According to the 2015 National Assessment of Education Progress, 31% of the 4th graders and 24% of 8th graders demonstrate “below basic” reading skills. These students are said to have difficulty with inferences, understanding new words in text and drawing conclusions from what is read. As a result, these students have a high risk of dropping out of school. And as adults, reading difficulties results in lower wages, a significantly higher risk of chronic health conditions, hospitalizations and health care costs, (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011).
Given the complexity of reading as a whole, a multidimensional view is essential not only in its instruction but also in identification of children with reading impairments. Speech-Language Pathologists are in a unique position to address poor literacy skills given that language abilities play a key role in reading comprehension.
Frequently, below basic reading skills in children are the result of a visual perceptual deficit. The child may have problems with accommodation, visual tracking, figure-ground, etc. These children are at risk of falling behind in the classroom given that information, especially in the higher grades, is usually dispensed in a written format.
Assessing a child’s knowledge of language and its components is key to early identification and remediation. The assessment process usually involves phonemic skills (i.e., the ability to hear, identify and manipulate phonemes), vocabulary, grammar, and the ability to retain information presented (i.e., auditory and visual perception and memory). In many cases, it is recommended that the child be referred to a vision specialist.
If you know of a child that is falling behind in school and suspect a reading problem, don’t wait to get help!