Original Research

Adapting a screening tool for dyslexia in isiXhosa

Annelize Clark, Kalavani Naidoo, Adaiah Lilenstein
Reading & Writing | Vol 10, No 1 | a235 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/rw.v10i1.235 | © 2019 Annelize Clark, Kalavani Naidoo, Adaiah Lilenstein | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 25 March 2019 | Published: 27 November 2019

About the author(s)

Annelize Clark, Training Department, Bellavista SHARE, Johannesburg, South Africa
Kalavani Naidoo, Training Department, Bellavista SHARE, Johannesburg, South Africa
Adaiah Lilenstein, Department of Economics, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa


Background: While much research is dedicated to the understanding of dyslexia in the English-speaking population, there is limited knowledge about how this condition presents in African languages. The need for a literacy screening tool in a learner’s home language to aid in early identification, and therefore early intervention, is crucial for reading success in South Africa.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to adapt and develop a screening tool for dyslexia for home language isiXhosa learners.

Method: The three-part tool consisting of a learner screening tool, a teacher checklist and a parent questionnaire to target the identification of the majority of the indicators for dyslexia. The tool was piloted on a small group of 15 learners across Grades 1–4, identified by their teachers as having literacy difficulties. In addition, seven learners were identified by their teachers as average performers and were used as a control group. A team of three professional field workers analysed the data collected and identified five learners as clearly at risk and five learners as possibly at risk. Ten indicators for dyslexia were considered. Of these, there were high correlations between Phonological Awareness and Spelling, Decoding and Alphabetic Principle, as well as Spelling and Oral/Written Discrepancy. After piloting the screening tool, the researchers made further revisions to the content and length of all three parts of the tool, with the aim to simplify the tool for both the assessor and the teachers or parents completing the checklists.

Results: Findings indicate that the adapted screening tool, together with the adapted teacher checklist and parent interview, give professionals an indication of whether an isiXhosa-speaking child is at risk for dyslexia.

Conclusion: A larger study using the same tool with the aim of refining the tool further would be beneficial. The study also opens doors for the adaptation of the tool into other African languages.


dyslexia; isiXhosa; indicators; phonology; reading; writing; learning difficulties; literacy difficulties; teacher identification.


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Crossref Citations

1. South African professionals and developmental dyslexia: Knowledge, needs and perspectives
Annika Altin, Salome Geertsema, Mia le Roux, Marien Graham
South African Journal of Childhood Education  vol: 13  issue: 1  year: 2023  
doi: 10.4102/sajce.v13i1.1104