Debbie Gooch

Debbie Gooch

Lecturer in Developmental Psychology
Sem 2: Thursday 2-4pm


University roles and responsibilities

  • Psychology Final Year Tutor


Research interests

Research projects

Research collaborations

My teaching

Courses I teach on


Postgraduate research supervision

My publications


Gooch DC, Maydew H, Sears C, Norbury C (2017) Does a child?s language ability affect the correspondence between parent and teacher ratings of ADHD symptoms? BMC Psychiatry 17 (129)

Rating scales are often used to identify children with potential Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity
Disorder (ADHD), yet there are frequently discrepancies between informants which may be moderated by child
characteristics. The current study asked whether correspondence between parent and teacher ratings on the
Strengths and Weakness of ADHD symptoms and Normal behaviour scale (SWAN) varied systematically with child
language ability.


Parent and teacher SWAN questionnaires were returned for 200 children (aged 61?81 months); 106 had
low language ability (LL) and 94 had typically developing language (TL). After exploring informant correspondence
(using Pearson correlation) and the discrepancy between raters, we report inter-class correlation coefficients, to
assess inter-rater reliability, and Cohen?s kappa, to assess agreement regarding possible ADHD caseness.


Correlations between informant ratings on the SWAN were moderate. Children with LL were rated as
having increased inattention and hyperactivity relative to children with TL; teachers, however, rated children with LL
as having more inattention than parents. Inter-rater reliability of the SWAN was good and there were no systematic
differences between the LL and TL groups. Case agreement between parent and teachers was fair; this varied by
language group with poorer case agreement for children with LL.


Children?s language abilities affect the discrepancy between informant ratings of ADHD symptomatology
and the agreement between parents and teachers regarding potential ADHD caseness. The assessment of children?s
core language ability would be a beneficial addition to the ADHD diagnostic process.

Hume C, Goetz K, Gooch DC, Adams J, Snowling M (2006) Paired-associate learning, phoneme awareness, and learning to read Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 96 (2) pp. 150-166
We report two studies examining the relations among three paired-associate learning (PAL) tasks (visual?visual, verbal?verbal, and visual?verbal), phoneme deletion, and single-word and nonword reading ability. Correlations between the PAL tasks and reading were strongest for the visual?verbal task. Path analyses showed that both phoneme deletion and visual?verbal PAL were unique predictors of a composite measure of single-word reading and of irregular word reading. However, for nonword reading, phoneme deletion was the only unique predictor (and visual?verbal PAL was not a significant predictor). These results are consistent with the view that learning visual (orthography) to phonological mappings is an important skill for developing word recognition skills in reading and that individual differences in this ability can be tapped experimentally by a PAL task.
Nash H, Hulme C, Gooch DC, Snowling M (2013) Preschool language pro?les of children at family risk of dyslexia: continuities with speci?c language impairment Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 54 (9) pp. 958-968

Children at family risk of dyslexia have been reported to show phonological deficits as well as broader language delays in the preschool years.


The preschool language skills of 112 children at family risk of dyslexia (FR) at ages 3½ and 4½ were compared with those of children with SLI and typically developing (TD) controls.


Children at FR showed two different profiles: one third of the group resembled the children with SLI and scored poorly across multiple domains of language including phonology. As a group, the remaining children had difficulties on tasks tapping phonological skills at T1 and T2. At the individual level, we confirmed that some FR children had both phonological and broader oral language difficulties (compared with TD controls), some had only phonological difficulties and some appeared to be developing typically.


We have highlighted the early overlap between family risk of dyslexia and SLI. A family history of dyslexia carries an increased risk for SLI and the two disorders both show an increased incidence of phonological deficits which appear to a proximal risk factor for developing a reading impairment.

Thompson P, Hulme C, Nash H, Gooch DC, Hayiou-Thomas E, Snowling M (2015) Develop mental dyslexia: predicting individual risk Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 56 (9) pp. 976-987

Causal theories of dyslexia suggest that it is a heritable disorder, which is the outcome of multiple risk factors. However, whether early screening for dyslexia is viable is not yet known.


