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Dyslexia and Intervention in American Schools Thesis

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Updated: Nov 27th, 2020

Introduction

As noted by Undheim (2009), dyslexia as a learning disability has affected many students in today’s education system especially in elementary levels and high schools. The American High Schools have not been exceptional in experiencing the problem of this learning disorder (Catone and Brady, 2005). Many researches have shown that there is no absolute cure for this disability but the educators have the mandate of making instructional adjustments to ensure that students suffering from Dyslexia excel in an academic environment (Aaron, Joshi, Regina & Kwesi, 2008).

The manner in which the students with Dyslexia are taught to read and write should be the first adjustments instructors should adjust in their methodology. The teachers find a big problem in providing for the needs of all students in school to ensure that they do not lag behind in understanding. Dyslexia is one of the learning disorders that every instructor must be concerned about and address in the best way possible (Wadlington and Wadlington, 2005).

According to Givens, et al. (2007), “the student who struggles with reading and spelling often puzzles teachers and parents” (p. 10). Diagnosis of Dyslexia becomes a problem when the students are suffering from other disorders that affect their leaning. According to Enns and Lafond (2007), learning to read and write for the students with ear problems is a big challenge not only to themselves but also to the teachers themselves.

The problem becomes worse when the difficulty of dyslexia accompanies hearing problems. Enns and Lafond (2007) states that “although debate continues over the exact definition of dyslexia and the appropriate diagnostic criteria, it can be narrowly defined as difficulty with word identification, or an inability to read words correctly” (p. 2). However, for the sake of this research, the federal definition of dyslexia and other terms are adopted.

Understanding Learning Disability: Federal Definitions

The United Stated department of Education has for years struggled to design means of identifying specific learning disabilities in school (David, 2008). On December 3rd 2004, the former US head of state George W. Bush assented to make Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) law. The Act has regulations that indicated how the students with specific learning disabilities should be identified. It stated that the stated will only adopt criteria for determining a student with disability based on 34 CFR 300.8(c) (10) definition of learning disability and must also allow other criteria based on Child’s response to scientific, research based intervention.

The other alternative research based criteria may also be adopted in determining a specific learning disability of a child. The federal definition of learning disability, as stated by the US Department of Education, states that “the child will be deemed to have a learning disability if the child does not achieve adequately for the child’s age or to meet State-approved grade-level standards in one or more of the following areas, when provided with learning experiences and instruction appropriate for the child’s age or State-approved grade–level standards” (U.S. Department of Education, 2006, p. 2).

The areas are basic reading skills, reading comprehension, reading fluency skills, mathematics computation, problem solving in mathematics, written and oral expression and listening expression. The criteria also extend to state that the student should not be in a position to make sufficient progress to attain the grade level standards that are set by the state as stated above. The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) makes every effort to improve performance of students with disabilities in primary schools in United States. It provides leadership and financial to the relevant authorities to ensure they have enough resources to support the students struggling with learning and reading due to disabilities.

According to the U.S. Government Printing Office (n. d, p. 446), the child with disability mean a child has mental retardation, impairment on hearing, visual, speech among others that can hamper their ability to learn well. Such a child is also deemed to have special educational needs and related services in order to boost their reading and reading.

Understanding Dyslexia

Learning to read is a problem that is affecting most children in primary schools in the US today. This problem in some cases is evident even when the students have the normal intelligence and the required educational opportunities. The reading age of these children is behind their chronological age by 2-3 years (Mortimore and Crozier, 2006). This kind of disorder is called Dyslexia.

According to Wajuihian and Naidoo (2012), Dyslexia is defined as a neuro-developmental disorder in students that gives them learning and reading difficulties. The students portray such characteristics despite having been taken through conventional instructions, adequate intelligence and their sociocultural orientation is balanced. This learning has become very common in students, especially in high schools in United States today.

The academic performance of the students is adversely affected by reading difficulties (Welker, 2009). Dyslexia is said to be a specific reading disability because the children suffering from it have the normal development except for reading.

Wajuihian and Naidoo (2012) present three definitions of dyslexia by three distinct authorities (World Federal Nuerologists in 1968 and British Dyslexia Association). WFN states that dyslexia is a disorder that is characterized by the inability of students to read given the normal leaning environment. The students have the right intelligence, sociocultural background balance and the right instruction but still exhibit difficulties in reading (Tami, Young-Suk, Maryanne, Robin, and Maureen, 2008).

