Category Archives: PAR Author

Brain-Based Assessment: An Interview with Steven G. Feifer (Part 2)

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 second part of a two-part interview. Did you miss Part 1? Catch up here.

How do the FAR and FAM go beyond just using an aptitude/achievement discrepancy perspective?

SF: The FAR and FAM represent a more ecologically valid way to understand the core psychological processes involved with both reading and mathematics. Many psychologists are used to measuring executive functioning, working memory, visual perception, and processing speed using stand-alone instruments, and then must clinically bridge these results into the worlds of reading and math. In other words, how does poor performance on executive functioning tasks impact the ability to read on grade level? These can be very difficult questions to answer.

The FAR and the FAM seek to measure these psychological constructs while the student is actually engaged in the academic skill itself, allowing the examiner to directly determine the impact of each neurocognitive process on the academic skill itself. Typical achievement tests are important to determine where a student is functioning with respect to a nationally normed sample, but the FAR and FAM were designed to explain why. This is the key to really bringing back the “I” into an “IEP,” so practitioners can more readily inform intervention decision making.

Do the instruments give you a reading/math level?

SF: Both the FAR and FAM give you an overall composite score, but the true value of these instruments lies within the factor scores. We chose grade-based norms due to the variability of ages in each grade and thought it was only fair to compare a student’s performance with students in the same grade-level curriculum. In other words, it did not seem fair to compare a 10-year-old in the 3rd grade with a 10 year-old in the 5th grade with two more years of formal instruction.

Academic skills should be based upon the current grade level of the child, especially when we have an educational system where 43 of 50 states follow a common core curriculum. If practitioners are uncomfortable with grade-based norms, there is a conversion by age proxy table included.

Do you need a neuropsychology background to administer and/or interpret any of these instruments?

SF: I think you need a reading or math background to administer and interpret these instruments, which is why these are B-level qualification instruments.  This means most teachers can readily administer the FAR and the FAM. It is not necessary to understand the neuroscience behind each learning disorder subtype, but it is necessary to understand the learning dynamics involved with each skill. For instance, most educators readily understand the role of phonics, fluency, orthography, and comprehension in reading. The FAR can catalogue the relative strengths and weaknesses within each of these processing areas to best inform intervention decision making.

To learn more about the FAR or the FAM, visit their product pages.

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Brain-Based Assessment: An Interview with Steven G. Feifer (Part 1)

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!

 

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Using cognitive neuroscience to understand why kids struggle in school

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).

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Assessing Gifted Students: An Interview with Cecil R. Reynolds (Part 2)

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.

 

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There’s so much in store at NASP 2016!

Are you headed to New Orleans for NASP? Be sure to stop by booth #306. PAR will be there to demonstrate PARiConnect, show you how to access our free online Training Portal, and give you a hands-on look at our latest products.  The following PAR authors will be at the booth to answer your questions:

The following PAR authors will be presenting at the conference. Make sure to check out these can’t-miss sessions:

  • Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales™ (RIAS™-2): Development, Psychometrics, Applications, and Interpretation (MS061), Cecil R. Reynolds, PhD, Wednesday, February 10, 12:30 p.m. to 2:20 p.m.
  • The Neuropsychology of Mathematics: Diagnosis and Intervention (MS057), Steven G. Feifer, DEd, Thursday, February 11, 8 a.m. to 9:50 a.m.
  • Unstuck and on Target: An Elementary School Executive Function Curriculum (MS155), Lauren Kenworthy, PhD, Friday, February 12, 8 a.m. to 9:50 a.m
  • DBR Connect™: Using Technology to Facilitate Assessment and Intervention (MS140), Lindsey M. O’Brennan, PhD, and T. Chris Riley-Tillman, PhD, Friday, February 12, 4 p.m. to 5:50 p.m.
  • Concussion Management Skill Development for School-Based Professionals (DS006), Gerard A. Gioia, PhD, Friday, February 12, 1 p.m. to 2:20 p.m.
  • Introducing the BRIEF®2: Enhancing Evidence-Based Executive Function Assessment (WS038), Peter K. Isquith, PhD, and Gerard A. Gioia, PhD, Saturday, February 13, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Plus, all orders placed at the PAR booth during NASP will receive 15% off as well as free shipping and handling!

Follow PAR on Facebook and Twitter for updates throughout the conference!

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PAR is on the way to Boston for INS!

bostonWill we see you at the INS Annual Meeting? If you are attending INS, make sure to stop by the PAR booth to see our newest products, get a demo of PARiConnect, or check out our free online Training Portal. Don’t miss this chance to learn from PAR authors:

Plus, all orders placed at the PAR booth during INS will receive 15% off as well as free shipping and handling!

Follow PAR on Facebook and Twitter for updates throughout the conference!

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Nine more reasons to visit the PAR Training Portal!

We are proud to announce that we have deepened the offerings available from the PAR Training Portal.  

“The Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function™, 2nd Edition (BRIEF™2): An Introduction by Peter K. Isquith” is a video featuring Dr. Isquith discussing this new assessment and how it was updated during this revision. “Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales™, 2nd Ed. (RIAS™-2): An Overview with Cecil R. Reynolds” is a video featuring Dr. Reynolds discussing the RIAS-2 and what users should know about this revision. Both videos are excellent ways to learn about the key points of the product direct from the authors themselves!

Full-length, interactive training courses on both the BRIEF2 and RIAS-2 will be added to the PAR Training Portal in 2016.

Furthermore, to complement the full-length interactive training course on the Feifer Assessment of Reading™ (FAR™) currently live on the portal, we have added seven pronunciation guides. Each of the seven audio files offers the correct pronunciation for items appearing on subtests from the FAR. These audio presentations are meant to help users learn the most accurate enunciations of items and/or responses.

The PAR Training Portal offers our Customers the unique opportunity to receive training through online presentations that provide an overview of the development, scoring, sample item content, and normative and clinical data of selected assessments. To access the Training Portal, use your parinc.com username and password to log in. Don’t have a free account? Register now.

 

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PAR is on the way to Austin! Will we see you there?

Are you attending the National Academy of Neuropsychology Annual Conference? Make sure to stop by the PAR booth (104, 106, and 108) to check out some of our new and upcoming releases. We will have copies of the new Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales™, Second Edition (RIAS™-2), the Child and Adolescent Memory Profile™ (ChAMP™), and more on hand. Plus, preview and preorder your copy of the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function®, Second Edition (BRIEF®2)!

Don’t miss a presentation by Brian L. Brooks, PhD, co-author of the ChAMP and the upcoming Memory Validity Profile™ (MVP), who will be presenting a CE workshop, Advanced Pediatric Assessment, Thursday, November 5 at 1 p.m.

Remember, all orders placed at the PAR booth during NAN, including preorders, will receive 15% off as well as free ground shipping and handling!

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Arrange a PAR Workshop in Your Area!

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.

 

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Are you attending the NCDA Global Conference?

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

 

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