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You have received one of those dreaded reports from school that your student in a grade from K through 3 is not meeting the curriculum standard in reading. You immediately blame yourself for not reading to them enough, for having a job, or worse, you blame your child for “not working hard enough.” Let’s take a step away from blame and toward what this report means for your child. The worst thing that can happen is that your student will be given specialized reading instruction in a small group.

Does the report break reading into various parts, such as decoding unfamiliar words, fluency (pace and accuracy), recognizing sight words and comprehension? Decoding means that the child breaks words into pieces and sounds them out moving from left to right. An example would be taking the word “deep” and sounding it out: d- ee -p. Or the student knows that when he sees a consonant-vowel-consonant word such as MAP, the “a” has a short sound. A sight word is one that cannot be sounded out and has to be memorized, such as the, one, does, hour, our.

If your student scored low on fluency, check with the teacher and ask if the issue is slow reading pace with choppy expression, failure to recognize sight words (tries to sound them out) or difficulty sounding out words correctly. You can observe for yourself by having your student read a few lines from a simple book. Are they stumbling on sight words and trying to sound them out? Are they having difficulty sounding out phonetically regular words such as “plum?” Are they making mistakes with simple words so that “of” becomes “off,” or “for” becomes “from?” Do they read the words correctly, but sound choppy when they read?  

The first conversation should be with the teacher, to share your observations and seek advice about how to address these challenges. Before meeting with the teacher, you may want to become familiar with terminology such as “phonology,” the “sound symbol code” and “morphology”; these are elements of Structured Literacy instruction. See this webpage on the International Dyslexia Association website for an explanation of these terms.

Blogger Mary Ann Mulcahey, PhD, shares her expertise in assessment and diagnosis of learning disabilities and ADHD, and the social/emotional adjustment to those issues. If you have questions, please contact Dr. Mulcahey at mmulcahey@springer-ld.org.

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