Probably the major reason parents seek an assessment for a child centers around concern with reading or reading development.  Teachers and special education teams will talk about “comprehension” as if there is a standard agreed upon way to measure comprehension. 

There isn’t.

There are many different measure that assess reading comprehension under very different conditions.  Your child may show "comprehension" under one condition, but not in another.  All measures of reading have their own inherent strengths and weaknesses. 

Let’s take the Woodcock-Johnson,  one of the “gold standard” tests used for special education assessment.

Here’s how comprehension is measured on the W-J.  The child reads a sentence or two to himself/herself.  There will be one word missing from the sentence.  In order to demonstrate comprehension, the child needs to come up with the word.

Here’s an example:  “The boy was upset after he missed the three point _______ in the basketball game.”

The reading samples start at the lowest grade levels and extend beyond high school.  The format remains the same throughout.

Understand this, each measure of reading, even the “gold standard ones,” have their limitations.

Let’s say the child is a middle school child who has trouble understanding long extended and dense text material.  The same child also has trouble reading such material under timed conditions.

Since the Woodcock comprehension measure does not involve extended reading, that is one example of a limitation.  Also, there is no timed aspect to assessing comprehension on the W-J.  Yet, the Woodcock is one of the measures used in determining time accommodations.

Take away point – each measure of reading, even ones that are the commonly ones used in special education, have inherent limitations.

Don’t be afraid to ask your evaluation team about the tests they use and their inherent strengths and limitations.