The study followed children at high risk of dyslexia from preschool through the early primary years assessing them from age 3 years and 6 months (T1) at approximately annual intervals on tasks tapping cognitive, language, and executive-motor skills. The children were recruited to three groups: children at family risk of dyslexia, children with concerns regarding speech, and language development at 3;06 years and controls considered to be typically developing. At 8 years, children were classified as ?dyslexic? or not. Logistic regression models were used to predict the individual risk of dyslexia and to investigate how risk factors accumulate to predict poor literacy outcomes.


Family-risk status was a stronger predictor of dyslexia at 8 years than low language in preschool. Additional predictors in the preschool years include letter knowledge, phonological awareness, rapid automatized naming, and executive skills. At the time of school entry, language skills become significant predictors, and motor skills add a small but significant increase to the prediction probability. We present classification accuracy using different probability cutoffs for logistic regression models and ROC curves to highlight the accumulation of risk factors at the individual level.


Dyslexia is the outcome of multiple risk factors and children with language difficulties at school entry are at high risk. Family history of dyslexia is a predictor of literacy outcome from the preschool years. However, screening does not reach an acceptable clinical level until close to school entry when letter knowledge, phonological awareness, and RAN, rather than family risk, together provide good sensitivity and specificity as a screening battery.

Gooch DC, Snowling M, Hulme C (2010) Time perception, phonological skills and executive function in children with dyslexia and/or ADHD symptoms Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 52 (2) pp. 195-203

Deficits in time perception (the ability to judge the duration of time intervals) have been found in children with both attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and dyslexia. This paper investigates time perception, phonological skills and executive functions in children with dyslexia and/or ADHD symptoms (AS).


Children with dyslexia-only (n = 17), AS-only (n = 17), comorbid dyslexia+AS (n = 25), and typically developing controls (n = 42), matched for age and non-verbal ability, were assessed on measures of phonological skills, executive function and time perception (duration discrimination and time reproduction).


Children with dyslexia were impaired on measures of phonological skill and duration discrimination compared to children without dyslexia (though problems on duration discrimination appeared to be attributable to mild symptoms of inattention in this group). In contrast, children with AS exhibited impairments on measures of both time perception and executive function compared to children without AS. Children with dyslexia+AS showed an additive combination of the deficits associated with dyslexia-only and AS-only.


Dyslexia and AS appear to be associated with distinct patterns of cognitive deficit, which are present in combination in children with dyslexia+AS.

Moll K, Gobel S, Gooch DC, Landerl K, Snowling M (2014) Cognitive Risk Factors for Specific Learning Disorder: Processing Speed, Temporal Processing, and Working Memory Journal of Learning Disabilities 49 (3) pp. 272-281
High comorbidity rates between reading disorder (RD) and mathematics disorder (MD) indicate that, although the cognitive core deficits underlying these disorders are distinct, additional domain-general risk factors might be shared between the disorders. Three domain-general cognitive abilities were investigated in children with RD and MD: processing speed, temporal processing, and working memory. Since attention problems frequently co-occur with learning disorders, the study examined whether these three factors, which are known to be associated with attention problems, account for the comorbidity between these disorders. The sample comprised 99 primary school children in four groups: children with RD, children with MD, children with both disorders (RD+MD), and typically developing children (TD controls). Measures of processing speed, temporal processing, and memory were analyzed in a series of ANCOVAs including attention ratings as covariate. All three risk factors were associated with poor attention. After controlling for attention, associations with RD and MD differed: Although deficits in verbal memory were associated with both RD and MD, reduced processing speed was related to RD, but not MD; and the association with RD was restricted to processing speed for familiar nameable symbols. In contrast, impairments in temporal processing and visuospatial memory were associated with MD, but not RD.
Norbury C, Gooch DC, Wray C, Baird G, Charman T, Simonoff E, Vamvakas G, Pickles A (2016) The impact of nonverbal ability on prevalence and clinical presentation of language disorder: evidence from a population study Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 57 (11) pp. 1247-1257

Diagnosis of ?speci?c? language impairment traditionally required nonverbal IQ to be within normal limits, often resulting in restricted access to clinical services for children with lower NVIQ. Changes to DSM-5 criteria for language disorder removed this NVIQ requirement. This study sought to delineate the impact of varying NVIQ criteria on prevalence, clinical presentation and functional impact of language disorder in the ?rst UK population study of language impairment at school entry.


