Clarify some of the disabilities that would be helped such
as cognitive disabilities.
There are many people who are having difficulty with
reading fluency. Very few people cannot learn to decode.
Reading fluency is performed in different areas of the brain
than decoding. It is reported that over 50% of the U.S.
population reads at 7th grade or less reading levels. Most
of these people are having problems visually processing
language and can learn to read using an alternative method.
These people make up a very diverse group. They may include
- Visual impairments;
- Learning disabilities;
- Mobility problems;
- Mental health issues;
- Neurological disorders;
- Cognitive injuries;
- Developmental delays;
- Social problems or lack of educational opportunities
- And other learning problems, such as ADHD, behavior,
What about those people who donít struggle with fluency,
but with comprehension?
Reading fluency is often only tested as reading speed. A
lot of people are learning to read fast in school, but are
still having difficulty comprehending what they are reading.
Reading fluency is more than just how fast someone
decodes or recognizes words. It is the ability to perform
complex cognitive brain tasks that include recalling prior
experiences, the time that it takes to perform these
cognitive tasks, and understanding the content of language.
The understanding of read language necessitates the ability
to form complex mental images or representations developed
from saved representations of prior experiences, emotions,
and perceived information. The ability to form these mental
representations is a learned task, which necessitates the
ability to recognize words at a minimum of automaticity
rates of reading, about 200 words per minute. Reading at
automaticity rates does not mean that someone has already
learned how to understand the language, only that they now
have the ability to learn it, now.
In Stage 2 of our reading fluency curriculum, students
not only reach automaticity levels of reading speed, but
begin to learn how to understand what they are reading, feel
confident in their reading achievement, and become
Did you work with ESL students? Do they have to have
learning disabilities to benefit from your program?
Yes, we have worked with ESL students with and without
disabilities and found that it has been beneficial to them.
While it is beneficial, we do not fully understand the
differences that a second language learner will have with
reading fluency compared to someone learning to read in
their primary language. One of the differences is in the
availability of reading materials, because e-text book
sources for screen readers are typically only for people
with disabilities and copy-right laws only pertain to a
person with a disability. However, many books are in the
There is some new research in the cognitive differences
between how a second language learner learns to read in
their second language compared to someone learning in their
primary language. We are currently researching this area. We
have been told about a unique program in Southern California
that is researching and developing instructional strategies
based on second language learners. There is also research
being done in the U.S. and other countries on the use of
screen readers and second language learners. We will share
our findings and citations when we complete our study.
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Could you say a little more about working with students
with developmental disabilities? I have students like that and Iím thinking that their problems with comprehension are
The quick or short answer to this question is that yes we have had some very significant gains in reading comprehension with students labeled with developmental disabilities. In general, these students progress in a similar fashion to others through the stages of learning to read with a screen reader.
The longer response must be framed in an understanding of the complexity of the learning problems associated with disabilities. There is probably an unlimited combination of learning problems and ways these problems manifest themselves at any one time in an individual. A person may learn differently on a daily or even an hourly basis.
As an example, one student was deaf, blind, and had developmental disabilities. Compounding these learning problems was that one of his learned behaviors was to constantly try and please others in excess. It was very difficult to determine his actual affective levels. Instruction and measurement had to be done individually. He did not respond well to a larger class setting. But, even this student enjoyed reading and the additional contact with others that reading provided, especially the reading group.
In contrast, another student with severe developmental delays with compounding speech and language problems integrated quite easily into a larger class setting and continually improved reading and language skills over a 3 year period. This student's developmental age was about 10 years old at the most. He started reading very simple books, Anne of Green Gables and The Hardy Boys. At the end, he was reading the books of Narnia. Quite an improvement. His oral speech improved so that he could actually share longer and more complex conversations about his family and home activities.
Did you have high school students who were transitioning
into college who are taking this class?
Having high school students enrolled in college courses is a policy decision of the college. We did have a few high school students participating in the reading fluency program. These students performed the same as other students because their development levels enabled them to potentially read at fluency levels. If the students had been younger or less developmentally mature, adaptations to expected outcomes and measures would have been appropriate.