Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Providing Reading Instruction to Adolescents with Learning Disabilities

Providing Reading Instruction to Adolescents with Learning Disabilities, a paper submitted by Jennifer Wickstrom in 2012, provides a review of the literature regarding high school reading interventions. Interestingly concerns that she notes over the literature include the fact that most of it contains very small sample sizes (some as small as 3) and interventions completed over short periods of time (10 weeks). Generalizing from this limited research base could be determined to be problematic.

One of the suggestions for reading remediation is pull-out one-on-one  services, a challenge in most high schools both for staff resources and student time. Reexamining schedules might provide part of the solution- students could be encouraged to explore five year graduation plans in order to develop delinquent skill sets, extended day or year programs could enable extra instructional time, schedules that include time for sustained silent reading or DEAR time within the ELA component could be utilized. Overall, however, our time in the high school is limited and trade-offs must happen. We need to provide a program that will yield college and career ready capabilities as much as possible, which in today's Common Core focus means perhaps limiting or dropping elective requirements, mandating summer programing and/or delaying graduation. Our students with reading disabilities need the gift of time in order to increase their reading skills.

In today's atmosphere of providing push in special education services we need to acknowledge that this often offers very limited opportunities to address foundational problems that students may have. We are sometimes building a house of cards that will collapse upon itself when the academic demands exceed the underlying capabilities of the students. Students may require more pull-out services that focus on building skills rather than homework support.

The intervention that Wickstrom recommended most strongly was repeated reading- short readings, read over until a fluency goal is reached as defined by correct words per minute. This technique builds fluency, vocabulary and comprehension skills. Further, it is relatively simple to implement, requiring only five minutes or so to complete. The challenge is to find materials that the student can be successful with (often grade level materials are too complex) and one-on-one time in which to work with the student.

Wickstrom also provides a listing of resources. This is broken into component reading skills and includes apps. The nature of technology, however, means that the offerings have expanded exponentially since the publication of this work.

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