A population-based survey design with sample weighting procedures was used to estimate population prevalence. We surveyed state-maintained reception classrooms(n = 161 or 61% of eligible schools) in Surrey, England. From a total population of 12,398 children (ages 4?5 years),7,267 (59%) were screened. A strati?ed subsample (n = 529) received comprehensive assessment of language, NVIQ,social, emotional and behavioural problems, and academic attainment.


The total population prevalence estimate of language disorder was 9.92% (95% CI 7.38, 13.20). The prevalence of language disorder of unknown origin was estimated to be 7.58% (95% CI 5.33, 10.66), while the prevalence of language impairment associated with intellectual disability and/or existing medical diagnosis was 2.34% (95% CI 1.40, 3.91). Children with language disorder displayed elevated symptoms of social, emotional and behavioural problems relative to peers, F(1,466) = 7.88, p = .05, and 88% did not make expected academic progress. There were no differences between those with average and low-average NVIQ scores in severity of language de?cit, social, emotional and behavioural problems, or educational attainment. In contrast, children with language impairments associated with known medical diagnosis and/or intellectual disability displayed more severe de?cits on multiple measures.


At school entry, approximately two children in every class of 30 pupils will experience language disorder severe enough to hinder academic progress. Access to specialist clinical services should not depend on NVIQ.

Whiteside K, Gooch DC, Norbury C (2016) English Language Proficiency and Early School Attainment Among Children Learning English as an Additional Language Child Development 88 (3) pp. 812-827
Children learning English as an additional language (EAL) often experience lower academic attainment than monolingual peers. In this study, teachers provided ratings of English language proficiency and social, emotional, and behavioral functioning for 782 children with EAL and 6,485 monolingual children in reception year (ages 4?5). Academic attainment was assessed in reception and Year 2 (ages 6?7). Relative to monolingual peers with comparable English language proficiency, children with EAL displayed fewer social, emotional, and behavioral difficulties in reception, were equally likely to meet curriculum targets in reception, and were more likely to meet targets in Year 2. Academic attainment and social, emotional, and behavioral functioning in children with EAL are associated with English language proficiency at school entry.
Norbury C, Gooch DC, Baird G, Charman T, Simonoff E, Pickles A (2015) Younger children experience lower levels of language competence and academic progress in the first year of school: evidence from a population study. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 57 (1) pp. 65-73

The youngest children in an academic year are reported to be educationally disadvantaged and overrepresented in referrals to clinical services. In this study we investigate for the first time whether these disadvantages are indicative of a mismatch between language competence at school entry and the academic demands of the classroom.


We recruited a population sample of 7,267 children aged 4 years 9 months to 5 years 10 months attending state-maintained reception classrooms in Surrey, England. Teacher ratings on the Children's Communication Checklist-Short (CCC-S), a measure of language competence, the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire-Total Difficulties Score (SDQ), a measure of behavioural problems, and the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP), a measure of academic attainment, were obtained at the end of the reception year.


The youngest children were rated by teachers as having more language deficits, behaviour problems, and poorer academic progress at the end of the school year. Language deficits were highly associated with behaviour problems; adjusted odds ratio 8.70, 95% CI [7.25?10.45]. Only 4.8% of children with teacher-rated language deficits and 1.3% of those with co-occurring language and behaviour difficulties obtained a ?Good Level of Development? on the EYFSP. While age predicted unique variance in academic attainment (1%), language competence was the largest associate of academic achievement (19%).


The youngest children starting school have relatively immature language and behaviour skills and many are not yet ready to meet the academic and social demands of the classroom. At a population level, developing oral language skills and/or ensuring academic targets reflect developmental capacity could substantially reduce the numbers of children requiring specialist clinical services in later years.

