The Assessment of Children with Reading Disabilities

Title & general information

Title: Reading Fluency: Implications for the Assessment of Children with Reading Disabilities

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Authors: Elizabeth B. Meisinger., Juliana S. Bloom and George W. Hynd

Name of journal: Ann. of Dyslexia (Annals of Dyslexia) year of publication 2010, Volume 60, pages 1–17


Aim of the research: the primary aim of this study is to compare the outcomes of using the sensitive fluency measure and the word reading measure in the assessment of reading disability among children. The study seeks to explore the usefulness of reading fluency in the identification of reading problems among children.

Goals of the research: the first goal was to determine if there are children with a classically developing ability to identify word and decoding abilities but indicate a specific deficiency in reading fluency (Meisinger et al, 2010, p. 6). The second goal is to ascertain the cognitive features that differentiate such children with specific deficient reading skills from struggling and normal reading ability children. Finally, the study was to investigate whether omitting reading fluency is the assessment of children referred because of reading problems would cause under- the discovery of children with reading difficulties.

Hypothesis: the general hypothesis was that omitting reading fluency could result in under-recognition of children with reading problems. More specifically, omitting the reading fluency during the psycho-educational assessment would cause the under-identification of reading disabilities among children (Meisinger et al, 2010, p. 6).

Shortfalls that lead to this study: some studies have shown that measurements of reading fluency are very sensitive in the detection of reading difficulties and other researches indicate there is reading fluency difficulty (Meisinger et al, 2010, p. 1). Nonetheless, there are currently no researches that compare the outcomes of the use of reading fluency against word reading to evaluate the reading disability occurrence in children. This study therefore was set to fill that gap.

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Expected Results: if there is a presence of distinctive reading fluency in children, it is expected that these children would present typical word reading abilities psychometrically with noticeably poor reading fluency (Meisinger et al, 2010, p. 6). Children with specific deficiency of reading fluency are expected to demonstrate deficient rapid naming speed but not phonological processing ability and they could be older than struggling students in both word and text reading. From a developmental viewpoint, adept word reading ability is an essential prerequisite for fluency at the related text level (Meisinger et al, 2010, p. 6). Hence, readers with a certain deficit in reading fluency would not be distinguishable until when they have developed into perfect word readers.


Participants: they included the children who were referred for therapy at the University of Georgia’s center for clinic and Neuropsychology to assess larger familial and neurological characteristics of dyslexia (Meisinger et al, 2010, p. 6). Families involved have at least a child aged 8-12 years and must have suffered reading difficulties or had been diagnosed with developmental dyslexia were directed to seek help in schools, organizations, and advertisement (Meisinger et al, 2010, p. 7). Selected participants included children with no history of psychiatric disorder, traumatic head injury, or severe pre-/peri-natal complications. Previous attention-deficit or hyperactivity diagnoses were included because previous research revealed that despite the high co-morbidity of these disorders, cognitive deficits for ADHD and RD were very distinctive (Meisinger et al, 2010, p. 7).

Materials: they included an informed consent form, Neuropsychological report, free T-shirt, Wechsler Abbreviated scale of intelligence, and Gral oral reading test scale (Meisinger et al, 2010, p. 8).

Design: this was a qualitative study where several psycho-educational tools were used for the investigations: intelligence was measured by The Wechsler abbreviated scale of intelligence and this was rated in terms of the Intelligence quotient function. Woodcock Reading Mastery test was carried out to assess word reading ability and identification. Ability to understand passages was evaluated by the use of the Passage comprehension subset. Reading fluency for several passages and comprehension was assessed by the use of the Gral Oral Reading Test (Meisinger et al, 2010, p. 8). Phonological Processing measured rapid naming capability.

Procedure: the family came to the Centre for Clinical and Developmental Neuropsychology to take part in the research. The parents signed informed consent agreeing to the participation of their children and adhering to the requirement of the study. And that they clearly understood what the study entailed (Meisinger et al, 2010, p. 7). The assessments were done during the day and the parents were given a comprehensive neuropsychological report on the outcomes of the assessment of their children. The reports were designed in a manner that would be useful in the school setting to make special education eligibility criteria (Meisinger et al, 2010, p. 7).

Participant information: age – the children were aged between 8 and 12 years old. Intellectual ability – children who had prior reading problems and had initially been diagnosed with developmental dyslexia were included (Meisinger et al, 2010, p. 7). History of disorders – selected participants had no history of neurological, psychiatric, or pre/perinatal complications. They were also not to have suffered a traumatic head injury. Previous diagnoses –those children with prior attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder diagnoses were allowed to participate (Meisinger et al, 2010, p. 7).

Measures used: Several tools were used for the study: The Wechsler abbreviated scale of intelligence was used to evaluate intelligence. The tool has four subsets and individually administered. It was used to ass Intelligence quotient functioning. This was important in the assessment of intellectual ability (Meisinger et al, 2010, p. 8).

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To assess word reading ability and identification, the Woodcock Reading Mastery test was conducted. A passage comprehension subset was used to assess the ability to comprehend a passage while reading. Two lists, one composed of words and the other of non-words were administered and these two sub-Test scores produced a basic reading skills composite and this was the indicator of the reading ability.

Reading fluency was assessed by the use of the Gral Oral Reading Test for an increased number of passages. Scoring was done against each passed based o the number of errors or difficulty of reading encountered (Meisinger et al, 2010, p. 8). The total ratings were then combined to create a cumulative reading fluency composite score.

