We recently sat down with Steven G. Feifer, DEd, author of the Feifer Assessment of Reading™ (FAR™) and Feifer Assessment of Mathematics™ (FAM™) for an interview to discuss how to use cognitive neuroscience to better understand why students struggle in school. This is the first part of a two-part interview. Come back next week for the conclusion.

 

What influence did neuroscience and research in this area have on your work in test development?

Steven Feifer: I have spent most of my career as a school psychologist trying to coalesce the fields of neuropsychology and education. I suppose it stemmed from my utter frustration in trying to explain learning simply through the lens of an IQ test score. After all, when was the last time somebody wrote a meaningful goal and objective on an IEP because a psychologist said a child’s Full Scale IQ was 94?

Why was an instrument like the FAR needed?

SF: The FAR was created for a number of reasons. First, I am especially grateful to PAR for recognizing the need for an educational assessment tool based upon a neuropsychological theory: the gradiental model of brain functioning. Second, I think the FAR represents a new wave of assessment instruments that does not simply document where a student is achieving, but explains why. This allows practitioners to better inform intervention decision making. Third, with the reauthorization of IDEA in 2004, school psychologists and educational diagnosticians no longer have to use a discrepancy model to identify a learning disability. However, most examiners are a bit leery about switching to a processing strengths and weaknesses model because of the sheer complexity and loose structure of this approach. The FAR identifies the direct processes involved with reading and makes the process easy without having to rely on a cross battery approach. Lastly, many states have now required schools to screen for dyslexia in grades K-2. The FAR Screening Form is ideal to function in this regard.

How did using a brain-based perspective guide you when developing the subtests and subtypes for the FAR and the FAM?

SF: I have conducted more than 600 professional workshops worldwide to both educators and psychologists. Most educators readily understand that there are different kinds of reading disorders, and therefore different kinds of interventions are necessary.

By discussing reading, math, or written language from a brain-based educational perspective, I try to point out specific pathways in the brain that support phonemic awareness, decoding, fluency, comprehension, and other attributes inherent in the reading process. I also illustrate what a dyslexic brain looks like before an intervention and then after an intervention.

Cognitive neuroscience greatly validates the work of our educators and reading specialists. In addition, cognitive neuroscience also provides the foundation for various subtypes of reading disorders based upon the integrity of targeted neurodevelopmental pathways.

Come back next week for the second part of this interview!

 
The term dyslexia has been a part of the education lexicon for decades. When it was first “discovered” in the 1970s, there were no technological processes yet in place to prove it was a brain-based condition.

However, writes Martha Burns, PhD, in a Science of Learning blog, “psychologists, neurologists, and special educators …. assumed dyslexia [had] a neurological basis. In fact, the term ‘dyslexia’ actually stems from the Greek ‘alexia,’ which literally means ‘loss of the word’ and was the diagnostic term used when adults lost the ability to read after suffering a brain injury.”

At the time, the cause, “was deemed not important,” continues Burns. “Rather, the goal was to develop and test interventions and measure their outcomes without an effort to relate the interventions to the underlying causation.”

However, using neuroscience to pinpoint exactly why a student struggles in reading or math can help educators come up with specific and effective interventions.

School psychologist Steven G. Feifer, DEd, ABSNP, became interested in neuroscience as it relates to reading when, early in his career, he had an opportunity to evaluate a very impaired student named Jason.

“His IQ was 36,” recalls Dr. Feifer, “but he was an incredible reader.   This was pretty difficult to explain using a discrepancy model paradigm, which falsely implies that an IQ score represents a student’s potential.  I made a concerted paradigm shift, and tried to find a more scientifically rigorous explanation for Jason’s amazing skills.  This quickly led me to the research library at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“As it turned out, Jason was quite easy to explain,” he continues. “He had a condition called hyperlexia. After much research, I presented information about the neural mechanisms underscoring hyperlexia at Jason’s IEP meeting.  The IEP team was incredibly receptive to the information and immediately amended Jason’s IEP so he received inclusionary services in a regular fifth-grade classroom.

“Jason turned out to be the single highest speller in fifth grade. I was convinced that discussing how a child learns from a brain-based educational perspective, and not solely an IQ perspective, was the best way to understanding the dynamics of learning and inform intervention decision making.

“The following year, I enrolled in a neuropsychology training program and was fortunate enough to study with the top neuropsychologists in the country.”

