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Specific Learning Disabilities Criteria

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Jennifer is a 2nd grader being referred for possible learning disabilities in reading. Jennifer has always attended Sand Hill Elementary and has not repeated a grade. She is eight years old. She has been screened for vision and hearing problems and was found to have normal vision and hearing. Her teachers have described her as cooperative and likable. She does not exhibit behavioral problems.

Jennifer has a history of difficulty with early reading skill milestones. She had difficulty learning the letters of the alphabet in kindergarten as well as trouble with initial sounds, sight vocabulary and rhyming. Her overall language development was acceptable and she enjoyed being read to. She had some trouble sequencing story elements and following multiple step instructions when given orally. She seemed to learn reading related concepts more slowly than many of the other students and seemed to take a much longer time to understand and master pre-reading skills. She enjoyed art and play time.

Jennifer’s current teacher states that she exhibits a great deal of difficulty in reading. She has mastered 5 of the grade one benchmarks based on the WI Model Academic Standards (alphabet letters, initial consonants, ending consonants, oral retelling, and identifying pictures). Rhyming and sight words are emerging. She has met three of the ten reading benchmarks on the district 2nd grade skill checklist (see attached results) (summarizing stories, making inferences about outcomes, and connecting information in stories with her own experiences). Her skills in two other areas are emerging (reading high frequency words and knowing story elements). She has shown little progress on the other five benchmarks (using word structures to decode; using punctuation, titles, headings, and pictures to increase comprehension; reading fluently; using self-correction strategies, and reading a variety of text) (see attached checklist).

Specifically, she doesn’t consistently sound out words when reading aloud. Instead, she often replaces a word that begins with the same letter; for example, “book” for “brown.” Jennifer does know all consonant sounds in isolation, but isn’t always able to combine sounds and doesn’t understand blends, such as “sl.” While she recalls some basic sight words, she doesn’t remember them automatically until she has received repeated instruction and seen them many times. When given materials at her reading level she reads very haltingly. She has great difficulty trying to blend sounds together. She has adequate comprehension of stories read to her and is assisted by picture clues, although she doesn’t always remember to use such cues when reading by herself. She seems to get so bogged down by trying to figure out the words that she forgets to use other reading strategies. The teacher has taken her aside for some small group and individual skill work, but Jennifer’s progress continues to be very slow. Her instructional reading level as measured by an individual reading inventory is at the primer level.

Jennifer’s first grade teacher reported that she did have some concerns with Jennifer’s progress, but she wanted to “give her a little more time.” Jennifer did receive Title I reading support in first grade, and also receives it this year. She participated in Reading Recovery in first grade. Although she made some progress, she did not complete the program successfully in the time allowed. She enjoys good parental support, and her parents report that they have read to Jennifer consistently since she was a baby. They are also concerned about Jennifer’s progress in reading. They have expressed concerns that Jennifer will get increasingly frustrated and give up if she does not begin making more progress.

Jennifer is doing grade-level work in math, and has advanced to 2-digit subtraction with regrouping. She sometimes struggles when math activities have written directions and with story problems, but she is willing to ask for help. She has been paired with a peer to assist with reading directions during work time in all subjects. She also exhibits trouble organizing her time and space and sometimes does not go back and complete unfinished work during time allotted in class. She often hands in unfinished assignments and forgets to bring homework home. When asked, she says she didn’t remember that she hadn’t finished the work. She does not use the assignment list that is posted on the blackboard every day to help her get the materials needed for homework unless the teacher goes over it with her individually.

Most of the other students in her 2nd grade classroom are able to read classroom text and complete work independently. They also read books for enjoyment on their own. The reading time in her classroom consists of a block during which the teacher works with small groups and the children are expected to work quite independently when they are not working directly with the teacher. The class uses a trade book format and this is utilized across the curriculum. Students are provided with short skills building lessons in large and small groups. Most of the time spent during explicit reading instruction is targeted to helping students develop reading fluency.

Jennifer also works with the Title I reading teacher during this time period for ½ hour, three times per week. The Title I teacher has been using SRA Reading Mastery with Jennifer this year. Although she says that Jennifer has made some small gains using this systematic approach, she is concerned that her progress very slow; much slower than the other students in her group. She requires several “reteaching” lessons before she masters a skill. The teacher feels she is unable to provide enough individualization to meet Jennifer’s needs as well as the other children in the group. Jennifer does seem more comfortable learning in this environment; there are only two other children in her Title I reading group. The other children in the group are in first grade.

Jennifer was observed during a small group reading lesson, independent work time, and social studies. During reading, Jennifer paid attention to the directions. She didn’t always listen as well when her classmates read as she did to the teacher speaking. The book they were reading was about Martin Luther King, Jr. Jennifer hid behind her book as her turn to read drew near. The teacher called on her and she read so softly that she was asked to speak up. However, she continued to read softly and the teacher did not insist further. She stumbled a great deal and didn’t appear to attempt unknown words (of which there were many). She made a lot of substitutions such as “king” for “kind”. After trying to read for a few minutes, she asked if she could stop. The teacher took over reading. Although other children in the group of seven students struggled over some of the words as well, Jennifer appeared to have much more difficulty. Jennifer’s teacher reported these observations were consistent with Jennifer’s typical performance during reading.

During independent work time in her classroom, Jennifer was very distracted. She appeared to be listening to the small reading groups meeting on the other side of the room rather than paying attention to her work. She would try for a few minutes, but then would stop, play with her pencil, open and shut her desk, etc. When she asked another child for help with a reading worksheet, the other child ignored her. She did not complete the assigned written work. One of the assignments was to draw a picture of Dr. Martin Luther King; Jennifer appeared to enjoy this and did very well at it.

During social studies, Jennifer seemed quite engaged. She raised her hand to participate in the discussion about the Civil Rights movement. When references were made to the trade reading book, however, Jennifer did not always have the information. Children were working in small groups on maps of areas impacted by civil rights demonstrations. Jennifer took over the drawing of the map and the group worked very well together.

Jennifer was formally evaluated using the Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-III), Weschler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT), Woodcock Johnson III (WJ III) Tests of Cognitive Ability and Achievement (see addendum).

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