I recently had reason to be a little nostalgic about the method I learned for assessing adults with dyslexia back in the 1990s. I trained with Cynthia Klein and used a method broadly outlined in Klein, C. (2003) Diagnosing dyslexia: a guide to the assessment of adults, London, The Basic Skills Agency.
A number of colleagues have been preparing for resubmission of evidence to renew their Assessment Practice Certificate (APC), and I am staggered by the length of the diagnostic report now required, the proliferation of assessment tests needed and the depth of analysis expected. Feedback on the resubmission by expert assessors can run to several pages of intricate recommendations for improved practice and precise wording to be used in reports. Continue reading this article… »
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Back in 2012, I was doing a lot of dyslexia assessments and thought I would share some reflections about reading comprehension. I used WRAT 4 for word recognition and sentence level comprehension, TOWRE2 to get insight into processing visual and auditory patterns at speed and miscue analysis when I wanted something a little more in depth.
I set a “brain teaser” to stimulate discussion about problem solving reading assessment results:
“Mary” came out in the average range for word recognition and comprehension from WRAT. Her score for nonsense words was also just average on the TOWRE (see an earlier post for my views on non-word tests), though her lower score for real words at speed brought her overall word reading efficiency down below average. She read extended text at 142 words per minute and with 98% accuracy, so miscue analysis was not possible, there being so few errors.
The big surprise came when she could only recall 40% of the detail of what she had read. Even more intriguingly, this score did not improve when I read her an equivalent level passage for listening comprehension.
I might have gone along with Kate Cain and said she had a specific problem with comprehension, but on reflection I thought….
Well why don’t I let you think about it and comment back… ? I posted some discussion points and revealed my analysis, but you might want to think about this too, so only “read more” when you have had a think!
CREVT-3 Comprehensive Receptive and Expressive Vocabulary Test, Third Edition
What do you think this test measures? If there were a U.K. version would you use it?
notes by Sue Partridge
What it measures:
- Receptive vocabulary
- Expressive vocabulary
- But only for spoken language, not necessarily for reading
- Receptive = matching a spoken word to a picture (multiple choice). It is like naming as in rapid naming tests.
- Expressive = being able to give a meaning of a word and talk about that meaning in some detail. So, this is like the WRIT Vocabulary subtest.
- A general vocabulary index is calculated by combining the two sub scores
- It compares scores for ages 5 – 89, so giving a standardised score, based on an overall sample of 1535 subjects, USA, 2011.
Back in 2012, did a dyslexia assessment on a young man who I shall call John. John was in his second year of sixth form and applying to university to study history. John’s exam grades the previous year were below his predicted ones. As a result of the assessment, John had extra time in his module exams (and subsequenctly went to university!).
John’s reading profile is interesting. He came out above average for word recognition and comprehension (using WIAT-II-UK-T) but his reading speed of 127 words per minute (wpm) is below average for his age. His scores in CTOPP were all average, as was his reading of non-words (TOWRE-2). I concluded that he did not have any significant problems with phonological processing, though he did show some signs of challenge with focus and attention (his speed of writing was also adversely affected by having to think abut what to write, rather than because of any difficulty with manual dexterity).
What was also notable was that John invariably chose to read aloud (to the annoyance of some of his classmates). I was intrigued about why he had got into this habit and volunteered a few hours of support during half term to look into this more.
Between the feedback on the assessment and our support session, John actually decided to go for reading silently and was happy with the result! Issue sorted? Maybe yes, maybe no. I carried on.
I decided to use an experimental method with a pre-test, post-test format, even with just 3 hours of intervention between. Using passages deemed to be A level standard (one from Klein 2003 and one of my own devising, measured to be of similar readability), John read at 153 wpm – already an improvement from reading silently – but his comprehension and recall was limited (I predicted this might be a spin off of not getting the auditory feedback loop to hold attention).
In the post-test, three hours later John achieved a reading speed of 182 wpm,and his recall covered a wider range of the passage… so what did I do in between? What would you have done? Press “read more” after you have had a think!
Continue reading this article… »
Back in 2011, at a meeting of Dyslexia Positive we discussed the pros and cons of assessing readers when they read silently and when they read aloud. Clearly these are two different processes. The former may be the preferred mode of reading for competent readers, but not always for readers with dyslexia who may like an auditory feedback loop. Reading aloud requires an additional skill in articulation on top of the regular reading skill.
The assessment issue comes when you want to measure reading speed and reading comprehension. Reading silently will almost certainly (though not invariably) be faster than reading aloud. Reading comprehension depends on so much else, but the extra burden on working memory when articulating words to read aloud may skew the score.