Dr. Feifer, who has 19 years of experience as a school psychologist, was voted the Maryland School Psychologist of the Year in 2008 and the National School Psychologist of the Year in 2009. He is a diplomate in school neuropsychology and currently works as a faculty instructor in the American Board of School Neuropsychology (ABSNP) school neuropsychology training program.  He continues to evaluate children in private practice at the Monocacy Neurodevelopmental Center in Frederick, Maryland, and consults with numerous school districts throughout the country.

Dr. Feifer has written several books and two assessments that examine learning disabilities from a neurodevelopmental perspective—the Feifer Assessment of Reading (FAR) and the Feifer Assessment of Mathematics (FAM).
Cecil R. Reynolds, co-author of the Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales (RIAS) and recently revised RIAS-2, is one of the leaders in the field of gifted assessment. The following is part two of a two-part interview conducted with Dr. Reynolds concerning the use of assessments in gifted and talented programs. Did you miss part one of this series? Click here.

Q: What originally prompted you to design an assessment for gifted identification?


CR: To reduce the confounds present in most traditional measures of intelligence. We wanted to have better instrumentation for identifying the intellectually gifted using methods that are less influenced by culture than most tests—the RIAS is not “culture-free,” nor do such psychological tests exist, and the desirability of a culture-free test is questionable conceptually as well. We live in societies, not in isolation. That said, confounds such as motor coordination, especially fine motor coordination and speed, interpretation of directions that have cultural salience, and even short-term memory can all adversely influence scores on intelligence tests, and these variables are not associated strongly with general intelligence. For programs that seek to identify intellectually gifted individuals, the RIAS and now RIAS-2 are strong choices.

Q: The RIAS (and now RIAS-2) has been one of the most popular and widely used assessment instruments for gifted testing. Is the instrument useful for other types of assessments?


CR: The RIAS-2 is useful any time an examiner needs a comprehensive assessment of intelligence, especially one that is not confounded by motor speed, memory, and certain cultural issues. When understanding general intelligence, as well as crystallized and fluid intellectual functions, are important to answering referral questions, the RIAS-2 is entirely appropriate.

Q: What makes the RIAS-2 unique from the previous version?


The unique feature of the RIAS-2 is the addition of a co-normed Speeded Processing Index (SPI). It is greatly motor-reduced from similar attempts to measure processing speed on other more traditional, lengthy intelligence batteries. In keeping with the original philosophy of the RIAS, we do not recommend, but do allow, examiners to use this SPI as a component of the Intelligence Indexes, and we worked very hard to reduce the motor-confounds that typically plague attempts to assess processing speed.

Q: Originally there were no processing speed subtests on the RIAS. Why is that?


CR: Processing speed represents a set of very simple tasks that by definition anyone should be able to perform with 100% correctness if given sufficient time. This conflicts with our view of intelligence as the ability to think and solve problems. Processing speed correlates with few variables of great interest as well—it is a poor predictor of academic achievement, and tells us little to nothing about academic or intellectual potential. It is useful in screening for attentional issues, performance of simple tasks under time pressures, and coordination of simple brain systems, and as such can be useful especially in screening for neuropsychological issues that might require follow up assessment, but processing speed tasks remain poor estimates of intelligence.

Many RIAS users asked us to undertake the development of a motor-reduced set of processing speed tasks. Students who ask for extended time as an accommodation on tests are often required by the determining agency to have scores form some timed measures as well, and we felt we could derive a more relevant way of providing this information without the motor issues being as salient as a confound. The ability to contrast such performance with measured intelligence is important to this decision-making process.

Q: What advice do you have for psychologists and diagnosticians when it comes to assessing a student for giftedness?


CR: When choosing assessments to qualify students for a GT program, be sure you understand the goals of the program and the characteristics of the students who are most likely to be successful in that program. Then, choose your assessments to measure those characteristics so you have the best possible match between the students and the goals and purposes of the GT program.

 
If so, were you aware that you may apply for research support? All applications for research support require administrative review of the research project. To see if your project meets the criteria and to go through the evaluation process, e-mail Customer Support.
Interested in learning more about the Personality Assessment Inventory™ (PAI®)? A 45-minute training course on the PAI is now available through the PAR Training Portal. This free, interactive course will give you a quick overview of the product, explain what makes it unique, and provide insight into how it was developed. You will learn a bit about each of the PAI’s 22 nonoverlapping scales and how to interpret the assessment as a whole. And, best of all, the Training Portal is always available, so you can learn more on your schedule.