For BDA, the disorder is characterized by either difficulty to read, spell, or write words. The other weaknesses associated with this disorder include slow speed of processing, short-term memory, and organization weakness among others (Burden & Burdett, 2005). The presence of intellectual ability and educational opportunity does not preclude the occurrence of Dyslexia.

Wajuihian and Naidoo (2012) also distinguish between dyslexia and general reading abilities, both of which affect students’ performance in US secondary schools. They state that “Dyslexia is a mild neurological disorder that causes a deficit affecting an individual’s ability to interpret the symbols of written language, and it is independent of intelligence” (Wajuihian and Naidoo, 2012, p. 2). Dyslexia is a specific disorder while general reading disability is non-specific and that arises due to factors like “low intelligence, educational deprivation, socio-cultural deprivations, primary emotional problems, sensory impairments, poor motivation, or attention problems” (Wajuihian and Naidoo, 2012, p. 2).

Prevalence of Dyslexia in United States Primary Schools

80% of the students that are identified as having learning disability are diagnosed with dyslexia (Wajuihian and Naidoo, 2012, p. 3). This portrays dyslexia as the most common form of learning disability. The level of prevalence of dyslexia varies depending on the literature obtained and the country. In the United States of America, for example, dyslexia in in school aged children was found by Wajuihian and Naidoo as ranging from 5% – 17%.

The prevalence rate in the United Kingdom reveals that 3 – 6%. According to Shaywitz and Shaywitz (2005), the prevalence rate of dyslexia in the Unites States is estimated to be 5 – 17% among the students at school age while considering the entire population, 40% were found to have reading ability that is below the grade level. They revealed further that the disorder is the most common problem that affects both children and adults in the United States of America.

They also found that 80 percent of the individuals identified as having reading disability are diagnosed with dyslexia. Commenting on the cause of dyslexia, Shaywitz, S and Shaywitz (2005) also stated that dyslexia can be inherited by children from their parents. About 23 to 65 percent of students whose parents are suffering from dyslexia, 40% inherit the disorder. The research revealed that 27-49 percent of the parent whose children are dyslexics also have the disorder.

The findings of Shaywitz and Shaywitz (2005) seem to rhyme with that of Wajuihian and Naidoo (2012). According to International Dyslexia Association, as cited by Balido, Kupczynski, and Fedynich (2007), the population of Unites States people who have reading disability range from 15% to 20%. It is also stated that 85% of this group suffer from dyslexia. They further states that the problem is not a disease but a processing deficiency and cannot be cured but can be coped with using multisensory teaching methods.

Response to Intervention (RTI)

Response to intervention, according to Carreker and Malatesha (2010), was introduced following the enactment of Individual with Disabilities Act in 2004 in the United States of America. Following this enactment, RTI has been developed in primary schools in the US and it employs a 3 tier system (Lenski, 2012). According to Givens et al (2007, p. 14), the intervention that should be provided to the students with reading disabilities must adopt the principles stipulated in NCLB laws.

The laws states that scientifically based reading research (SBRR) should be used by schools to design reading programs to assist students who have difficulties in reading. The federal Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA 2004) that was enacted and passed in the same year fully complies with NCLB in addressing the quality of instruction in an environment with students suffering from dyslexia. It includes in its criteria “a process based on the student’s response to scientific, research-based intervention” (Givens et al (2007, p. 14).

Givens et al (2007, p. 14) defines RTI as a practice that seeks to address the academic and behavioral needs of students by offering services with the following elements:

  1. High-Quality instruction interventions that address the individual needs of students
  2. Students should be monitored frequently in order to reach at result-based decisions.
  3. The student response data should be considered extensively in the educational decision making (Kavale, Holdnack and Mostert, 2006).

In general, the instructional approaches that are used by the must ensure that the academic and behavioral progress of most of the students in the country is improved (Burton, 2004). Vaughn et al (2008) defines RTI as an “approach to enhancing classroom instruction and systematically implementing more intensive interventions to meet the instructional needs of struggling learners” (p. 1).

