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!
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OmpansA quick survey of a number of universities shows what I suspected, that there is little explicit guidance on how best to support students with dyslexia once they have progressed to a postgraduate or research degree. For that reason, I worked with a current student to develop something that would help university staff understand what is involved, particularly when it comes to giving feedback on written work at this level. The document contains two generic sections and two which the student can personalise. You can find a version to download at the end of this discussion piece. Try it and let me know what you think. Continue reading this article… »
All in the Mind Conference September 2014
Four members of Dyslexia Positive attended the annual conference of The Developmental Practitioners’ Association (DPA) Conference in Wolverhampton in September. The DPA is an organisation of practitioners and parents who share a common interest in developmental therapy for children and adults. More details can be found at: http://www.brainshift.co.uk/
The four speakers were; Professor Julian (Joe) Elliott of Durham University; Mark Menezes, a behavioural optometrist based at Aston University and in private practice; Pete Griffin, a retired headteacher now delivering assessment and “Open Doors Therapy” for children with “neuromotor immaturity” and Lynn Stammers, an expert in therapeutic play using Theraplay® Principles.
I guess most of us came to hear what Professor Elliott, co-author of “The Dyslexia Debate,” (a book reviewed by me on this site in May) had to say. However, in fact, the most interest and information was conveyed by the other three speakers. Professor Elliott makes it his business to stir up controversy (I think for genuine reasons and not just to sell his book or promote his TV appearances). His style was to challenge us to think, but then not really listen to people’s genuine responses. His slide show was far too long and disjointed for the time allocated. Unlike the book, which was exceptionally well referenced, I found the presentation light and far less well justified. In particular he offended practitioners in the audience who also do research, by dismissing any research that does not reach the gold standard of huge sample sizes, double-blind protocols and acceptance in the mainstream journals.
By contrast, Mark Menezes gave a much less forthright talk, but impressed me with his quiet and well-reasoned account of what behavioural optometry can offer to children and adults who have barriers to their learning. Mark advocates programmes of eye training as well as specialist prescriptions for lenses, and gave an insight into improvements this can support. You can find out more at: www.babo.co.uk and www.visiontraining.org.uk
Pete Griffin now knows that what teachers labelled in him as “late development” was probably neuromotor immaturity. This seems to me to have a lot in common with what we call dyspraxia, though no doubt his definition and symptomatology would be far broader. He has immense passion for his current career providing imaginative interventions in schools. Despite his research not meeting Prof Elliott’s gold standard for control samples, Pete enthused us with the massive improvements in literacy and well-being engendered in the children he worked with. His techniques include work on posture, balance and coordination.
Along the same theme, Lynn Stammers provided moving case study evidence of the impact of her play therapy has had on very troubled children.
For me, inspiration comes from accounts of changing the world one person at a time, rather than large scale attempts to change opinions or terminology used in a sector already fraught with controversy and public sector funding cuts. Sadly, we all know who the media and government policy makers will tend to listen to.
Thanks to Janice Graham and the team at DPA for putting together a great conference.
Stein, J. and Kapoula, Z. (2012) Visual Aspects of Dyslexia, Oxford, OUP.
This book, published last autumn is a hard but very rewarding read. I remember struggling to understand the magnocellular theory of dyslexia, as presented in the work of Professor John Stein, when doing my diploma qualification and later endeavouring to put the information across when teaching on the same diploma programme.
The book illustrates well how the theory behind visual facets of dysexia has developed, been debated furiously, drawn antagonists as well as advocates, widened in its applicability and still draws passionate and well-reasoned responses from its supporters.
John Stein and his co-editor Zoi Kapoula (based in Paris) have brought together a range of neuroscientists and researchers with a specialism in ophthalmology, each writing a chapter, which stands alone but together forms a story of the ramifications of this subject. Stein provides a summary chapter of his own, bringing us up to date on his current stance.
Some highlights for me are as follows: Continue reading this article… »
Some dyslexic adults (and other people) benefit from tinted glasses to help reduce print disturbance (labelled as Meares-Irlen syndrome, scotopic sensitivity or just visual stress).
I am indebted to Alison for finding a website that lists optometrists who can do specialist assessments.Leave a comment or ask a question »
This article was written in 2011, when e readers were relatively new. Now look how they impact on our reading habits!
Who will be the first to produce an e book reader with the facility to colour tint the screen? For them, potentially, the market of:
- 10% of the population as a whole
- 60% of people who are dyslexic
…… who find reading black text on a white background difficult.
There are a growing number of e book readers on the market. There are numerous models ranging in price from under £100 to over £200. The most popular are the Amazon Kindle and the Sony available from Waterstones [no longer available]
Manufacturers are keen to develop an e book which is slim, small and has sharp contrast between the black text and white background. As yet no one has produced an e book reader where the reader can change the colour of the background colour, to improve text stability and readability and reduce visual stress. Disappointingly, the author of this article did not even receive an acknowledgement from Sony when she e mailed them research data about visual stress, caused by reading black text on a white background.
