Dyslexia evaluations are the trickiest. These kids keep me on my toes. Just when I think I have them "figured out" and know which tests are best to give I will test a child that challenges all of that. For this population in particular it is critical not to over focus on standard scores. The speech pathologist in me is conditioned to look for the scores that are "low enough" to make a child eligible for services either through their school or a private clinic. Those are rules we have to follow but what most evaluators don't realize and often miscommunicate to parents and teachers, is that the scores don't dictate the presence or absence of a disability, the entire profile of strengths and weaknesses does.
Most people like for things to be either black or white, right or wrong, Dyslexic versus not Dyslexic. It feels good to sort things into defined categories that match. So when you come across a child who doesn't quite fit most people assume an all or nothing mentality. This CANNOT be the mentality when doing a Dyslexia evaluation. So many of these children are incredibly intelligent and find ways to compensate which often results in a scatter of scores, some in the average range while others are not. Then to compound the problem certain types of interventions further build the child's strengths and compensatory strategies that their weaknesses, the real source of the difficulty, remain hidden. It's in these situations that I hear comments like, "He isn't trying hard enough" or "School's just not her thing" or "Your lazy". In some instances, it's easy to draw that conclusion but can I support that with any data? How do you measure ones effort in order to determine if they are trying hard enough? If you evaluated me by effort and work ethic on my ability to play the guitar or any musical instrument you would be very disappointed. No matter how hard I try I simply can't do it and I even took guitar lessons for a few years. Sheer effort isn't enough if you lack specific foundation skills.
Now that some children are getting the right kind of intervention the test score profile is changing. To further complicate the problem not all test instruments that say they are measuring the same skills actually get the same results. Some are more sensitive to identifying weaknesses and areas of deficit than others. You have to look at the entire picture and I know for many people one of the biggest factors is the quality of classroom instruction the child has had. I agree that sets the stage BUT how do you measure ineffective instruction? If I find deficits in a child's literacy skills and I attribute them to lack of instruction what do I do next? These kids don't get recommended for services and yet research has proven that once a child gets behind they stay behind. What about that makes sense? Suddenly staying in that environment that has already failed the child is somehow going to yield different results? Why are we hoarding help and the right kind of intervention? Why are we reserving this help and intervention only for the most severe when those who have more mild deficits could be remediated and be successful in a much shorter period of time? But our plan is to wait until their deficits get more severe and then try and help? Then the child has an even larger mountain to climb.
This "wait and see" attitude, or "it's only the 5th week of school", or "you know his daddy didn't do well in school that's just what it is", or "we don't have there resources" IS NOT WORKING. Over 65% of children in Arkansas are not reading on grade level. So our education system is only successful 35% of the time? If you were seriously ill, would you go to the doctor that wanted to "wait and see" and on top of it and had a 65% FAILURE rate? It's easier to see how choosing doctors could be a life or death choice. The reality is that choosing to a allow 65% of our children to fail were are robbing them of their future and for too many that will result in substance abuse, incarceration, poverty, and in some cases death.
So I challenge you to #sayDyslexia. I challenge you to TEACH CHILDREN TO READ regardless of the reasons they are failing. At 10 years of age my teacher told me I would never go to college and I would be lucky to graduate high school because I needed to "try harder", "school wasn't my thing", "you know she's just a dumb jock". THANK GOD my parents not only didn't believe that but had the resources to remove me and find me an environment that not only expected me to be successful but also give me the the tools and support to accomplish it on my own. Imagine how different our world would be if we did that for this and future generations.
JUST TEACH THE KIDS TO READ and stop worrying about the scores or sorting everyone into neat diagnostic boxes. Look at the entire child and the future that is before them THEN figure out how to build the bridge that will get them from failure to success because IT IS POSSIBLE!
Meanwhile children in Arkansas are waiting to learn how to read.