The process involves conducting an accurate universal screening in order to ensure that all students with reading disabilities are identified and given attention that they deserve (Ghelani, Sidhu, Jain and Tannock (2004). There is also continuous monitoring to ensure that there is positive response to interventions that are made. Vaughn et al (2008) describes two forms of interventions that may be appropriate to the students in high schools and other levels to mitigate the problem of dyslexia. The first type of intervention is standard protocols intervention.

Standardized Intervention

This type involves entails empirically validated interventions to all the students suffering from dyslexia. In this case, the materials and instruction are adapted to the student’s current reading level. The implementation of this strategy is the same for all the students that are targeted by the intervention. The standardized intervention is difficult when implemented to older students because reading difficulty is harder to deal with in older students. For the primary schools in the United States, this method is applicable because they are younger students it is not problematic to implement the program among them (Beth, 2009).

The solution in the case of the older students is to employ standardized intervention in small groups of 3 to 18 students. This case will require the parties implementing to take some factors into consideration. Firstly, each student should be diagnoses to make sure that critical elements of the problem are addressed by the intervention. The texts that are motivating and interesting students should also be taken into consideration. The social and behavioral support is the other factors to be considered to engage the students in the intervention period.

Individualized interventions

Extensive research has been conducted concerning standardized intervention but too little is done about the individualized intervention. According to Vaughn et al (2008), “Particularly with older students, individualized interventions may be necessary because the range of reading difficulties is likely to vary based on the learning needs of students, the reasons for their reading difficulties, and the gap between their performance and grade-level expectations” (p. 4). The method addresses the reading needs on individual students.

RTI Vs. Discrepancy Model

In this model four criteria must be employed before eligibility for the SLD. Firstly, a discrepancy must be established between cognitive or intellectual ability and the child’s academic achievement. This recognizes that intellectual ability may not always replicate in academic achievement. Secondly, determination of any cognitive or psychological processing difficulty or deficit must be done (O’Donnell and Miller, 2011). Thirdly, an assessment must be conducted to determine whether child’s education must or must not be necessarily met through special education. Educational needs for a child must be categorized whether are such that they must only be provided through special means. Lastly, exclusionary considerations must be factored.

Discrepancy model has been met with criticism for its numerous shortcomings. The problems of discrepancy model have been unearthed by many writers over the past thirty years. Its use has made it difficult to identify children with learning difficulties early enough. This has consequently barred early interventions. Therefore, it is common for such students to progressively fail in before their academic achievement falls far way below their IQ (Restori, Katz, and Lee, 2009).

It, therefore, means that it is only after much time has elapsed that they are recognized as needing special education. It is actually evident that the number classified as having learning disability increase significantly in the third grades. This is because the model has an altitude of wait to fail something that does not argue well. This model culminates into a loss instructional time. Was this not the case there would have significant differences to the overall number of the victims.

The model has given a room for those children at risk for learning disability not to be identified at earlier stages something that would have made things be mended to mitigate the condition. Because of this shortcoming then approach such as RTI would be appropriate in cases where early identification and intervention is necessary. Another criticism leveled against this model is its inconsistent way in which medical practitioners apply it. According to a study by Sheri, Ozgul and Leah (2004), it was discovered that half of those identified as children with learning disabilities had not actually met the threshold of so being considered and therefore were not eligible.

A good number of researchers have discovered that eligibility criteria for SLD are not applied uniformly across the states. Such inconsistency negates the objectivity of the discrepancy model which was well intentioned. This also is likely to lead to a situation whereby the schools will be using their own perceptions in rating students as one with learning disabilities. This will not go well for the United State especially in implementing any policy regarding LD. When there lacks clear guidelines in identifying LD then schools will a leeway to act anyhow.

According to Higgin and Raskind (2004), the third criticism of IQ-achievement discrepancy model appears due to the fact that students who have long-term achievement problem do not receive adequate attention from educators since they are considered to be slow learners. For instance, a child may have 85 in IQ score and 70 in reading decoding- he or she will likely not receive any specialized education. In this case student IQ does not warrant a special education (Restori, Katz, and Lee, 2009).