However there is some good news.
- The Kindle 3 and Sony both have a facility for reducing the contrast between the text and the background, which may reduce visual stress for some people.
And, arguably, more important ……
- The Kindle 3 has a text to speech facility and a headphone jack. This, together with the built in dictionary, could make it a useful addition to the range of assistive technology available for people who are dyslexic.
With access to articles on the internet, together with drop down menus and images, Kindle 3 may be a valuable research tool for students. It also offers a change of format to single column, again retaining pictures, which can also be used in a portrait or landscape format. A stylus can be used to aid tracking and there is also a virtual ruler to assist.
The Sony e book reader is pleasing to the eye, light and slim and has a number of useful study aids like highlighting, annotating, note taking, drawing and eraser facilities, but without the addition of text to speech, it may fail to grab the attention of students and readers who are dyslexic. Possibly a market missed, Sony! Figures vary, but it is generally accepted that at least 10% of the population are dyslexic.
We, at Dyslexia Positive, would welcome information from people who are dyslexic about their experience of using e book readers.One Comment »
A diagnosis of dyslexia is significant, for all concerned. As specialist assessors, we already know that full diagnosis is compromised, if the functionality of vision is impaired. However it seems to me that lots of us have never been given the opportunity to understand in more detail. Only through better understanding can we really inform and improve our practice, and articulate these issues to learners and often cynical bystanders. Even the medical profession are often unaware of the implications of visual interference, with regard to reading efficiency, whether or not any individual is dyslexic.
I recently visited Aston University’s Vision Sciences Department, during a learner and vision clinic. They specialise in finding and treating eye problems associated with specific learning difficulties and headaches. As a not-for –profit operation, they offer an excellent referral point, throughout the academic year. Most of us, as part of assessment, look for the symptoms of visual stress and experiment with overlays, to diagnose. Aston Vision Sciences would generally suggest a 3 tiered approach, which I would advocate we translate into our own practice; Continue reading this article… »
Will changing the background colour of an electronic white board enable people to read black text more easily and more comfortably? 2009/10
In 1980 Olive Meares reported how students experienced a lessening of visual perceptive difficulties if the printed word was covered with a tinted plastic sheet. In 1981 Helen Irlen’s research identified a sub-group of students who, “Had adequate decoding skills, good phonetic skills and an adequate sight vocabulary, but still found reading exceedingly difficult and avoided it wherever possible.” They described a variety of visual impressions when looking at black text on a white background eg “The white spaces form rivers which run down the page”, or “When I start to read, the words become a black line and I don’t see them anymore.”
Initially, this pioneering work was greeted with scepticism. It wasn’t until 1995 that Arnold Wilkins became intrigued by Irlen’s claims that coloured filters ease the symptoms of visual stress. In 2003 he published ‘Reading Through Colour’, where he describes the results of rigorous research that confirmed the ideas of Meares and Irlen. He describes the syndrome as MIVS, Meares Irlen Visual Stress. Wilkins also developed Intuitive Coloured Overlays, used increasingly by schools and colleges, a free downloadable screen tinter, available to all via the internet and a Colorimeter to be used as a diagnostic tool by qualified optometrists.
Studies reveal that up to 30% of children and adults find coloured overlays useful, although only 5% have a severe degree of MIVS. In 2005 B J Evans stated that, “Visual problems are not the cause of dyslexia although they contribute to reading difficulties and many dyslexics have visual difficulties such as binocular instability and accommodative insufficiency.” In the same year, Helen Irlen stated that 65% of people who are dyslexic have MIVS.
The research was undertaken at a college of further education. The teacher/researcher hoped that tinting the electronic whiteboard, so students no longer had to read black text on a white background, would prove an inclusive method of improving the learning environment for a large number of students without disadvantaging others.
252 people from 22 classes took part in the research; this included 33 members of staff. Classes ranged from Entry Level to Level 5, from craft, vocational and academic courses. People were asked to read a text, based on Arnold Wilkin’s Rate of Reading Test, displayed on an electronic whiteboard, on first a white background and then to make a visual comparison between this and the same text on yellow, green, blue, orange and red backgrounds. People then read for a second time, the same text on the group’s preferred colour background. To eliminate the influence of practice, data from control groups, who read twice on a white background were collected.
Results of the research showed that a light green background disadvantaged less people than other colours, including white, and advantaged most. Statistically, for most people there was no significant difference in reading efficiency on a white or tinted background. However, for the minority there was such a significant benefit they would be severely disadvantaged by not changing the background colour of the board from white to green. It was also interesting to note that students on lower level courses would benefit most.
This simple adjustment could provide a cost effective, inclusive learning support technique which can be replicated in all classrooms that have an electronic whiteboard.3 Comments so far: leave a comment or ask a question »