Gooch DC, Thompson P, Nash H, Snowling M, Hulme C (2015) The development of executive function and language skills in the early school years Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 57 (2) pp. 180-187

The developmental relationships between executive functions (EF) and early language skills are
unclear. This study explores the longitudinal relationships between children?s early EF and language skills in a
sample of children with a wide range of language abilities including children at risk of dyslexia. In addition, we
investigated whether these skills independently predict children?s attention/behaviour skills.


Data are
presented from 243 children at four time points. Children were selected for being at risk of reading difficulties either
because of a family history of dyslexia (FR; N = 90) or because of concerns regarding their language development (LI;
N = 79) or as typically developing controls (TD; N = 74). The children completed tasks to assess their executive
function and language skills at ages 4, 5 and 6 years. At 6 (T4) and 7 years (T5) parents and teachers rated the
children?s attention/behaviour skills.


There was a strong concurrent relationship between language and EF
at each assessment. Longitudinal analyses indicated a considerable degree of stability in children?s language and EF
skills: the influence of language on later EF skills (and vice versa) was weak and not significant in the current sample.
Children?s EF, but not language, skills at T3 predicted attention/behaviour ratings at T4/T5.


There is
a strong concurrent association between language and EF skills during the preschool and early school years, when
children with language impairment show persistent EF deficits. Latent variables measuring language and EF show
high longitudinal stability with little evidence of significant or strong reciprocal influences between these constructs.
EF, but not language, skills predict later ratings of children?s attention and behaviour.

Nash H, Gooch DC, Hulme C, Mahajan Y, McArthur G, Steinmetzger K, Snowling M (2016) Are the literacy dif?culties that characterize developmental dyslexia associated with a failure to integrate letters and speech sounds? Developmental Science 20 (4)
The ?automatic letter-sound integration hypothesis? (Blomert, 2011) proposes that dyslexia results from a failure to fullyintegrate letters and speech sounds into automated audio-visual objects. We tested this hypothesis in a sample of English-speaking children with dyslexic difficulties (N = 13) and samples of chronological-age-matched (CA; N = 17) and reading-age-matched controls (RA; N = 17) aged 7?13 years. Each child took part in two priming experiments in which speech soundswere preceded by congruent visual letters (congruent condition) or Greek letters (baseline). In a behavioural experiment,responses to speech sounds in the two conditions were compared using reaction times. These data revealed faster reaction timesin the congruent condition in all three groups. In a second electrophysiological experiment, responses to speech sounds in the two conditions were compared using event-related potentials (ERPs). These data revealed a significant effect of congruency on (1)the P1 ERP over left frontal electrodes in the CA group and over fronto-central electrodes in the dyslexic group and (2) the P2ERP in the dyslexic and RA control groups. These findings suggest that our sample of English-speaking children with dyslexic difficulties demonstrate a degree of letter-sound integration that is appropriate for their reading level, which challenges the letter-sound integration hypothesis.
Hulme C, Nash H, Gooch DC, Lervåg A, Snowling M (2015) The Foundations of Literacy Development in Children at Familial Risk of Dyslexia Psychological Science 26 (12) pp. 1877-1886
The development of reading skills is underpinned by oral language abilities: Phonological skills appear to have a
causal influence on the development of early word-level literacy skills, and reading-comprehension ability depends,
in addition to word-level literacy skills, on broader (semantic and syntactic) language skills. Here, we report a
longitudinal study of children at familial risk of dyslexia, children with preschool language difficulties, and typically
developing control children. Preschool measures of oral language predicted phoneme awareness and graphemephoneme
knowledge just before school entry, which in turn predicted word-level literacy skills shortly after school
entry. Reading comprehension at 8½ years was predicted by word-level literacy skills at 5½ years and by language
skills at 3½ years. These patterns of predictive relationships were similar in both typically developing children and
those at risk of literacy difficulties. Our findings underline the importance of oral language skills for the development
of both word-level literacy and reading comprehension.
Gooch DC, Hulme C, Nash H, Snowling M (2013) Comorbidities in preschool children at family risk of dyslexia Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 55 (3) pp. 237-246

Comorbidity among developmental disorders such as dyslexia, language impairment, attention deficit/
hyperactivity disorder and developmental coordination disorder is common. This study explores comorbid
weaknesses in preschool children at family risk of dyslexia with and without language impairment and considers
the role that comorbidity plays in determining children?s outcomes.