Rapid naming speed was measured by the comprehensive test of Phonological Processing and it assessed the ability to sufficiently retrieve visual and phonological information from permanent memory (Meisinger et al, 2010, p. 8). The children were presented with a list of randomly orders numbers and letters and they are asked to name than in a time measured duration (Meisinger et al, 2010, p. 8). Phonological processing was to assess by the CTOPP – Elision subset. This subset required that the participants should listen to a list of phonemes like ‘p’, ‘n’ and ‘m’.


The lowest score was observed on the measurement of the Gray Oral Reading test 3rd edition that assesses reading fluency. The mean score was 81.70 and a standard deviation of 14.16 (Meisinger et al, 2010, p. 9).

Differentiating variables between normal readers and fluency deficit readers included the Elision task of CTOPP (assesses phonological processing), rapid naming, and age. The statistical test used to assess the reading fluency deficit group and the impact on cognitive ability was the Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing CTOPP (Meisinger et al, 2010, p. 9).

The diagnostic implication of this research is that, since the measure of reading fluency is very sensitive and that some education system omits reading fluency in assessment, this research helps to demonstrate its importance and efficiency in the identification of reading deficiencies among some children.


Findings: the first important finding was that reading fluency measure is very sensitive in terms of detection of the reading problem among children that the use of word reading processes (Meisinger et al, 2010, p. 12). Hence it’s imperative to assess the reading fluency of children during the assessment of children referred for reading difficulties because failing to do this would lead to the under-identification of these children.

Another finding was that those children who showed distinctive reading deficits in fluency reading also had decreased comprehension compare to normal and fluent readers. Normal readers had an average comprehension rate while the impaired readers had very low understanding rates that were much lower than the normal scores (Meisinger et al, 2010, p. 12).

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Clinical implications: the omission of reading fluency would lead to the under-identification of children who has difficulties in reading (Meisinger et al, 2010, p. 12). This means that the outcomes have direct clinical implications because they suggest that few children will be identified as having reading difficulties yet so many would have been bypassed but having reading difficulties.


The Abstract score 3 because it is well constituted by providing the basis of the study and the reasoning why the research ventured into this investigation. The abstract also described the participants clearly. This means that when a reader reads the abstract, he/she gets an idea of the gap that the research will seek to address and the type of participants used. The abstract has described the aim or the objective of the study which is to demonstrate that failure to use fluency reading measures can cause under-identification of children with reading problems (Meisinger et al, 2010, p. 1). However, the abstract lacks a brief description of the method to be used to study the deficiencies of the current psycho-education system. Further, there are no clearly mentioned results or the conclusions that were drawn. This means that anybody reading this abstract will be left with speculation of what could be the outcomes hence causing pre-emption of ideas.

Critical Analysis

One strength of the study – the research is well structured with all the parts of a report or a thesis well elaborated. This means that the research has identified a gap in the literature and described the research question to seek answers that will fill the gap. It has clear objectives as to why the research is being done and the proper methodologies are employed, results discussed and the conclusion drawn. The paper has used good English and it’s easily comprehensible. A reader does not have to search through the paper guessing where to find results or wonder how they were analyzed.

One major weakness in the abstract is shallow and only gives information concerning the objectives of the study and the gap that this study seeks to fill. However, methodologies and conclusions are omitted making it difficult to peruse and determine what outcomes the paper might have come up with.

Interesting Aspects of the Paper

Curriculum-based measures of fluency probes are in most cases used to respond to the intervention approaches seeking to evaluate reading difficulties in schools. Nonetheless, more traditional models are characteristically used in private clinics and hospitals and schools employing standardized models that omit reading fluency (Kammenui & Simmons, 2001, p. 213). This omission could have been partly because of a lack of standard measure for the reading fluency variables. Many of the tests commonly employed include broad reading which assesses word identification, decoding, and comprehension but these approaches rarely include reading fluency.

Definitions of fluency emphasize that reading of words orally should be clear and eloquent for the large blocks of texts rather than single words. Even though some reading measures may be tithed reading fluency, they seldom assess the actual reading fluency at is should characteristically be done (Kammenui & Simmons, 2001, p. 213). For instance, the Woodcock-Johnson Test of achievement measured the ability of a child to read sentences quickly and determine if the statements were accurate or not. Even though this measure contributes good information to the school curriculum designers, counselors, and parents concerning the child’s speed of reading and processing or semantic confirmation it does not constitute reading fluency assessment.

It’s pertinent to note that omitting important and relevant measures like reading fluency during the assessment of the children’s abilities to read could be of grave implications for diagnostic decision making (Kammenui & Simmons, 2001, p. 216). To understand what they are reading, children have to be able to accurately recognize the words they are reading in a certain passage. Yet even after accounting of the words read, reading fluency demonstrates a unique contribution to understanding the read texts. This suggests that there is a great relationship between reading fluency and word reading but they are still two separate reading abilities or skills. Although only a few studies have been shown to use reading fluency, more evidence is available to show that these measures are very sensitive is their assessment of reading difficulties and can detect problems that would otherwise be omitted in other techniques like word reading.

On the whole, if the assessments of children suspected of being disadvantaged in reading abilities fail to include reading fluency and therefore in most cases they give misleading inferences concerning the ability of the child in terms of reading competencies. The impact of having reading fluency is incorporated in the processes of assessing the reading skills of children especially when diagnosis deficits should be examined to offered proper guidelines.

Reference List

Kammenui, E.J & Simmons, D. (eds) (2001). The Role of Fluency in Reading Competence, Assessment, and instruction Fluency at the intersection of Accuracy and Speed: A Special Issue of scientific Studies of Reading, London: Rutledge, Taylor, and Francis.

Meisinger, E.B., Bloom, J.S & Hynd, G.W. (2010). “Reading Fluency: Implications for the Assessment of Children with Reading Disabilities,” Ann. of Dyslexia, Vol. 60, pp. 1–17.

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