A reflection on reading difficulty and assessment

How things have changed in the last few years. Where there was once little to read in relation to reading difficulty, now there is a mountain. Parents, understandably are concerned about their child’s lack of progress with literacy and learning, especially given the perceived decline of standards in Australian education and lower relative levels of achievement, compared to more progressive parts of the world. Dyslexia is gaining headlines, and that question, “is my child dyslexic”, is menacing for families where reading difficulty is suspected. It is very pleasing to see the government taking the initiative to screen all Year 1 students. Early intervention is the best intervention. The problem is though, that services are not in place to support, and older children are still left out in the cold.

I can’t tell you how many people access my service saying, “I felt there was something wrong in Prep, but the teacher kept on reassuring that all was OK. Now he is in Year 3 or 4”, and so on. From a great depth of personal and professional experience I can say, that it is important to identify any difficulties early, and I use the word identify rather than diagnose, as reading difficulties, whether they turn out to be dyslexic in nature or not, are not a medical issue! It is also important not to go off the results of a single test, such as a reading test. This may be indicative but does not help to inform the why of the problem. Comprehensive testing that involves looking at learning, achievement, memory, language, phonological processing, cognition and the child as a person provides a complete picture.

This is not the domain of a single profession, though some will try and convince you that they are the only ones who can provide definitive information, and you will pay the fee to match. Many parents have reported that they have paid large amounts of money only to come away with what they already know; that their child has a learning and/ or reading difficulty. The piece of paper is like a certificate, lacking extensive and useful strategies for them and the school. Certainly, few people with these reports experienced the professional going to the school to work collaboratively, (school and family), to set up the child’s learning plan; or if that did happen, they had to pay extra!

Young Advantage believes that the parent should expect a proper service. Theirs includes comprehensive assessment from a person who is qualified in more than one relevant area, who comes to you to do the testing, provides quick turnaround in reporting (instead of having to wait weeks) and puts as much focus on the ‘what to do’ as the ‘what is the problem’. Importantly she works with the family and school to improve the child’s learning. The cost is totally inclusive and fairly priced.

This is the message that came from a parent of a Year 3 boy last Thursday (9.2.2017), after we met with the school following his assessment. The school expressed their gratitude for real help and an SMS from the mother said, “Hi Marg. Just wanted to thank you again for your time this morning. I’m reassured and even more confident that we’re all on the right track to ensure he has a great year…”

Worth thinking about.