Although it may appear as if a child with a reading decoding score of 70 as warranting special education this might not always be the case (Hruby and Hynd, 2006). Psychologists are in a kind of dilemma on whether such children need special education especially in the light of legal constrains. They try to navigate between doing what is seemingly the right thing and what actually the law stipulates. Discrepancy model has largely been considered inappropriate in helping the situation.

This is especially because of the way it tackles the early identification and the time taken to initiate an intervention (Stone, 2010). Moreover, the misinterpretation of its approach and the inconsistent manner in which it is applied not only within but also across the states. Medics have been so ignorant in implementing it such that the end result is to achieve the intended objectives. The model seems to focus more on the issues to do with eligibility which again could have time lags because of different identification stages. While some can be identified as those with learning disabilities at an advanced stage some may take a little while only for the necessary measures to be taken when it is too late (Vaughn et al., 2008).

Assistive technology

Dyslexia is a condition that is now well known by people and appreciated as ways of helping individual with such condition live a normal healthy life. Assistive technology is one such intervention aimed at helping the persons with dyslexia cope with the condition. Dyslexia is a condition whose basis is a problem with the neural system and it has nothing to do with the student’s ability or intelligence (Kenneth, 2013).

Such students have difficulty in learning and have characteristics such as reading words in the wrong order. According to Kenneth (2013), there is need for a tutor to fully understand the student and the condition that they are suffering from for an effective learning to take place. The tutor should also spend time with the student to know their specific needs and therefore get the most effective approach for learning. According to Conway and Amberson (2011), Learning for the students with the condition has been made easier by the use of technology where devices are made with special features.

One such device is the Apple’s iPod touch device which can be used at various capacities by student with different level of learning ability (Skyler and Ashley, 2008). Smart board is another technology that has been developed to aid in the learning process. The smart aids the users to manipulate and use data as images, texts, drawings and other forms that may be relevant for the learning process (Skyler and Ashley, 2008). It therefore is better and advanced that the traditional board but the iPod touch is superior to it. The major reason for this is due to the portability of the iPod and its better multifunction ability.

Assistive technology aids in easing the functional ability of the student with disability but it is crucial to know the level that they are in. the reason for this is because as much as a group of students may have dyslexia, they may be at different level and severity (Alper and Sahoby, 2006). Assistive technology is well appreciated as a solution for the students with the learning disability (Alper and Sahoby, 2006). However they describe several challenges that make the idea not to be in use and such is the financial limitations of the families with such students. The equipments are expensive and many families cannot afford them no matter how helpful they are.

Additionally the education system has not been fully adapted for use in such a level and thus anyone using such will either custom make or get it at a high price. Another challenge is that the tutor themselves may not have the ability to use the technology and therefore the use of the devices may prove hard for them (Alper and Sahoby, 2006). In a study conducted by Draffan, Evans and Blenkhorn (2007) involving students in the post-secondary level showed that the majority, up to 90% were satisfied with the technology that they used. Those used in the survey had received and used various software and hardware for use during their learning process.

The fact that these people appreciated the use of the technology is a clear indicator that assistive technology is really helpful. The oxford reading pen is another example of assistive technology that can be used by the people with dyslexia. This tool as described by Ian (2008), in his study, aids the students to better their skills in reading and comprehension. The tool was shown to increase the user’s ability to comprehend, better their reading skills and read for meaning at the level of the student’s age. Mathew, Jamie, Amanda & Gerhard (2010) carried out a survey that showed technology is very helpful for students in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

Since this field involves a lot of mastery of content, the study showed the use of limiting the content to be read can help such students. Assistive technology can be defined as a great break for students with dyslexia but necessary mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure that it is effective.

Reading intervention

Intervention is crucial for children with learning disabilities and if done in a timely manner it may reduce the severity of the disability. It can be however given at different times but at whatever time this is started, it is very crucial for the leaning development of the child with learning disability especially for those diagnosed early. Frank, Donna & Diane (2006) in their study in 2006 showed that early intervention is a good remedy for children who are suspected or seen with signs of learning disability. Their study focused their intervention to children as young as those in kindergarten and continued into first grade (Swanson, 2009).

Children who were intervened for at such an early age showed lesser severity in the learning disability after review. All students who attend school receive a certain level of intervention to aid them learn. However students who receive additional intervention other than what is provided in the school were seen to perform better (Sharon et al., 2010). These students performed better in comprehension, vocabularies and word fluency.