The PAI has been recognized as one of the most important innovations in the field of clinical assessment. An objective inventory of adult personality, the PAI assesses psychopathological syndromes and provides information relevant for clinical diagnosis, treatment planning, and screening for psychopathology.

To access the Training Portal, use your parinc.com username and password to log in. Don’t have a free account? Register now.

Training courses are also available on the Vocabulary Assessment Scales™ (VAS™), the Test of General Reasoning Ability™ (TOGRA™), the Reynolds Adaptable Intelligence Test™ (RAIT™), the Academic Achievement Battery™ (AAB™), the Child and Adolescent Memory Profile™ (ChAMP™), and the Feifer Assessment of Reading™ (FAR™).
We are pleased to announce the release of the Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales™, Second Edition (RIAS™-2) by Cecil R. Reynolds, PhD, and Randy W. Kamphaus, PhD. The RIAS-2 retains all the features that made the original instrument so popular and gives practitioners even more reason to trust this instrument.

The revised assessment, which was developed by the original authors using feedback from clinicians around the country, remains true to the original test. It’s still fast, cost effective, and simple to administer and can be used across the developmental continuum to assess intelligence and its major components from ages 3 to 94 years.

 The RIAS-2:

  • Assesses both verbal and nonverbal intelligence. Verbal intelligence is assessed by measuring verbal problem solving and verbal reasoning, which uses acquired knowledge and skills. Nonverbal intelligence is assessed by measuring reasoning and spatial ability using novel situations and stimuli.

  • Optional memory subtests available. Verbal and nonverbal memory is assessed via the Composite Memory Index, useful when a broad estimate of memory is desired.

  • Yields a General Reasoning Index (GRI). A highly reliable score, the GRI reflects overall measurement of the general factor of reasoning and problem-solving skill.

  • Informs decisions in classification, selection, and educational placement. The RIAS-2 is ideal as a stand-alone intellectual assessment or as part of a clinical battery, when a standardized assessment of intellectual functioning is needed to diagnose specific disorders such as intellectual disabilities or learning disabilities, and for educational placement.


New in the RIAS-2

  • New speeded processing subtests and index. Two supplemental subtests (one verbal, one nonverbal) combine to create the Speeded Processing Index (SPI). Both the Speeded Naming Task and Speeded Picture Search subtests require far less motor skill than competitive measures.

  • Greater data for interpretation. Reliable change scores and ability–achievement discrepancies with the AAB are provided.

  • Revised basal/ceiling rules. Now all basal and ceiling rules for the subtests are consistent with one another and allow for more accurate assessment at the lowest and highest ability level.

  • Revised/new item content. Items throughout the test have been updated to eliminate confusing or outdated content. Guess What, Odd-Item Out, Verbal Reasoning, What’s Missing, Verbal Memory, and Nonverbal Memory subtests appear in this update, retaining the structure and familiarity of the original measure.

  • Wider range of T scores. For most grade levels, T score ranges of at least 25 to 75 are available.


Technical product information and more details on what is new with this revision are available on our Web site.
Did you know that it’s easy to arrange a PAR-sponsored workshop in your area? Whether we send one of our Clinical Assessment Consultants to your location or train a multi-site group via a Webinar, we offer a host of training opportunities customized to meet your needs. PAR is even approved by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and the Continuing Education Board of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) to provide continuing education credits.

To learn more about our workshops and Webinars, check out our workshop brochure.

 
Attending the National Career Development Association Global Conference in Denver? Make sure to stop by the PAR booth (#36-37) to see our newest products!

The Self-Directed Search (SDS) and the Working Styles Assessment (WSA) will be featured in a few presentations during the conference. Check your programs for room and time information. Don't miss this opportunity to learn more about these two products!

#5-2 Holland Codes Change When Clients Have More Answer Options: The SDS With a 2– and 5–Point Likert Scale

Ever wondered if there was an advantage to the number of answer options on interest inventories? Why does the SDS have 2 answer options while the Strong has 5? Research will be presented on the implications of having 2 or 5 answer options on the Self–Directed Search (5th edition). Melanie Leuty and Erica Mathis, University of Southern Mississippi

#5-9 Once a Leader, Always a Leader? Examining the Trajectories of O*NET Work Styles across Career Stages

Workplace strengths and preferences are often developed and refined over the course of a lifetime. Work Styles, as measured by the Working Styles Assessment, are personal characteristics that affect job performance and satisfaction. Individual trajectories and differences in Work Style preferences during early, mid and late career stages are examined. Heather Ureksoy, PAR, Inc.

