Connecting the Dots Between Dyslexia & Rapid Automatized Naming (RAN)

Using Skill Data To Pinpoint Student Needs

It’s no secret that word reading difficulties, like dyslexia, have a huge impact on a student’s ability to be successful in academics. That’s why 48 U.S. states have enacted laws specifying requirements for dyslexia screening and teacher training. For students with dyslexia, the earlier the identification, the sooner intervention can begin to help them become strong readers.

So which reading skills should be assessed? Schatschneider et al. (2004) reviewed 60 years of available research and found that assessments of letter names, letter sounds, rapid naming, and phonological awareness in kindergarten were the best early predictors of later reading skills. In particular, Rapid Automatized Naming (RAN) has been found to be a significant predictor of reading ability.

What Is RAN and What Does a RAN Test Look Like?

RAN is the ability to name letters, symbols, words, or objects in a quick and automatic manner. The term was coined in 1976 by Denckla and Rudel during their research to determine the underlying causes of slow decoding in individuals with dyslexia. They found that students with dyslexia had deficits in rapid and automatic naming regardless of the types of items they were shown and asked to name. Research by Wolf and Bowers (1999) went on to find that dyslexia is caused by two specific deficits: (a) phonological deficits, and (b) naming speed deficits (i.e., RAN). (For more information about the causes and features of dyslexia, read the whitepaper by Dr. Rachel Brown, Understanding Dyslexia).

There are many types of RAN tests, all of which measure how quickly individuals can name aloud objects, pictures, colors, or symbols. The tests record both the time it takes the student to name the items, alongside accuracy. Because RAN tests don’t measure vocabulary knowledge or recognition, they truly are tests of fluency. That is why it is important to only use items a student is very familiar with. For instance, if a preschool student doesn’t yet know their numbers, digits should not be used on the RAN test.

Using RAN Tests in Screening

Dyslexia screening is typically done as part of comprehensive academic universal screening. Because early identification of dyslexia is so critical, screening should be conducted in kindergarten and first grade. RAN measures are among the common tasks included in dyslexia screening, along with blending and segmenting oral words to measure phonemic awareness, reading pseudowords to measure phonics skills, and reading sentences or short stories. Starting in first grade, screeners often involve the student reading three short stories for 1 minute each while the teacher records any errors that the student makes. 

While deficits in RAN are a good indicator of dyslexia, students whose screening data suggest reading problems should complete additional assessment to confirm the data and rule out other possible reasons for reading problems. Simultaneously, reading intervention should be provided to improve RAN and other reading skills. Even if dyslexia is not found to be the cause of reading difficulties, instructional practices based on the science of reading, such as structured literacy, are effective in improving all students’ reading skills.  


Decades of research into the causes and symptoms of dyslexia make it possible for educators to identify students with dyslexia and other word reading difficulties early and provide instruction, allowing them greater opportunities for future academic success. 

Learn more about using FastBridge for dyslexia screening at our resource page.

About the Author


Rachel Brown, Ph.D., NCSP, Senior Academic Officer, Illuminate Education
Dr. Brown is a nationally certified school psychologist and a licensed psychologist and has consulted with numerous school districts to support RtI implementation. She was a faculty member at the University of Southern Maine from 2000-2016 and prior to obtaining her doctorate taught middle and high school history and special education for 10 years.

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