No Child, However Impaired, Should Be Written Off

Ottakee’s short reports on her two adopted daughters appeared over a number of years on the informal Yahoo BRI: Beginning Reading Instruction forum. Dick Schutz, Director of the prestigious SWRL (Development, Southwest Regional Laboratory for Educational Research and Development) was the first to suggest the mapping of the Alphabetic Code. Together with a team of educational psychologists and psychometricians, children’s authors and teachers, he trialled and developed the BRI programme over a number of years, mainly in deprived schools in southwest America. Cunningly crafted stories (think Dr Seuss with far less room for manoeuvre) balance limited language with prosody and ‘practice, practice, practice’. The ease of BRI instruction is appreciated by teachers and children alike, and is especially effective for those with special educational needs. Ottakee had tried around seven programmes without success before her children learned to read. Here is her breakdown of the stats of her then 14-year-old daughter in one of her reports on the Yahoo forum:

‘They just did the Woodcock Johnson test with her. Her overall IQ score came out as 35 (with 100 being average) – so severely impaired. This is an age equivalency of 5 years, 5 months – or like most kids starting K[indergarten]. Her cognitive efficiency as 4 years, 11 months – so still a preschool level. her working memory was less than 4 years old – so very severely impaired.

Now, for the GOOD part. She scored 9 years, 6 months or 4th grade for sound blending, 8 years or end of second grade for word identification, 7 years, 3 months for reading fluency (2nd grade), 7 years, 8 months for spelling (end of 2nd grade), and end of 1st/early 2nd grade for passage comprehension, applied problems and writing samples.

Her phonemic awareness was 66 while her working memory was 15 (over 3 standard deviations from her average).

To me, this shows that BRI can and DOES work with kids with severe LDs and cognitive impairments. Her profile, with scores ranging from 36-87 (with 85-115 being normal for her age) this shows that she has a cognitive impairment as well as some significant learning disabilities. Thanks to BRI, her reading and spelling skills tested 20-30 points above her average IQ level.

They were at first going to put her in the SXI classroom where the severely mentally impaired kids attend – these are kids that are mostly non or very limited verbally, non readers, very basic functional skills, etc. Now they said she is the top reader in her special education room.’

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