Alot of research has been done in the area of providing intervention especially in the elementary schools. It is important to ensure continuity of the learning process for these students as they proceed to the secondary level. For this reason researches has been done to ensure academic success and even the ability to recognize learning disabilities in the secondary school level. The administrators of such institutions should therefore consider the use of intervention for their students.

These may be the first time they are identified or they are transitioning to a higher grade. The reason this is because secondary school level has more advanced needs as compared to the ones in the elementary schools and thus the need for a tailor made intervention for these students. How students respond to intervention has long been used to determine whether they have the learning disability or not (Kenneth, James and Mark, 2006). This is very crucial so that those identified as having the disabilities are intervened for early enough to prevent deterioration of their condition and aid in faster initiation of progressive learning.

Deborah and Jerry (2007), explains that due to the increasing interest in the issue surrounding dyslexia, more research has been done in the area. They further found out that intervention such as using scripted reading has come a long way to help the issue of the learning process. It is therefore necessary for the teachers of special education with such students to adopt such interventions for their students (Sansosti, Noltemeyer and Goss, 2010).

Additionally, the federal laws have helps in ensuring that such facilities are availed to such student. Students with learning disabilities are not lesser that others and should therefore not be discriminated against when they should be offered education (Swanson, and O’Connor, 2009). An equal chance to read means that the necessary facilities for learning are availed to aid in the learning according to the individual’s capacity (Higgins and Marshall, 2004).

Proper mechanisms should be put in place to ensure that students with dyslexia get due help such as through goal setting (Louise, Sean and martin, 2007). Such students are very productive when assisted to make reasonable goals and helped in the journey to achieve them. Colleagues and tutors of such students should also be aided in how to handle and help them towards their goal. Models showing the response to any intervention given to students should be developed with special emphasis to students with visual impairment (Hannan, Holbrook and Ricci, 2012).

This helps to reduce the likelihood of student with impaired vision from not excelling in the academics. According to them, the tutors of such students should be actively involved in the development of such models. This way, what is produces will meet the actual needs of such students. In a commentary to a previous article, Sharon and Jack (2010), clarified that intervention at the secondary school level need not be a fresh start but can be a buildup on what was already done in the elementary school.

Direct instruction

According to Voit (2008), it is important to recognize that dyslexia is a learning disability requiring specialized intervention and approach to deal with it. According to him, the federal law provides for specialized learning and teaching methods to be developed so as to deal with the issue within the learning institutions. There is need for the involvement of the school heads as well as the tutors themselves for the successful development of such models (Margaret & Jenifer, 2007).

This will ensure that the model produced will be effective for the purpose for which it was created in the first place. Direct instruction is one such model or approach to teaching which has been used and proven useful. It has been shown to be positively related to the learning process of the students with learning disabilities (Margret and Jennifer, 2007). The studies showed that this approach to teaching was highly effective and the students whose tutors used it had better response in regards to their learning. Learning was majorly done by the use of examples, facts and analogies which proved very resourceful.

Elizabeth (2008) proved that the use of instruction as an approach to learning was positive especially in the area of general introduction for the student. The teacher is able to walk with the student at every stage of their development thus progress. In a study that was done by Amy, Deborah, and Kristine (2006) showed that the aspect of corrective reading had a positive effect on the reading abilities of the students.

The study further showed that the students and their tutors did not mind the approach and they considered an important aspect for the reading to be done. Asha, Edwards, Gabriel and Lisa (2004), conducted a study to determine the importance of the use of direct instructions of key words in enhancing comprehension. The results showed that when the key words were introduced before the whole text was, and then comprehension was increased (King, Lemons and Hill, 2012). The reason for this was because the key works gave a general understanding of the text which was further enhanced with the reading of the whole text.

Learning disability does not have a link with the intelligence level of the person and therefore they should not be treated as persons with lower intelligence (Dimitris and Stavroula, 2009). In their study, Sheri, Ozgul and Leah (2004), describes a model of reading that would be more effective in identifying the levels of learning disability as opposed to the use of intelligence as a measure for the same. This will help to remove the discrepancy that has existed in identifying these persons early. This will further help in treating the learning disability since once a person is identified as unable to ready measures can be taken. The faster and earlier the interventions can be done the easier the ability to deal with the problem.