Those of us who use the WRAT 4 sentence comprehension sub-test (with all of its flaws) to get a standardised score for reading comprehension will have observed some candidates reading silently and others aloud, with some readers using a mixed strategy. What bearing does this have on the score and its validity?
In an ideal world we would want to assess the reader with equivalent texts both silently and aloud and make a close comparison between the findings for the two. Even better would be throw in a third passage to test listening comprehension and try to build up a full profile of the differences in performance. Against this is the very real threat of test fatigue.
Jocelyn from Dyslexia Positive observed that some readers think they have to read silently, because they have been taught that is the best way, even though they might not want to and it might not suit them.Yvonne liked getting the people she assessed to read silently, if they can, as it tells her about their potential for effective study. Melanie used the Adult Reading Test (ART) for assessment, trying to get a sample of reading aloud and reading silently, but is really concerned about over-testing (the ART is particularly exhaustive and exhausting!). Clearly you can’t do miscue analysis unless you hear the learner read aloud…
All of this argues for a more extended period of assessment and observation, so as to build up an extensive profile of reading ability, without the dangers of test stress. With reading, it may be important for each learner to develop different strategies depending whether they want to speed read silently, read and recite (to their children or to hear a particular effect, say when appreciating poetry) or any other purpose.
This debate on assessment practice for reading is still relevant, although in 2017 there is more pressure to cram even more assessment tests into a diagnosis, and to explore co-occurring conditions as well as dyslexia. Something has to give!Leave a comment or ask a question »
I have had the privilege of providing specialist dyslexia support to three primary school teachers this year, each completing different aspects of their qualified teacher status (QTS). This is really heartening for me, to know that there will be a new generation of teachers at this level who will have empathy and the skills to observe and notice when a child is at risk of being held back in the progress by possible dyslexia. These three young people have not let any setbacks prevent them in pursuing their chosen careers. They have all secured jobs as primary school teachers now their qualifications are (nearly!) complete.
We have also looked together at how they may seek to put across elements of literacy and numeracy (particularly spelling and grammar) in a dyslexia-friendly way in the classroom. Interestingly, none of them appears to have a problem with phonics! That is the subject of another discussion point for the future.
One of my trainee teachers chose to complete an essay on dyslexia assessment and support as part of his PGCE. As well as gaining a high mark from his course tutors, this essay imressed me with its thoughtful and passionate plea for improvements to practice in the classroom.
Read it for yourself here:2 Comments so far: leave a comment or ask a question »
Elliott, J.G. and Grigorenko, E.L (2014) The Dyslexia Debate, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
I have just finished reading this book, which, it is fair to say, has caused and possibly courted some controversy in the media as well as in academic circles and among practitioners. Even before it was published, there were two excellent commentaries on it by academics who had clearly obtained advance copies:
Dorothy Bishop of St John’s College Oxford
Anne Castles, Kevin Whedall and Mandy Nayton from universities in Australia
They are both well-reasoned arguments for why we should read the book and respect its evidence base, though not necessarily agree with its ultimate conclusion that the term dyslexia should no longer be used.
Here are my thoughts.
- The first thing to say about this book is that it provides a really comprehensive review of the literature, both historical accounts and up to the minute research in this field. I haven’t ever seen such an extensive list of references in a book that is targetted at a lay audience as well as academics. It will form an excellent resource. I wish I had had such a good list of sources when I was completing my doctorate!
- It also has a useful reminder of how the notion of dyslexia as a discrepancy between high IQ and reading ability is “largely discredited.” (p 69) This cannot be said often enough, both on ethical grounds, and also for practical reasons, as “the use of the IQ test as a proxy for cognitive potential is itself highly contested. ” (p 101) Intelligence tests are such blunt instruments for coming to any diagnostic conclusions.
- The authors use this point to bolster their argument for abandoning the term dyslexia, since some individuals and their parents seek to claim dyslexia, if linked to high IQ, erroneously, as a way of showing they or their children are not just slow at learning. However, in my mind, this is stretching the logic. If people have false beliefs about the nature of dyslexia, then put them right! No need to discard the term, just because peole use it incorrectly.
- This book gives a really thorough account of the different theories of the aetiology for dyslexia. In particular, it is refreshing that the authors note that “phonological awareness appears to be rather less important for older poorer readers than it is for children… ” (p 196). This is certainly something that I have said all along from my experience and research with adults.
- There is a great discussion about the relationship of working memory to reading (pp 233 – 239), and in particular some insights into the role of phonological memory as opposed to phonological awareness. Elliott and Grigorenko draw on the research of Wagner, one of co-authors of the CTOPP and TOWRE tests we use, which actually casts doubt on the influence of phonological memory on word recognition, except when dealing with multisyllabic words. They also question ” the value of digit span tasks as the particular tasks may not generalise well to tasks such as reading” (p 234). I have always said that the three composite scores and their subtests in CTOPP measure different things and can give rise to really discrepant scores in adults.
