Wednesday, December 26, 2007

IQ discrepancy and LD

I just found this article and thought it was worth noting, because I have been telling colleagues and parents that the discrepancy model is on its way out, but lately I couldn't put my finger on any one source. I have read it in several papers.

"As you might expect, early intervention gives the best results. Yet for decades most schools wouldn't consider special education for a child until he or she had fallen at least a year behind. That may be changing. Congress is considering legislation that would eliminate the need to show a discrepancy between a child's IQ and his or her achievements before receiving a diagnosis of dyslexia.

Ideally, all children should be screened in kindergarten—to minimize educational delay and preserve self-confidence. How do you know someone has dyslexia before he or she has learned to read? Certain behaviors—like trouble rhyming words—are good clues that something is amiss. Later you may notice that your child is memorizing books rather than reading them. A kindergarten teacher's observation that reading isn't clicking with your son or daughter should be a call to action.

If caught soon enough, can a child's dyslexia be reversed? The evidence looks promising. In her book, Shaywitz reports that brain scans of dyslexic kindergartners and first-graders who have benefited from a year's worth of targeted instruction start to resemble those of children who have never had any difficulty reading."

this is from Time magazine, and here is a link to the full article:,9171,1101030728-465794,00.html


Liz Ditz said...

Hi Kathy! John Wills Lloyd sent me over.

Susan Barton has a good video on early detection.

If I'd known what to look for in 1992, I'd've started my daughter on phonemic awareness training.

As far as "reversing" dyslexia ... yes, my daughter learned how to read, and now is a successful college student, but some things are still difficult.

She will be having a full psychoeducational evaluation next week, the first since 2003. It will be interesting to see what has changed and what remains the same.

Kathy said...


I am curious- since I was in the school system in 1992 teaching reading to kids with dyslexia- what sort of instruction did your daughter receive? I did the best I could with what we knew then, but I shudder when I realize how far off the mark our offerings were.
I imagine since your daughter is in college that she possesses what Martin Seligmann refers to as resiliency?
If you have a moment I would love to hear of her experiences in the school system.

Liz Ditz said...

My darling dyslexic daughter (DDD) applied for a private school for gifted and talented children in 1993, when she was four. Part of the admissions process was an IQ test, which showed quite a bit of scatter. As it turned out, we decided not to enroll her there, but the private, Episcopal school, (Trinity), which her older brothers had attended.

Trinity used a "balanced" approach to reading instruction, that is, both phonics & whole language approaches. She had the same teacher, Mrs. M., for kindergarten & second grade. Mrs. M. had also taught her two older brothers. Shortly after the start of second grade, Mrs. M. called me up to say that she had expected DDD to be an accomplished reader, but she wasn't, "it was like the phonics curriculum just didn't take", and we should look into it. So we did.

We had the local school district conduct an evaluation in 1997. With hindsight, that was a mistake, as she missed a lot of school for the evaluations, and it took months. We could have had an independent educational evaluation (IEE) done in weeks.

She also had an intake interview at a local private school that specializes in learning disabilities, Charles Armstrong School (CAS). The admissions director, Tuck Geerds, and I had a long talk, in which Ms. Geerds said, "We'd love to have DDD at CAS, and she would do well here, but with outside-of-class Orton-Gillingham reading remediation and tutoring support, DDD would also do well at Trinity. I'm not sure that the social cost of changing schools would be outweighed by the benefits of attending CAS for one or two years."

So we found a Slingerland tutor two afternoons a week, and arranged for another two afternoons a week classroom tutoring from a teacher who had just retired from Trinity. She also went to Challenge summer school between 2nd & third grade which was language based. Her teacher there had been her brother's 6th grade teacher, so it was a good fit.

When the Slingerland tutor had her second baby, after 18 months, I decided to put DDD in Lindamood-Bell for an intensive summer program. This was the difference that made the difference.

I have to give a lot of credit to all of DDD's teachers at Trinity. We never really had a formal IEP, but they were all "differentiating instruction" before the thing became a fad.

She went to The Girls' Middle School for 6th-8th grade. GMS has a specific Social and Emotional Learning curriculum that really helped her develop her self-advocacy skills.

And then, in 6th grade, she had a marvelous Language Arts teacher who really worked with her to develop her love of reading and the writing process. Again, no formal IEP, but the teachers at GMS focused on her strengths and helped her come up with ways to compensate for her weaknesses.

Before she entered high school, she had a formal IEE, which revealed continued deficits in processing speed and rapid automatic naming. During her high school career, the school developed an excellent program of academic support for all students, not just those with formal diagnoses of LD. I want to give particular recognition to the administration, who pushed the faculty to develop their understandings of LDs of all kinds.

As far as DDD developing resiliency--her temperament helped, and having outside-of-school success (tumbling, equestrian pursuits, and martial arts) also helped.

Before we knew about her LD, she started at age five in a non-competitive gymnastics program, offered by Lori and Mike, two particularly gifted teachers.

There's a particular gymnastics move called a tinsika (a bit like a slow-motion cartwheel), which was very difficult for her to master. She was getting discouraged because the other girls were nailing it, and she wasn’t.

Mike took her aside one day and said, “DDD, you are not a natural gymnast like X, Y and Z. But when you do master a move you are much stronger and more graceful than X, Y and Z. I will not give up on you if you won’t quit working.”

So they kept at it, talking about where things went wrong and what DD could do to fix that little piece. (Remember, at this point she had just turned seven.)

Mike and Lori celebrated each little bit of DDD's accomplishment. They figured out that DDD’s arms are unusually short (compared to her trunk and legs) which made the move more difficult for her. They figured out some other moves which would be easier, given her particular conformation.

After nine months of steady work, she mastered the tinsika.

It has become a metaphor for her of the value of persistence, of figuring out where the realistic barriers are, of figuring out ways of either strengthening the weak areas or looking for ways around it, of how “weak areas” can also have benefits. It also became a metaphor for overcoming her learning challenges. I believe that these teachers planted in her a gift for teaching, and a life-long interest in helping others.

The tinsika experience has become a template for evaluating her instructors and recruiting support in her academic life.

My take-away messages from "the tinsika story" are:

* Keep looking for teachers who understand.
* Let your child keep struggling, as long as the teachers are supportive.

I think DDD learned to:

* Analyze the reason for difficulty in performance.
* Understand and undertake what she can do to overcome performance challenges.
* Celebrate little steps along the way.

I only have great appreciation for Mike and Lori-- they saw her determination, helped her overcome her deficits, and celebrated/enjoyed each step upon the way.

I only wish every classroom teacher had this attitude.

I was very naive about dyslexia and learning disabilities before DDD's diagnosis. If I knew then what I know now, I would have looked at her first IQ test and started phonemic awareness remediation then. I would have made sure that her preschool and kindergarten had a phonemic awareness curriculum. I would have started intensive remediation in first grade (45 minutes, a minimum 3x a week), rather than waiting until the end of fourth grade to really get intensive.

Kathy said...

Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply, and for sharing your daughter's story.
You did indeed have wonderful and perceptive teachers, and I agree that the Lindamood program likely helped turn on some lights for your daughter.
I have used several different approaches during my 25 year career- and it wasn't until I took the training and started implementing the LiPS program that I saw real, tangible and exciting results.