With reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) legislation pending before the U.S. Congress, researchers Karla K. Stuebing, FSD Data Services, Inc.; Jack M. Fletcher and Josett M. DeLoux, Department of Pediatrics, University of Texas Health Science Center; G. Reid Lyon, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; and Sally E. and Bennett A. Shaywitz, Yale University School of Medicine, present research that supports early intervention for all children who experience difficulties learning to read, regardless of cause.
Their meta-analysis centers on the question of whether the needs of learning disabled children, who have been identified because of discrepancy between their intellectual potential and their levels of achievement, differ from the needs of children who do not demonstrate such a discrepancy but experience, nevertheless, difficulties in reading.
The authors reviewed 320 potential studies and, through a carefully constructed process, eventually selected 46 studies that compare IQ-discrepant and IQ-consistent groups. According to the researchers, "The overlap between poor readers identified as learning disabled and those not so identified is substantial, and little external validity exists for the differentiation of reading disability on the basis of IQ- discrepancy."
When discrepancy is used in federal regulations as a criterion for establishing learning disability, ". . .the provision of services favors children with higher IQ scores." This practice might be justified if such a distinction resulted in increased facility in reading skills or identified children with different learning haracteristics. The authors contend, however, that there is little evidence to support that assertion.
Instead, they report, "The solution is to carefully assess reading and reading-related skills in students for whom there is concern about reading." These assessments should address the instructional needs of each child. Along with early intervention, continuous monitoring of progress ". . .would facilitate the ultimate goal of helping as many children as possible learn to read adequately and return to general education."
This study was supported by grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, a component of the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation.
Editor's Note: Jack M. Fletcher can be contacted at the Department of Pediatrics, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, 7000 Fannin--UCT 2478, Houston, TX 77030 or by e-mail at Jack.Fletcher@uth.tmc.edu. To receive a full text of the journal article, contact AERA communications, (202) 223-9485 or email@example.com.
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