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Reading Comprehension Programs and Assessments

01/14/13
by Sue Whitney

My son has high functioning autism.  He is a middle schooler, reading 2 years below grade level. He has difficulty in comprehension and inferencing, but not decoding.  The school uses the Jamestown Reading Navigator.  Is this an effective program?

This is a link to the Jamestown Reading Navigator and to the program overview.   http://www.readingnavigator.com/mkt/jumper.html

The research studies are here:   http://www.readingnavigator.com/mkt/po.html

The most research-based and proven reading comprehension program on the planet is only useful when the comprehension issue is at the print level of language.

When comprehension of spoken language is an issue, a reading comprehension program will not address the underlying issue, which would need to be addressed through language therapy.

If your son has good language comprehension and is 2 years behind in reading comprehension, then this program might be appropriate.

However, a reading program will not be the way to address inferencing difficulties when they occur at the level of spoken language.

It is likely that language therapy would be a more effective way to approach comprehension issues that are probably present in his overall language comprehension skills.

What about reading comprehension assessments.  The school gives the DRP assessment in the fall as a benchmark.  Again in March as part of the state Mastery Test.  Then again at the end of the school year. What assessments specifically for reading comprehension can be used to regularly to monitor progress throughout the school year?

Reading (interpreting printed language) is composed of phonological awareness, decoding, vocabulary knowledge, comprehension, and fluency.

To understand printed language a person must first have the underlying skills to interpret the sounds and words in spoken language. Assessing any one of these skills in isolation can only produce limited information about overall ability, disability, skills, and needs.

If reading comprehension is held back by language comprehension, then it needs to be addressed at the language level. The evaluator can tell you that.

A comprehensive independent evaluation done every 2 years will tell you:

  • if progress is being made overall
  • where progress is being made and not made
  • most importantly will provide recommendations on what needs to be done

Find an Independent Evaluator

This is a link to a list of reading testshttp://buros.unl.edu/buros/jsp/clists.jsp?cateid=13&catename=Reading

Rather than start with the test though, I would find an independent evaluator in your area. Then ask him to review your son’s previous testing and IEP and recommend progress monitoring assessments or an evaluation to provide the information you are looking for.

The DRP assessment is tied to the Common Core Standards and will tie progress to the grade level expectations.  If you follow all the links attached to this URL you will see the amount of information that can be taken from the scores on the full DRP printout.    http://www.questarai.com/Products/DRPProgram/Pages/default.aspx

Here is a link to advocates in your area.    http://www.copaa.org/find-a-resource/find-an-attorney/

Use this link is to find other providers: advocates, evaluators, educational diagnosticians, etc.    http://www.yellowpagesforkids.com/

Inferencing ability and language comprehension occur at a level prior to reading. They need to be addressed at the language level.

Look at the language evaluations that have been done to see what they have to tell you about these skills. From what you have told me I do not think the issue is primarily a reading issue.

Call a good private school in your area that works with autistic children and ask them for names of speech pathologists and neuropsychologists in your area who they have found write complete and useful reports.

Also call advocates and attorneys who represent parents of children in special education cases and ask the same question of them.

You will end up with a short list of autism experts in your area. Choose from that list.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Elena 12/10/13 at 4:25 am

    You might consider looking into dual-coding theory based programs. My son has ADD and a deficit in reading comprehension (summarizing, inferencing, drawing conclusions from text, etc) – but his decoding skills are outstanding and tend to mask his difficulties on the DRA (which has issues with validity and interrupter reliability). After a lot of research, I ended up enrolling him in Lindamood-Bell program because it was scientifically based, they do on-going research and data collection and it is based on sound theory and has shown high evidence of effectiveness across many disabilities. We saw a big shift in his language skills oral and written. We also saw a huge increase in his executive functioning.

  • 2 Mike the Psych 01/14/13 at 1:44 pm

    Before you start jumping on outside evaluators, you may want to ask the school their rationale for choosing that reading intervention and if progress is not adequate what the alternatives will be. WIthout more info about the child, it isn’t clear if working it as an auditory comprehension or language related issue would be the best approach. Either way, reading comprehension intervention is going to be beneficial.

    I am a bit biased, as I work in an RtI mandated state, but simply getting an outside eval with some standardized achievement tests really only gives part of the picture. The school is in the best position to gather ongoing progress monitoring data to show if their intervention is resulting in adequate student growth or not. Reading comprehension is complex and difficult to monitor directly, but that’s another issue.