Often people get really hung up on how to diagnose dyslexia or how to test for dyslexia. There is often a desire to test for a learning disability or to diagnose a learning disability. As humans, we are very eager to explain things, and we feel like a diagnosis will explain WHY a child is having difficulty learning. You can refer to my earlier blog post HERE about how we can get hung up on diagnoses and labels.
Diagnosing and testing takes a lot of time, effort, and coordination, and can also be distracting. Trying to understand the diagnosis distracts from the EFFECT or outcome of the diagnosis. It is all well and good to label it, but what is far more important is to look at the IMPACT that the diagnosis has.
There is so much more information available in a performance assessment because you get to look at exactly what a student can do, and what they can’t. When you see what a child CAN do, not only do you not need to teach or practice it, but you can actually LEVERAGE it. For example, if you notice that children can readily perceive and identify individual sounds within words, but then they use illegal spelling patterns when matching sounds to the letters, you can USE that sound knowledge to then TEACH allowable and related letter patterns and spellings.
On the other hand, if you see that a child typically uses allowable spelling patterns, but doesn’t always represent each sound in a word, you can form a hypothesis that the child is overly-reliant on conceptual letter knowledge and visual memory of words. You can then make a lesson plan to bolster the sound perception area of the brain, and you can use the intact visual representation and conceptual representation of letters to teach the brain to become more aware of the sounds in words and to organize around those sounds.
A diagnosis, a label, and some test scores can be a place to start. This approach has its place, but scores will not tell you the story of how the child’s brain is ACTUALLY WORKING – how an individual child ACTUALLY LEARNS.
As I have shown above, performance assessment uses real-time, functional tasks to see what a student can do and not do; and it really attends to the PROCESSING of the brain – which areas of the brain are activating or under-activating? Which areas of the brain are communicating, or not communicating? Which components of a language or literacy task are being processed efficiently, and which are not?
Testing helps you understand WHAT a child can do. Performance assessment helps you understand WHY. And that is much more powerful!
Engaging in language and literacy tasks with a speech-language expert can open a window into your child’s mind and reveal how they process learning tasks. And once we know that, we can create a custom plan for each individual student, to leverage strengths and address areas of the challenge!