#5-4 Using a Career Course to Assist a Diverse Student Population in Exploring Careers and Imagining Future Possibilities

Understanding diverse student populations is necessary to becoming an effective practitioner. This presentation will share research on why students from varied ethnic groups choose to enroll in a career development course, how they differ in levels of negative thinking and shed light on Self–Directed Search constructs such as profile elevation and differentiation. Vanessa Freeman, Christine Edralin, and Emily Fiore, Florida State University

 
What does the science of cognitive neuropsychology—brain research—have to say about why kids struggle to read? Plenty! But it can be very time-consuming for busy professionals to sift through the research, assess kids’ brain functioning, and choose interventions that target their specific needs. This is where the Feifer Assessment of Reading™ (FAR™), a new product from PAR, can help.

The FAR was developed using a brain-based educational model of reading. Research using neuroimaging techniques has clearly shown that specific neural networks in the brain are associated with different aspects of the reading process, such as phonemic awareness, fluency, decoding, and comprehension. This means that interventions for reading disorders vary depending on the specific dyslexic subtype of the individual reader.

Reading expert Dr. Steven Feifer developed the FAR to identify the four most common dyslexic subtypes: dysphonetic dyslexia, surface dyslexia, mixed dyslexia, and reading comprehension deficit. Comprising 15 subtests to measure highly differentiated aspects of reading, the FAR generates five index scores:

  • the Phonological Index, including phonemic awareness, decoding, and positioning sounds;

  • the Fluency Index, including orthographic processing plus both visual perception and verbal fluency;

  • the Comprehension Index, including semantic concepts, word recall, and morphological processing;

  • the Mixed Index (a composite of Phonological and Fluency Index scores); and

  • the FAR Total Index (a composite of all subtest scores).


Clearly, the science is there. But many districts use a Response to Intervention (RTI) approach, with teams of educators planning interventions for kids and monitoring progress to see what’s been most effective. Where does brain science come into play?

RTI is about looking at the evidence—the individual student’s reading behaviors—and designing interventions that address his or her specific needs. Evidence-based interventions require evidence-based assessments. The FAR allows practitioners to conduct an in-depth assessment that provides information about how a child learns and processes information—not a label.

The RTI approach has many strengths, but often it is not sufficient on its own to identify or diagnose a learning disability. Also, remediation strategies are too often “one size fits all” when they haven’t taken into account the reasons behind a student’s reading difficulties. The FAR can support RTI by identifying learning disabilities, thereby reducing the risk of delaying diagnosis or denying students’ eligibility for much-needed services. The included Screening Form is perfect for a quick assessment of student progress—it takes just 15 minutes to complete.

The FAR is designed to integrate cognitive neuropsychology research into the RTI approach, supporting RTI while filling some of the gaps—especially in terms of dyslexia identification and differentiation—that RTI can miss. The FAR offers solutions for school psychologists, reading specialists, and teachers—and most importantly, the potential for real improvements in student reading.

To learn more about the FAR, visit www.parinc.com.
Interested in learning more about the new Child and Adolescent Memory Profile™ (ChAMP™)? Now you can enroll in a free training course on the ChAMP through PAR’s Training Portal. Whether you have already purchased the ChAMP and want to learn more about it or are looking for more information to help you make your purchase decision, this training course will give you a quick overview of the product, explain what makes it unique, and provide insight into how it was developed. And, best of all, the Training Portal is always available, so you can get training on your schedule.

The ChAMP, authored by renowned pediatric neuropsychology experts Elisabeth M. S. Sherman, PhD, and Brian L. Brooks, PhD, is a research-based memory assessment specifically designed to be engaging and relevant to children, adolescents, and young adults ages 5 to 21 years. Covering verbal, visual, immediate, delayed, and total memory domains in a brief, easy-to-use format, the ChAMP takes about 35 minutes to administer—and its Screening Index takes only 10 minutes.

To access the Training Portal, use your parinc.com username and password to log in. Don’t have a free account? Register now. Training courses are also available on the Vocabulary Assessment Scales™ (VAS™), the Test of General Reasoning Ability™ (TOGRA™), the Reynolds Adaptable Intelligence Test™ (RAIT™), and the Academic Achievement Battery™ (AAB™).