Centre for Reading and Language

Dr Pamela Baylis


Pamela Baylis

About

Pamela Baylis was awarded a BSc (econ)(Hons) in Psychology and Social Administration from University College Swansea in 1977. She then worked as a psychology assistant for a year under Prof H C Gunzburg developing language teaching strategies for individuals with complex learning difficulties based in a hospital setting in Birmingham. In 1979 having completed a post graduate certificate of education (PGCE) in primary/special education at Leeds Polytechnic (now Leeds Metropolitan University) she began teaching with Leeds Education authority in various special schools. During this time she gained her Master of Education degree in 1983 from Leeds University. In 1985 Pamela transferred to the Child Development Centre at the Clarendon Wing, Leeds General Infirmary working in a multi-disciplinary team headed by Dr Jayne Whinn developing assessment and early teaching strategies for children with complex learning difficulties. In 1986 Pamela trained to become a Special Needs Coordinator and moved into mainstream education first working in an inner city middle school and later when they were phased out as a Special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) and head of Key Stage One in socially disadvantaged primary schools in Leeds. Pamela retired from mainstream teaching in 1994 as a result of an injury. She undertook a post-graduate diploma in Specific Learning Difficulties with the Dyslexia Institute (now Dyslexia Action) in 1996 and worked as a private tutor for a number of years. She became involved with the Centre for Reading and Language in 1997 and gained her PhD investigating the reading skills of children with Down syndrome in mainstream schools in 2006.

Research interests

Pamela has a strong interest in the improvement of the educational experience of children with learning difficulties in mainstream schools. Since completing her PhD she has assisted in various projects investigating reading and comprehension skills of children in primary schools.

Thesis Abstract

Previous research has found that children with Down syndrome are able to learn to read and that they can use phonological skills in their reading. This thesis is concerned with the reading skills of children with Down syndrome attending mainstream schools. The profile of their reading is compared to that of typically developing children and those with a non-specific learning difficulty.

Three studies are presented. The first study is a survey of the reading skills of a cohort of forty children with Down syndrome attending main stream schools. The second part of this study is a comparative study, investigating the reading profiles of a sub-group of the children with Down syndrome with those of typically-developing and a group of children with a non-specific learning difficulty matched on reading ability. The second study is a longitudinal survey of the reading skills of the original cohort of forty children with Down syndrome who were re-assessed three years from the first assessment. The third study is a multi-sensory reading training study, involving a sub-group of children with Down syndrome taken from the original cohort.

The results show a wide variability of reading skills within the cohort of children with Down syndrome. Based on the results it was possible to divide the cohort into four distinct groups of reading ability; 'emerging', 'beginning', 'developing' and 'good' readers. There were significant differences between the groups on all reading and language measures, but no differences in performance IQ or rhyme ability. The 'good reader' group had better language skills than the other groups, however language ability was not found to be a unique predictor of reading. Letter knowledge and phonological skills at the syllable level were found to be unique predictors of reading. Investigation of the phonological skills of the children confirmed earlier findings of a specific deficit at the level of onset-rime. At follow-up three years later the majority of the children had made reading progress although there remained a small group that had not developed reading skills. Phonological skills at Time 1 and letter knowledge were found to be unique predictors of reading outcome as was initial reading skill. The children who were better readers also had better language skills. There remained evidence for a difficulty in rhyme skills.

The reading profiles of the children with Down syndrome, the typically developing children and the children with a non-specific learning difficulty showed differences in Performance IQ, language and phonological skills particularly rhyme, with the children with Down syndrome performing significantly worse on all tasks.

The reading training focused on phonological skill training at the onset-rime level, letter-sound work and onset-rime linkage in the context of shared book reading. All participating children gained from between 6 months and 18 months in reading age. Four children developed decoding strategies with the remainder continuing to be predominantly 'whole-word' readers. All of the children made improvements in letter knowledge but there remained an overall difficulty with rhyme.

The findings from the three studies are discussed with reference to theories of phonological awareness development and the cognitive difficulties of children with Down syndrome. Implications for reading instruction are also given.

Recent publications

Baylis, P. & Snowling, M.J. (2012) Evaluation of a phonological reading programme for children with Down Syndrome. Child Language Teaching & Therapy 28, 39-56 DOI: 10.1177/0265659011414277

Conference papers and Invited Talks

Baylis, P.J., & Snowling, M.J. A longitudinal study of the reading skills of children with Down syndrome attending mainstream schools. The BPS Psychology of Education Section Annual Conference Moat House Hotel, Stoke-on-Trent, November 9th-11th 2007.

Baylis, P.J., & Snowling, M.J. A reading training programme for children with Down syndrome attending mainstream schools. 4th International Conference on Developmental Issues in Down Syndrome, University of Portsmouth, 15th-18th ,September 2005.

Baylis, P.J., & Snowling, M.J. The reading skills of children with Down syndrome longitudinal study: the final results and conclusions. UK Research Forum, Sarah Duffen Centre, Portsmouth, October 2004.

Baylis, P.J., Snowling, M.J., Hatcher, P.J.& Goetz, K. The reading skills of children with Down syndrome attending mainstream schools: Results of a 4 year longitudinal study. (poster presentation) 3rd Seattle Club Conference on research in Intellectual Disabilities, Edinburgh University, December 11-12th 2003.

Baylis, P.J., Snowling, M.J., Hatcher, P.J. The teaching of reading to a group of children with Down syndrome. UK Research Forum, Sarah Duffen Centre, Portsmouth, October 2003.

Baylis, P.J., Snowling ,M.J.,& Hatcher, P.J. The reading skills of children with Down syndrome attending mainstream schools. BPS joint Developmental and Education Sections Annual Conference, Worcester University, September 2001.

Baylis, P.J., Snowling, M.J., & Hatcher, P.J. A study of the reading skills of children with Down syndrome. (poster presentation) 3rd International Conference on Language and Cognition in Down Syndrome. University of Portsmouth ,September 2000.

Baylis, P.J., Snowling, M.J., & Hatcher, P.J. The reading skills of children with Down Syndrome. International Special Education Congress (ISEC) 2000, Manchester University, 24th-28th July 2000.