Raising and educating kids with dyslexia

Posts tagged ‘Gray Oral Reading Test’

College accommodations for dyslexia

TestsIn order to receive academic support and accommodations in college for a learning disability, such as dyslexia, a student has to formally declare their disability to the academic support office of the college by providing appropriate documentation about that disability. Usually this is a neuropsychological evaluation and should be completed within three years or less of the college application.

We began this process in the summer prior to my daughter’s last year of high school. We were careful to choose an evaluator to complete the neuropsychological testing who specialized in the transition from school to college. This included the adult version of the Wechsler intelligence test (Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale–Fourth Edition), as this is what the colleges want to see, as well as the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test–Third Edition (WIAT), Gray Oral Reading Tests (GORT), Test of Word Reading Efficiency (TOWRE), Wide Range Assessment of Memory and Learning (WRAML), and others. The report we received following the testing was clear and concise, and included recommendations appropriate for college. Unfortunately, in the past, not all evaluators have provided easy-to-read reports, nor have their recommendations been appropriate for the child or circumstances.

Along with the report being used as formal documentation of my daughter’s disability, we also used it as a guide when asking the support office for accommodations. Looking through the report, there were a number of recommended accommodations for college: additional time (i.e., time and a half) on tests and exams, use of note takers, a computer/laptop, audio books, and technology such as Dragon Naturally Speaking or Co-writer, and a reduced course load.

According to her college web site, the most common accommodations requested are: extended time for in-class examinations (up to double time); extended deadlines for major/term projects up to 24 hours; quiet, distraction free environment to take examinations; rest breaks, as needed, during examinations; permission to leave the studio, without penalty for brief periods of time; frequent meetings with the instructor to discuss course content or pending assignments; access to student note takers; access to e-text and books in alternative formats provided by the resource department; undergraduate course load adjustment.

My daughter requests a few of these and has been provided with note taking services; class notes, textbooks and other materials provided in alternative formats using e-text; extended time for class assignments with lengthy reading and writing comprehension; permission to record lectures; required reading available days in advance; professor assistance with clarification of material or assignments. However, even a few weeks into the semester, some of these accommodations are not panning out as easily as we thought.

In a school setting it is okay for the parents, a specialist such as the external psychologist, or an advocate to sit in a meeting an ensure the appropriate accommodations are written into a child’s educational plan. In college, apart from initially going through the report with my daughter and advising her on the accommodations to request, as an adult she is on her own, advocating for her own accommodations. So, when she was provided an accommodation for using a laptop for exams, there was no one else to suggest that this accommodation should include being able to use her laptop for taking notes in lectures, as well! Nor was she prepared for one lecturer telling her it was against school rules to record lectures. Or, when she arranged, through the college library, for one textbook to be provided in e-format, it did not include audio. So, although accommodations in principle are a good idea, the reality of accommodations that are beneficial is proving much more difficult.

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An end to reading support

My son’s special education reading services have been discontinued. Since he was age seven in second grade (he is now thirteen and finishing eighth grade) he has been receiving specially designed reading instruction. This has taken the form of a number of different programs – Orton Gillingham, Wilson Reading System, Read Naturally, Project Read, and others. He has been taught such things as vowel teams, open syllables, closed syllables, and the floss and fizzle rule.

In the public school system, the reading instruction has been provided through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Before reading services could be removed from my son’s  IEP, testing had to be completed to ensure that he demonstrated proficiency in basic reading skills and reading comprehension. Services should not and cannot be removed from an IEP without these proper procedures being followed. This is good news for the child.

So, what does this discontinuation of services look like for our family? For my son, it is like being released. When he enters high school in the Fall, he is free to choose and have more subjects in his schedule. For myself, I have to appraise these changes. Sometimes making sense of the test results is a challenge. The testing may give scores and labels such as low average or high average that enable weaknesses and strengths to be spotted, but ideally, being able to compare the recent testing with previous testing gives a better idea of improvements made, or not. It seems that this is how the Gray Oral Reading Test (GORT) should be used. Comparing the results of this test with results from the same test taken some years previously, my son’s weakness in reading accuracy and fluency was still evident. Dyslexia never goes away. Perhaps the testing for visual stress later this summer may help shed light on this weakness. On the Woodcock Reading Mastery test my son’s word decoding and comprehension on this test came out in the average to high average range. My understanding of dyslexia is that often reading, or decoding words, can take considerable effort for someone with dyslexia, leaving little opportunity to comprehend the passage just read. I have found that when the hard work of decoding is removed, for instance when I have read the same passage to my dyslexic daughter that she has struggled to read, her comprehension of the passage has greatly increased. However, this does not seem to be the case for my son. He performed very well in both reading and comprehension.

While my son’s weaknesses in reading still exist, when I put these together with the positive feedback I have received from his teachers about performance and progress in school this year, and with the removal of reading support allowing an expansion of subject choices for his final four years of school, I think the discontinuation of reading services is okay. In any case, services can always be reinstated, if needed.