Friday, January 6, 2012

Dyslexia Study Critical of Discrepancy Model

Back in October, we wrote about a new study that found that children with reading problems have the same kinds of processing issues regardless of whether they have high or low IQs. We quoted that study's authors who pointed out that the kinds of dyslexia interventions that are provided for students of average or above average intelligence should also be used with children with less than average IQs, whose reading problems had previously been thought to be "caused" by their lower IQ.

Now, the National Institutes of Health, which helped to fund the study, has weighed in with its comments  -- and we think that what they had to say is important for schools and parents.

The NIH noted, in a press release, "The results call into question the discrepancy model — the practice of classifying a child as dyslexic on the basis of a lag between reading ability and overall IQ scores." They go on to explain, "In many school systems, the discrepancy model is the criterion for determining whether a child will be provided with specialized reading instruction. With the discrepancy model, children with dyslexia and lower-than-average IQ scores may not be classified as learning disabled and so may not be eligible for special educational services to help them learn to read."

According to Brett Miller, Ph.D., director of the Reading, Writing and Related Learning Disabilities Program at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the part of the National Institutes of Health that funded the study, “It follows that, whether they have high IQ scores or low IQ scores, children with great difficulty in learning to read stand to benefit from educational services to help them learn to read. The study results indicate that the discrepancy model is not a valid basis for allocating special educational services in reading.” 

We have never been fans of the discrepancy model for providing services under the Individuals with Disabilities with Education Act and Dr. Yellin has done extensive work with school districts who seek to move beyond this model and use a student's Response to Intervention (RTI) as a way of determining how to deal with learning challenges. It's heartening to see that researchers and the NIH agree.

Expect more coverage of this study and its impact on special education services in blogs to come.

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