Instructing students with dyslexia has continued over a long time and it is important to note that this has been successful to a great extent so far. However, certain skills, as noted by Tilly and Ray (2006), have not focused on some important aspects such as academic writing for such students. Therefore teaching approaches should be improved to ensure that such skills and others like ideas organization can be done by the students. Direct instruction can thus be said to be a highly rewarding approach to learning for the people with learning disabilities (Wahlberg & Magliano, 2004).

Peer tutoring

In a study that conducted by Dufrene et al (2010), it showed that peer tutoring had significant positive effect on the reading capabilities of the person. The students used in this study showed that the students ability to read and was improved when remedial peer tutoring sessions were introduced above what they were given in the class. Another reason for the success of the peer tutoring according to the study is due to the manner in which the tutoring were conducted (Provost, LaMbert and Babkie, 2010).

The fellow students who were giving their students the training did it with a lot of respect and did not sideline the student for failure to learn. This was probably due to the fact they well understood that it is difficult since they also have the same condition. David, Tracey and Elizabeth (2008) in their study indicated that learning for the persons with learning disabilities is made easier in an environment of sensory calm. Such is the environment that is created when peers are used as educators.

Since these people are free and used to each other thus they can easily interact in a way that ease the atmosphere and, therefore, learning takes place better. This when compared with when students are only taught by their classroom teacher shows results for the students. According to Snow, Burns & Griffin, 2009), different students have varied levels of control and ability to fit in new or unfamiliar situations and it is necessary to avoid such situations especially for learning to take place. Remedial classes have been shown to improve the reading and spelling of such students and such is the one that is offered in peer tutoring.

Kathleen (2013) did a study in this topic and gave a guide on how to deal with students with learning disabilities other than for the normal classroom times. The guide can be easily be used by the parents or even other students can still use it. If this is put into use it can prove very useful for the process of learning. Louise, Sean and Martin (2007) further demonstrated how the use of an enabling environment in the school can ease the learning process for these students.

According to them, the students in the same school with the ones with learning disability play a major role in their goals. Since the students are aided to achieve goals they set to achieve in their leaning and this way it is easier for the students. The teachers on the other hand were involved in the students learning process but not in the capacity of teachers but as mentors for the students with the disability. As seen above, peer tutoring is one of the approaches that need to be used as a strategy for learning to compliment classroom learning (Richard, 2006). This has been shown to work well in the various studies described and have positive effect on the students learning.

Computer assisted technology

A lot of research has been put in the technology world to aid the students with dyslexia have an easier time learning. One such a function is by the use of iPod for learning with the various applications that are available (Joshua, 2013). Students use the applications depending on their level and severity of the condition. Most of these applications are free and others are available online at a very subsidized cost thus making them easily accessible.

Some of these read to the user and others has facilities such as different colors and figures that the learner can even touch. Poor ability to express oneself in writing is a major feature noted in students with dyslexia and therefore use of electric means of communication is easier for them and the recipient (Stephen & Alden, 2006). Computer programs have been developed to aid students who have severe reading and speech recognition problems and this has proved very efficient (Higgin and Raskind, 2004). These prove very resourceful in helping such to read and recognize sounds without which this was also most impossible for them.

Wajuihian and Naidoo (2012) noted that children with dyslexia can either have reading, writing or comprehension disorder or have a combination of this and therefore any technology that would be used to help is very vital. Initiatives to use technology have been embraced by many and such is the laptop use in classrooms initiative as described by Paul and Jessica (2011). The use of the laptops eased the learning process especially due to its ability to be used anywhere since they are portable. Rosemarie, Jeanine and Ludo (2005) did a study to determine the effect of automation on the learning ability of students with learning disability.

There results showed that students who were taught using automated methods leant faster especially in reading and text than their counterparts who used the traditional manual approach to learning. Use of other automated tools such as one to assess comprehension is now being adopted to assess the ability (Joseph and Keith 2010). They showed that such a tool was just as effective in assessing the ability of learners with learning disability for their comprehension. Use of computers cannot be over emphasized and in the current era of information technology, a lot of progress has been done. This has not left out persons with learning disabilities as is evident from the text which has partly solved their problem.

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