SPECIFIC LEARNING DISABILITIES TEST FOR CHILDREN
(Importance of early ID, Validity, Advantages, Who should take it))
(RONALD J. CANTWELL MD FAAP FRCP Ed. FRACP
Developmental Pediatrics and Child Neurology
HELPING CHILDREN STRUGGLING WITH READING AND LEARNING
U.S. Department of Education Definition of SLD
“Specific Learning Disabilities means a disorder in one of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or using spoken or written language that may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell or to do mathematical calculations.” (U.S. Department of Education definition of SLD)
CHILDREN’S LD TEST IS THE ONLY RESEARCH VALIDATED TEST TO IDENTIFY SPECIFIC LEARNING DISABILITIES IN GRADES 1-3.
IMPORTANCE OF EARLY IDENTIFICATION OF SLD.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a 2004 Federal law that mandates “State schools must identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities who need Special Education services. “Presently, many States are having difficulty implementing this law. One reason is because they lack a specific test that meets the requirements of the law.”
Educators all agree that the earlier these learning disorders are identified and receive appropriate remediation, the better are the long-term results
Students with learning disorders have different rates of learning, and different preferred learning styles. These students have lifelong differences in the way they acquire information. This creates a teaching problem.
Research shows that as many as one in every 5-6 students has some form of learning disorder. This varies in severity from Mild, that are usually not re-identified, though later they always felt that they should have done better, or Moderate, hat are usually identified after an evaluation by the school psychologist and may require additional resource special education assistance outside of the classroom, or Severe, where there are significant delayed academic achievement levels, and a full-time special education class may be necessary for the optimal academic response.
There are multiple reasons why SLD students are not identified in first or second grade, but the main reason is because schools lack a simple reliable screening test that will rapidly identify SLD students who require an extensive psycho-educational evaluation by the school psychologist. This should identify SLD, Dyslexia or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). One difficulty is that this evaluation is very time-consuming and sometimes is not completed before third grade, so early detection in first grade is rarely possible.
However, schools do not use any rapid reliable diagnostic test to quickly identify first-grade students with learning difficulties.
At present, the only practical diagnostic option for schools to investigate a student with learning difficulties appears to be an extensive evaluation by the school psychologist. This time-consuming process is difficult to achieve and may be more than is necessary unless there is evidence of significant underachievement by the student. Also, it is a lengthy process that may not be fully completed before third grade, so early identification in first grade is usually not. Unidentified or inadequately treated SLD students have potentially serious and permanent effects. These students become very frustrated that all of their efforts do not produce the same results as occurs with tier peers. This is especially so in reading which is slow and labored. They dislike the effort of reading (especially reading aloud in class), and rarely read for pleasure. This further hampers their rate of learning especially after third grade. It is no surprise that SLD students have high school drop-out rates five times greater than their peers. This should be unacceptable.
The consequences of dropping out of school before graduation are multiple. They include functional illiteracy. This is the inability to read and comprehend at a 5th grade level that is the level used in most newspapers and magazines. This means the inability to complete a job application, or to open a bank account unaided. Other undesirable consequences of dropping out of high school include unemployment, involvement with gangs, illegal drug usage and criminal activity. Some 70% of the occupants in prisons, when evaluated, had significant learning difficulties in school. The importance of early identification is now clear, as is the need for a more effective special education for SLD students.
Dr. Cantwell’s professional experience in treating children with learning disorders, and seeing the obvious need for their early identification, led him to develop the S LD Test. His goal was to develop a research based accurate and reliable 30-minute diagnostic test for SLD, Dyslexia and ADHD, that could be administered by a paraprofessional and not require the valuable time of the psychologist.
This would allow more first grade students to be identified much earlier than at present .The school psychologist could then become involved in the further evaluation of those students that the children’s LD test showed to have a severe Learning Disorder. The psychologist would then do what psychologists do best, i.e. overview of the learning problem and to exclude other possible causative factors like intellectual impairment, or any primary emotional disorder, as well as to academic achievement grade levels etc. In addition, there is a need to confirm the nature of the learning problem and to determine if the student meets the requirements of Federal law IDEA.
Further, since this test measures the severity of the learning disorder. Now the most seriously affected students can be promptly sent to the school psychologist for a more detailed evaluation to discover if the student meets Federal and State criteria for Special Educational services. All of this could easily be out before the end of first grade.
SPECIC LEARNING DISABILITIES TEST FOR 6-8 YEAR-OLD CHILDREN
is a developmental and educational test that was developed by Professor Ronald Cantwell, a certified Child Development Specialist. It’s purpose is to identify Specific Learning Disabilities in first or second grade, students so that corrective special education teaching techniques can be implemented to prevent serious academic difficulties that would otherwise occur. However, this test is also effective in second and third grade students..
Professor Cantwell developed this test based on his research and was based on his own research, and on his many years of experience in a multi-disciplinary university teaching environment with psychologists, developmental pediatricians, child neurologists, educators, special educators and speech pathologists. He also used his experience as a director of a diagnostic and treatment center for children with learning disorders, and as founder of Cantwell Academy, a clinical school for K-6 students with learning disabilities who had not been succeeding in public schools. Dr. Cantwell is also a former president of the Florida Association for Children with Learning Disabilities and represented Florida on the national board of directors of this Association.
