Comprehension - Sometimes Forgotten in #Dyslexia Land

September 22, 2017

Those of you who have followed this blog or any of my stuff over the years, know the importance I place on the development of decoding skills and reading fluency.

In fact, I have viewed the mastering of decoding as a possibly the central task or hurdle for a child to get over in their early school years (see My Decoding Hurdle Obsession:  http://shutdownlearner.com/my-decoding-hurdle-obsession/ ).

I’ve also been in the business long enough to see important movements in education and educational psychology fall by the wayside and be relegated to the Attic of Forgotten Educational Initiatives & Research.

I see Reading Comprehension as having been placed up in the Attic.

For years (approximately the mid 1980’s into the mid-1990s), comprehension as a research topic in cognitive psychology and as an educational initiative was red hot.  A number of universities around the country were awarded millions of dollars in grant money to study the processes involved with reading comprehension and to find ways to enhance a child’s ability to understand text.  There were lots of teacher training initiatives, too, designed to enhance teachers’ skills in teaching comprehension.

I thought of the research and these initiatives the other day when I evaluated a child, young Luke, a 9 year old fourth grader.

Luke’s testing did not show any of the usual “dyslexia” concerns, such as difficulty with phonemic awareness, phonics or fluency, but when it came to responding to questions Luke was genuinely puzzled.  Particularly, challenging for Luke were answering questions that involved inferences, or what I call the “hmm, let me think about it” type of responses (vs. straightforward and factual).

Within the testing, Luke read a story about a treasure hunt. The story talked about how one child sent a lantern signal to another child who was out in a rowboat that it was ok to row ashore.  When Luke was asked why the signal was given, he looked at me blankly and could further no guesses, stating, ”It didn’t say why.”

That it didn’t say “why” explicitly was true, but one could infer it from the story.

By contrast, another kid I tested recently, gave a great answer to the same question showing full understanding, by saying, “It was to give the ‘all clear’ signal.”

Wow, what a great inference.

I refer to children who read reasonably fluently and who don’t show any great decoding difficulty as Type II Readers.

Just like Type I Readers (the ones with decoding and fluency difficulties), these kids also need direct and explicit instruction (along with a few other things in the mix.)   We will be talking more about these specifically in up and coming blog posts.

 Takeaway Point

The Attic of Forgotten Educational Initiatives & Research is really filled to the brim.  You should go up there sometimes and blow off some of the dust and the cobwebs.  You might find some things of interest.


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All comments (6)
  • Anne Watt
    September 22, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    I tutor a high school student just like Luke. Very fluent reader, but just can't get beyond the actual words on the page. Do you […] Read MoreI tutor a high school student just like Luke. Very fluent reader, but just can't get beyond the actual words on the page. Do you see connections in real life situations of the student not beng able to see or know what the next step should be in an assignment or task? Read Less

    Reply
    • Richard Selznick, Ph.D.
      @Anne Watt
      September 29, 2017 at 10:14 am

      Hi Anne: Absolutely. Especially with the Type II style kids I find that they have trouble making connections (e.g., perceiving cause and effect, predicting. etc) […] Read MoreHi Anne: Absolutely. Especially with the Type II style kids I find that they have trouble making connections (e.g., perceiving cause and effect, predicting. etc) in their day-to-day interactions. Boy, that sounds like a good idea for a future blog topic!!!!! Thanks Read Less

      Reply
  • Anne Marie Hess Fussner
    September 22, 2017 at 11:51 pm

    Being in the classroom from 1981 until now, I agree with you totally. Your blogs are always interesting and informative!!

    Reply
  • Jo Anne Gross
    September 23, 2017 at 5:49 pm

    What are your ratios Richard re these 2 types of children?

    Reply
    • Richard Selznick, Ph.D.
      @Jo Anne Gross
      September 29, 2017 at 10:11 am

      Hi Jo Anne: Thanks for the question. I find the ration of Type I to Type I to be significantly tilted in the Type I […] Read MoreHi Jo Anne: Thanks for the question. I find the ration of Type I to Type I to be significantly tilted in the Type I direction. I'm not sure if this is a referral bias of some kind as the Type I kids are "squeakier wheels." Very few Type II kids ever get referred for an evaluation. In my practice I would say Type II shows up maybe one time in 20 evaluations. Read Less

      Reply

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