- On a more general level, Elliott and Grigorenko make the useful point that there are vast differences in the research literature in the way dyslexia is assessed, and the cut-off points (in terms of standard deviations below the norm) that are chosen to define subjects who are dyslexic. This makes it very difficult to generalise from research findings.
- They also point out how difficult it is to compare the different intervention tools used and their effect sizes in the research literature, for a similar reason; we are not comparing like with like.
- The concluding chapter of this book is convincing in many aspects… why stop to worry about whether it is dyslexia or not if you could spend your time more efficiently as an assessor and/or practitioner in making recommendations for more effective support. The authors remind us of the need to go beyond just word reading when assessing an individual’s reading ability, yet they seem wary of profiling as a strategy for assessment of need and appear particularly resistant to the notion that dyslexia can confer strengths.
- So finally their overall message…they seem to say that the term dyslexia is not useful because no one can agree what it is. They want it to be somthing to do with a reading disorder and are resistent to the idea that it could encompass anything else. They are wary of all of the divergent theories of aetiology. They want practioners to concentrate their efforts on effective intervention…
- In addition to the counter arguments raised by the blogs mentioned above, I have one further point.: How do you account for the experience of adults assessed as dyslexic, where we often discover it is more than a reading disorder? Adults with dyslexia (whether diagnosed as children or newly as adults) usually have a history of idiosyncratic acquisition of literacy skills including reading. They may no longer manifest any problems with word recognition, but there are residual effects, which it useful to profile. So I would commend Elliot and Gregorenko to ponder more on the field of adult dyslexia and also look at specialist teacher assessment reports for adults are really rich in unique profiling and detailed recommendations for support. High quality asessment and individualised interventions, which impact on success in FE, HE and employment, might convince them that the term dyslexia is a useful one.
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The programme, Horizon: Living with Autism (broadcast in 2014), which was hosted by Uta Frith had some interesting insights and thought provoking ideas which not only relate to autism but could also relate to dyslexic type difficulties (Specific Learning Difficulties – SpLD).
In the programme she talks to Professor Simon Baron-Cohen who has found a normal distribution curve for the difficulties associated with autism. He points out that researchers need to establish whether there is a point at which someone can be defined as autistic. In the same way, this is an important question for dyslexia: is there a line where assessors can distinguish between someone having a SpLD or not? Professor Cohen says that in a normal curve distribution of people having autistic traits, where 0 equals no traits, and 50 equals all of the traits, 32 is the point at which people can be defined as having autism. Does the same apply for dyslexia, and if so, which traits would we use for the definition?
Uta Frith talks about her autistic traits, although she knows that she doesn’t have autism. This is an interesting insight for those of us who work with people with SpLD; many of us recognise some traits in ourselves. Are we therefore on the spectrum, even when we know that we do not have a SpLD?
I would be interested to hear from anyone who has further insights into this area of research.
Day I at the conference in Guildford UK.
After some wise words from Sir Jim Rose, Joell Talcott from Aston University advised us to cultivate the “virtuous circle” of linking research from neurosciemce to good practice in education and vice versa. He wants us only to believe plausible theories, which can be cross validated and in particular, beware of falling for pure phenotypes for dyslexia. As practitioners and assessors we should also not just settle for statistical cut off points below which people have to fall to say they are dyslexic. Rather we should see whether a good intervention might actually remedy the difficulty, or, in the case of a child, there might just be developmental delay. Working, as I do, wiith adults, I think this gives us permission to problem solve directly from the detailed profile our client presents. Coming down on the early train, I read a draft assessment report written by Yvonne Gateley, for one of her high-flying medical professionals. Her profile certainly wouldn’t meet a purely statistical cut-off model for dyslexia, yet is was as clear as daylight that she is…2 Comments so far: leave a comment or ask a question »
It has come to our attention that there are errors in Table 3.2 of the TOWRE 2 test manual. This relates to the level of discrepancy between scores on the two subtests that is statistically significant. This in turn decides whether it is safe to calculate an overall reading efficiency score.
This is what the amended table should look like:
Level of Confidence Differences Between SWE
and PDE Scaled Scores is Not Due to Measurement Error
SWE to PDE Scaled Score
Level of confidence Incorrect Correct
95% > 8 > 11
90% 8 10 – 11
85% 7 9
80% 6 8
70% 5 6 – 7
60% 4 5
Not confident < 4 < 5Leave a comment or ask a question »