Children’s LD Test is unique in that it not only identifies major learning disorders such as Specific Learning Disabilities, , Dyslexia, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, but unlike any other test it does this as early as first grade. In addition, it measures the severity of the learning problem and documents the student’s learning style, (visual or auditory learner). Also, unlike some other tests, it will detect the student’s learning strengths and weaknesses. This information is useful when developing an individual remediation plan for each student.
Normal reading and learning only takes place when all reading readiness skills are mature or fully developed. This usually occurs before the age of seven years. Every Children’s LD Test question was selected so that a correct it answer indicates t that the critical skill or cognitive function is fully matured and if all questions are correctly answered, t that student has no learning disorder. Also, each test question was selected so that any first-grade student with at least average intelligence and without any learning difficulties would correctly answer each question. Any incorrect answer indicates the presence of some form a learning disorder. The number of incorrect answers is a measure of the serious nature of the learning difficulty.
The Children’s LD Test is easy to administer and can be taken on any computer whenever it is convenient for parent and student. It requires supervision by any child-care professional or an adult with at least a high school diploma. This can be a parent and no special pre-test training is necessary. The test takes 30 minutes. The confidential test results and a brief treatment plan based on the test results, are promptly emailed to the parents and teacher.
COMPONENTS OF THE S LD SLDTEST
This test measures the maturity of the following Reading Readiness Skills that are critical for normal reading and learning:
- Identification of numbers
- Identification of upper-case letters
- Orientation of numbers and letters
- Visual attention span
- Visual memory of numbers and letters
- Word recognition
- Auditory discrimination
- Auditory sequential memory (short term)
- Auditory attention span
- Word Meaning (vocabulary)
INTERPRETATION OF THE SLD TEST RESULTS
Because of the developmental nature of the test questions, any first-grade student will be able to correctly answer every test question. Consequently, any first or second grade student who cannot correctly answer any test question has some degree of a learning disability. The severity of this learning disability increases as the number of incorrect answered questions increases.
VALIDATION OF THE ACCURACY OF THE SLD TEST FOR CHILDREN.
The validity of this Test was established in a research study at one Miami elementary school where for two years every first-grade student mid-year received the Children’s LD Test following written parental permission. The names of students who failed the test were recorded and were predicted to be SLD high risk students for SLD. They were then evaluated by the school psychologist. The results indicated that each student displayed the characteristics of students with learning disabilities of differing severity. There was only one exception, a student who was later found to have ADHD, a learning disorder that is similar to but not the same as SLD.
These students were then followed up in second and third grades. Each one of these students was found to have a learning disorder such as SLD, and ADHD. Achievement test results showed each of these students was functioning below grade level in reading and spelling and 30% were below grade level in math in both second and third grades. (This confirmed clinical experience that Dyscalculia is less common than Dyslexia. One of these students was found to have been retained in first grade, and several were in resource special education classes for LD students. At least one student was taking Ritalin for ADHD. These results validated the accuracy of the Children’s LD test in predicting learning disorders before they are clinically evident. See Research.
WHO BENEFITS FROM THE SLD TEST FOR CHILDREN.
Any 6-9-year-old child who exhibits any of these characteristics:
- Teacher says, “Is immature for his/her age”
- Teacher says, “Could do better if he/she tried a little harder”
- Teacher says, “Frequently talks out of turn in class” Behavior in class is sometimes disruptive, with inappropriate acts.
- Restless, easily distracted, difficulty getting back on task
- Constantly on the move, rarely still, often out of seat
- Has difficulty taking turns, or waiting in line
- Impulsive with little thought of the consequences of the act
- Inattentive except for computer games or video
- Tends to “day dream “in class
- Difficulty recognizing some letters
- Uncertain of the sounds that letters make
- Reading is slow and halting, is in the class slow reading group
- Spelling is also difficult and makes frequent errors.
- Writing is slow, letter sizes vary, difficulty keeping inside the lines.
- It is the only test that identifies SLD students as early as first-grade.
- It is the only test that identifies SLD students before they start to fail.
- It will determine the cause of the learning problem.
- It also determines the severity of the learning problem.
- It identifies each student’s learning strengths and weaknesses.
- The accuracy of the test is clinically effective, and research proven.
- This is a simple inexpensive test that is easy to administer.
- It avoids waiting for a psychologist as the test requires no psychologist.
- The test can be taken at any time on any computer.
- The test can be supervised by an adult high school graduate, without any special training, or by any health care professional, such as a physician assistant, school nurse or a speech pathologist.
ADVANTAGES OF THE SLD TEST
It is the only test to identify SLD students early as first grade.
- It is an easy test to administer and only takes 30-40 minutes.
- No psychologist is required so any long waiting time is avoided.
- The test is taken on any computer at any convenient time.
- It will determine the cause of the learning problem
- It will also determine the severity of the learning problem.
- It can identify SLD students before they fall behind grade level
- It identifies the student’s learning strengths and weaknesses
- It also determines the student’s learning style
- The test’s accuracy is clinically proven. See Research
- The test can be taken at any time on any computer
- The test can be supervised by any adult who is a high school graduate.
- Another advantage of the early identification of students with learning disabilities and given appropriate special education instruction will reduce the present high school drop-out rate of 20%, and there will also be result in a corresponding increase in the present high school graduation rate of approximately 80%.