The preschool attention, executive
function and motor skills of 112 children at family risk for dyslexia, 29 of whom also met criteria for language
impairment, were assessed at ages 3½ and 4½ years. The performance of these children was compared to the
performance of children with language impairment and typically developing controls.


Weaknesses in
attention, executive function and motor skills were associated with language impairment rather than family risk
status. Individual differences in language and executive function are strongly related during the preschool period,
and preschool motor skills predicted unique variance (4%) in early reading skills over and above children?s language


Comorbidity between developmental disorders can be observed in the preschool years: children
with language impairment have significant and persistent weaknesses in motor skills and executive function
compared to those without language impairment. Children?s early language and motor skills are predictors of
children?s later reading skills.

Dean M, Karsandas R, Bland J, Gooch DC, MacPherson H (2012) Homeopathy for mental fatigue: lessons from a
randomized, triple blind, placebo-controlled
cross-over clinical trial
BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 12 (167)

Difficulty in controlling attention can lead to mental fatigue in the healthy population. We identified
one trial reporting a benefit in patients? attention using a homeopathic formula preparation. One component of the
preparation was potassium phosphate, widely available off the shelf as Kali phos 6x for cognitive problems. The aim
of this exploratory trial was to assess the effectiveness of Kali phos 6x for attention problems associated with mental


We recruited student and staff volunteers (University of York) with self-reported mental fatigue, excluding
any using homeopathy or prescribed stimulants, or with a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. In a triple blind,
cross-over, placebo-controlled clinical trial, 86 volunteers were randomized to receive Kali phos 6x or identical
placebo 10 minutes before taking a psychological test of attention (Stroop Colour-Word Test). One week later they
were crossed over and took the other preparation before repeating the test.


We found no evidence of a treatment effect in a comparison of Kali phos 6x with placebo (Kali phos minus
placebo = ?1.1 (95% CI ?3.0 to 0.9, P = 0.3) Stroop score units, Cohen effect size = ?0.17) even when allowing for a
weak period effect with accuracy scores in the second period being higher than those in the first (P = 0.05). We
observed a ceiling effect in the Stroop test which undermined our ability to interpret this result.


Kali phos 6x was not found to be effective in reducing mental fatigue. A ceiling effect in our primary
outcome measure meant that we could not rule out a type II error. Thorough piloting of an adequate outcome
measure could have led to an unequivocal result.

Gooch DC, Snowling M, Hulme C (2012) Reaction Time Variability in Children With ADHD Symptoms and/or Dyslexia Developmental Neuropsychology 37 (5) pp. 453-472
Reaction time (RT) variability on a Stop Signal task was examined among children with attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms and/or dyslexia in comparison to typically developing
(TD) controls. Children?s go-trial RTs were analyzed using a novel ex-Gaussian method.
Children with ADHD symptoms had increased variability in the fast but not the slow portions
of their RT distributions compared to those without ADHD symptoms. The RT distributions of
children with dyslexia were similar to those of TD-controls. It is argued that variability in responding
may be underpinned by impairments in response preparation or timing during Stop Signal
Snowling M, Gooch D, McArthur G, Hulme C (2018) Language Skills, but not Frequency Discrimination, Predict Reading Skills in Children At Risk of Dyslexia Psychological Science
This study evaluated the claim that auditory processing deficits are a cause of reading and language difficulties. We report a longitudinal study of 245 children at family risk of dyslexia, children with preschool language impairments, and controls. Children with language impairments had poorer frequency discrimination thresholds than controls at 5½ years but children at family risk of dyslexia did not. A model assessing longitudinal relationships between frequency discrimination, reading, language, and executive skills showed that frequency discrimination was predicted by executive skills but was not a longitudinal predictor of reading or language skills. Our findings contradict the hypothesis that frequency discrimination is causally related to dyslexia or language impairment, and suggest that individuals at-risk for dyslexia, or who have language impairments, may perform poorly on auditory processing tasks because of comorbid attentional difficulties.