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Reading Disability Controversies Essay

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Updated: May 4th, 2022

A Brief Description

A reading disability, which is often referred to as dyslexia, is a learning disorder that leads to difficulty with word decoding accuracy, spelling, comprehension, language memory and reading speed (Siegel, 2006). It is believed that the reading disability has a genetic background. There are no gender difference when it comes to dyslexia as the number of dyslexic boys is only insignificantly bigger than the number of girls suffering from the disorder.

This disorder is found in children, adolescents and even adults irrespective of the language they speak. It is important to add that it is often quite difficult to diagnose the disorder and the measurement is often based on the speed and accuracy of reading while different researchers use quite different cutoff points during measurement. At the same time, dyslexic people often have certain brain abnormalities. Hence, physicians often play a crucial role in diagnosing the disorder.

Researchers have developed a number of strategies to assist dyslexic students. Audio-visual training is one of these interventions. Thus, Magnan and Ecalle (2006) note that audio-visual training (which includes computer-based interventions) have proved to be effective. During the research, students were to place phonemic units and words into the appropriate categories. Children could see and hear words and phonetic units, which helped them decode words and sounds. It has been proved that the performance of these students improved considerably. Tape records and screen readers also help students complete tasks during classes (Siegel, 2006). These strategies have become widely used with dyslexic students and they are quite efficient as students’ performance is improving. There are various computer-based interventions that can be implemented in class and at home. Parents are often trained to help their children to develop better reading and decoding skills.

The Controversy

One of controversies related to dyslexia is the use of read-aloud accommodation during tests in English language arts (Croft & Wilkinson, 2014). The accommodation came into use as a result of the enactment of the 1997 amendments of IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) (Croft & Wilkinson, 2014). According to the amendments, inclusive education has become a priority and students with disabilities were included in the standard classes as well as standard assessment. However, many students were unable to fully benefit from the inclusion into the assessment due to their disorders and read-aloud accommodation was introduced as a way to address this issue. Read-aloud accommodation consists in reading aloud the tasks so that students could comprehend what is expected from them during the test.

At the same time, Croft and Wilkinson (2014, p. 1) note that the controversy associated with the accommodation is twofold as it undermines the test validity and it can potentially lead to “overclassification of students eligible for the accommodation”. Thus, when the accommodation is used, some researchers argue, the test validity can be questioned, as the ability to decode messages is a part of the task.

In other words, students do not have to complete a part of the test and the results of such assessment can be, at least, partially invalid. Therefore, many researchers and educators are against the use of the accommodation, especially on such a big scale. On the other hand, some researchers state that students still complete the necessary tasks and reveal their skills, which is the primary goal of any test. They stress that the task itself is not a part of assessment and, hence, it is possible to help students decode instructions especially in certain grades (Croft & Wilkinson, 2014). They note that students reveal their skills to perform particular tasks and it is possible to assist dyslexic students to comprehend the instructions so that they could effectively reveal their skills.

Another aspect of the controversy is that the accommodation can be employed excessively. Siegel (2006) stresses that there is no single assessment strategy and, hence, results of assessments can differ. There are no standards in this area, which makes it difficult to develop efficient interventions. The degree of the disorder also plays an important role as some students have milder and some have more severe forms of dyslexia. Different strategies should be used to address different forms of the disorder and standards could help significantly in this process. Clearly, it is quite difficult to estimate the cases when the accommodation is justified.

Croft and Wilkinson (2014) note that there is a trend to use the read-aloud accommodation in many schools and the researchers note that in many cases the accommodation is overused. In these cases, the results of the assessment become less valid as students with or without the disorder obtain assistance while doing their tests. At the same time, some researchers stress that assessment has proved to be valid and the cases of dyslexia can be identified quite effectively (Croft & Wilkinson, 2014). Therefore, the accommodation is usually used when it is most needed.

It is necessary to add that the controversy is quite difficult to address, as the research does not provide exhaustive evidence on the way to assess the disorder and the way accommodation can affect the validity of the results. However, it is clear that since the evidence is still unavailable, it is necessary to limit the use of the accommodation and utilize it in the most severe cases of dyslexia. As for effective assessment, further research in the field is needed. More so, it is important to develop a nationwide measurement as standards will enable educators to decide on the severity of the disorder and the most effective interventions.

In conclusion, it is possible to note that dyslexia is a learning disorder that has attracted significant attention of researchers. However, there are still too many gaps as it is still unclear how to measure the disorder, how to address it. The use of read-aloud accommodation during tests is also quite controversial as it may undermine the validity of the test results. Development of efficient and standardized measurement as well as restriction of the use of the accommodation could be effective.

Reference List

Croft, M., & Wilkinson, T. (2014). Monitoring implementation of the read-aloud accommodation for English language arts assessments. ACT Research & Policy, 1-7. Web.

Magnan, A., & Ecalle, J. (2006). Audio-visual training in children with reading disabilities. Computers & Education, 46, 407-425. Web.

Siegel, L.S. (2006). Perspectives on dyslexia. Paediatrics & Child Health, 11(9), 581-587. Web.

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