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Posts Tagged ‘intervention response’

When should a child be assessed?

May 16 2014

When should a child be assessed?

In the first years of schooling it is difficult to form any definitive conclusions about children who might have specific learning difficulties. One risk factor alone does not constitute a dyslexic profile. Some children grow out of their problems and there could be a host of other causal factors which might have delayed some aspects of cognitive development such as, social and emotional factors, family and environmental factors.

It must also be remembered that some children within the early years of schooling who exhibit none of the risk factors may later go on to display dyslexic tendencies. It is possible for literacy difficulties to be masked until the curriculum begins to make a greater demand on the child in the junior years/first and second classes.

The challenge for Nursery and Infant class teachers is in knowing which of the observable behaviours are developmental and which signal potential difficulty. We know that children learn at different rates and each child needs to reach that ‘point of readiness’. Some children just keep us waiting and then without any warning suddenly blossom!

Research into ‘at risk’ factors can now point to ‘early indicators’ which might warrant further investigation and thus provides a starting point for continuous observation by the infant class teacher. Building up a comprehensive picture of the child will serve as the background evidence needed for subsequent intervention/support programme .

Possible ‘at risk’ indicators in the early years and infant classes are:

Oral Communication
The child who
…displays word finding difficulties( eg during sand play, he/she refers to the ‘digging thingy’ and accompanies this with gestures for digging. It is not that he/she does not have the word spade, it is just that he/she has a problem retrieving it from memory when they need it)
…have their hands up to answer a question but cannot answer appropriately
…attaches the incorrect verbal labels to everyday objects
…uses gesture and mime more than other children to convey meaning
…substitutes words, eg ‘water pot’ for ‘watering can’ or ‘lamp post’ for ‘lampshade’
…uses jumbled phrases eg, ‘beddy tear’ for ‘teddy bear’ or ‘par cark’ for ‘car park’
…may use bizarre forms of words eg suebegi for spaghetti or plisters for slippers

Phonological Awareness
The child who
…is unable to recite a nursery rhyme
…struggles to identify the odd one out in cat, mat , sat, dog
…unable to generate a rhyming word in a sequence, eg, fat, cat, sat, hat, pat,
…cannot pick the odd one out in a group of words with the same beginning phoneme, eg cat, cap, cot, dog
…consistently ‘gets it wrong’ in a game of I spy because he/she has not understood it is the first letter sound which is required to guess the target word.

Alphabet knowledge
The child who
…cannot sequence the alphabet orally
…cannot correctly identify the 26 lower case letters of the alphabet
…has difficulty identifying the upper case letters
…struggles to write their own name

Short term working memory
The child who
…struggles to retell a simple story they have just heard
…has difficulty remembering simple class songs and chants and routines
…have great difficulty placing a set of three picture cards in the correct order
…cannot repeat a four item sequence or set of actions

Attention and Perseverance
The child who unable to sustain concentration, for example during story time
…does not complete tabletop activities
…seems to flit from one activity to the next displaying minimal engagement
…consistently avoids reading and writing activities
…finds it hard to play collaboratively

By the end of the infant classes, the classteacher has built up individual profiles of children who are not working within expected norms. It is at this stage when it is possible to make the most difference by appropriate interventions.

It is usually a child’s lack of satisfactory response to intervention and extra support that will trigger a specialist assessment. It is sensible therefore to wait until a child has reached seven years before initiating a full diagnostic assessment for dyslexia.

Children themselves are only too aware at this stage that peers are forging ahead and anxiety frequently accompanies difficulties. Studies have revealed that self esteem at this stage of development is closely linked to peer acceptance and ‘being one of the gang’. The difficulties experienced by the dyslexic child in the school setting needs to be managed sensitively. An indication of this careful handling is the child who with weak reading skills explain that he/she loves books and reading. This is a child who has been given books to read that they can manage as well as the love of reading being protected and nurtured through paired reading programmes and being read with.