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Children with special needs in reading and
Margaret S Sutherland
The purpose of this study was to observe how well three students with reading and learning difficulties recognise 100 words in isolation and then in context, following a period of testing, teaching and intervention: It was to determine whether an improvement in reading and learning would be aided by the ABAC method of testing (Wolery, 1988). Also, an additional aim was to determine if parent intervention, testing and teaching phonemic analysis and synthesis, and delayed testing improved word recognition. The background for this project relates to the work that has been done by Margaret Sutherland with three privately tutored students over a number of years. All have known reading or learning difficulties and they range from lower primary to high school level, 9 yrs, 14.5 and 15 yrs. The initial program was implemented consisting of a sight vocabulary book with 22 lists of 10 words. Parents supervised the reading of each list of words 3 times weekly. The tutor then tested the current list and taught unknown words phonetically at tutoring sessions each week. Each word had to be recognised immediately otherwise it would be considered as unknown. Numerous methods of teaching reading were researched. The causes of reading failure were addressed, the level of literacy skills, the literacy curriculum, which students are at risk, the causal factors of the lack of reading achievement, learning difficulties and some solutions and methods that could be used to overcome the anomalies.
Phase "A" was a baseline test in which the student was tested, but received no instruction. The test was carried out at 10 sessions of ten words on computer-generated flash cards, which were generated randomly from the 100 sight words in a booklet.
Phase "B" was carried out over 10 weeks by parent and teacher intervention and weekly teacher testing, where the student was given a booklet of 100 sight words divided into 10 lists of 10 words to be read daily with the parent and tested weekly by the teacher at tutoring sessions. The words in each list were to be read instantly with no hesitation, sounding or prompting. A tick was awarded for correct words and a cross for those words incorrectly said. This was to be done three to four times per week or until three ticks are achieved for all words in a list. The number of correct words were to be recorded at the bottom of each attempt. The teacher test was carried out once a week at a tutoring session with the same ten words. If the words were not known, they were explained and sounded out with the teacher. The teacher gave incentive rewards at each session.
Second phase "A" was the same as the initial baseline test. Random selection of t he 100 sight words over ten tests of words in isolation and words in context, at one session by the teacher.
Test "C" was a delayed test to be carried out two weeks after the previous test by the teacher randomly using the 100 sight words in isolation and context.
The three students were selected from a group of students, whom I tutored privately because of their reading and learning problems. The fact that I tutored these students privately should not affect the results, because these students have been made aware of my goals and, both students and parents were asked if they wished to participate. There were two boys, Matt and Chris and one girl Katie (not real names). These students ages are 15, 14.5 and 9 years.
Over the period of the tests the graphs and tables show that Matt's recognition of words in context did not improve, while words in isolation improved in the A-B-A tests the scores for Delayed Test "C" were down almost as low as the Baseline Test "A". This would indicate that Matt has a problem with remembering and needs to be constantly given one to one tutoring and repetitive work. This is not possible except in a small class situation, so Matt would not gain in a mainstream class competing against normal students for teacher time. Matt worked well with the teacher but not with parent intervention. This might be attributed to his age, even though his parents were willing to do anything to improve his learning problems. Matt received an achievement certificate from the teacher for his efforts.
Consistent with the previous students, Chris had trouble when it came to words in context and gained much lower scores only showing half of words in isolation and the average percentage. He worked well with his mother and myself and his efforts were rewarded with an achievement certificate.
During this small piece of research about whether children with learning and reading difficulties will benefit from a program of learning to recognise words in isolation and in context in an ABAC method of testing (Wolery, 1988), it was found that several other problems emerged when children had a lack of literacy skills, which in turn caused complications in their learning process. These complications derived from a long term cycle of reading failure, the causes of which created social problems, stress, some behaviour problems, demoralisation and low self esteem (Ward, 1992).
At pre-school age many of these children often appear to be bright and have a high capacity of oral vocabulary, but fail to be able to transfer these skills when confronted with reading print and are equally poor at transcribing thoughts to paper (my observations). Also schooling does not guarantee that they will achieve a high standard in literary skills (Ward, 1992).
Several methods of overcoming reading failure were discussed and these were:
The three students in the study were classic examples of the need for individual programs, especially Matt and Katie. The results showed that each had specific problems in words in context. Scores on words in isolation gradually improved over the testing period whereas words in context scores remained at a much lower level.
Several researchers argued that encouraging parents to be equal partners in the development of their children's learning gave them confidence and an interest in wanting to read at an earlier age, therefore making the pathway to literacy less stressful and more meaningful. Allowing children to choose their own reading material extends the enthusiasm to read.
Finally, researchers can go ahead and make recommendations and argue for this program or that, but until all students are accepted as individuals with specific reading and learning difficulties, then they will continue to struggle through the school system. If no one corrects their problems they will not have a fair chance at employment out there in the real, ever increasingly competitive workplace.
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|Author: Margaret Sutherland is a Master of Education postgraduate student at Edith Cowan University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please cite as: Sutherland, M. S. (2001). Children with special needs in reading and learning: A sight vocabulary project. Proceedings Western Australian Institute for Educational Research Forum 2000. http://www.waier.org.au/forums/2001/sutherland.html