate on the day of the screening activity or if you change your mind.


You will receive a $25 gift card to a local grocery store for allowing your child to participate in the study. 

For More Information

For more information about this project, or to request a copy of the complete parent information package, consent form and questionnaire, please email Khristine Carino.



S. E Shaywitz, R. Morris, and B. A Shaywitz, “The education of dyslexic children from childhood to young adulthood,” Psychology 59, no. 1 (2008): 451.

Temple, E., Deutsch, G. K., Poldrack, R. A., Miller, S. L., Tallal, P., Merzenich, M. M., & Gabrieli, J. D. E. (2003). Neural deficits in children with dyslexia ameliorated by behavioral remediation: Evidence from functional MRI. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100(5), 2860 -2865.

John D. E. Gabrieli, “Dyslexia: A New Synergy Between Education and Cognitive Neuroscience,” Science 325, no. 5938 (July 17, 2009): 280 -283.