Tag Archives: reading

Put the I back in IEP with the FAR Interpretive Report

The Feifer Assessment of Reading (FAR) is a comprehensive reading assessment that uses a neurological approach to determine if a student is at risk for specific subtypes of dyslexia. It is useful for educators, reading specialists, and school psychologists not only because it identifies a possible cause of reading difficulties—but also because it offers intervention recommendations based on the student’s specific type of reading difficulty.  It truly helps put the individual back in an Individualized Education Program.

The new FAR Interpretive Report takes this individualized approach a step further, using scores from all 16 FAR tasks as well as index scores and index discrepancy scores to provide targeted reading considerations and strategies based on research from more than 200 current reading programs. Don’t spend hours researching reading strategies and intervention tools–we’ve done the work for you! With the click of your mouse, you have the information you need to help your students succeed.

Save even more time by copying and pasting report recommendations directly from the FAR Interpretive Report into other documents.

The FAR Interpretive Report is available only on PARiConnect, our online assessment platform. Not yet connected? Sign up now and get your first three administrations and reports for free!

Learn more about the FAR.

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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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Reading Disorders… Beyond Dyslexia

Dyslexia is often misunderstood and is used as a catch-all term for reading disorders. However, other lesser-known reading disorders often mimic dyslexia, such as Specific Reading Comprehension Deficits (S-RCD). While people with dyslexia struggle to sound out words and often confuse letters, people with S-RCD can decode words but struggle to understand what they read.

In an interview, celebrity Jennifer Aniston shared that she grew up believing she was stupid, revealing that she was finally diagnosed with dyslexia at age 20.  Other celebrities such as Whoopi Goldberg and Tom Cruise also revealed they were diagnosed with dyslexia. It is very common for dyslexia not to be discovered until adulthood; therefore, people grow up with low self-esteem thinking they aren’t smart and that something is wrong with them. Yet according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, there’s no correlation between dyslexia and intelligence. Many people diagnosed with this disorder have normal or above-average intelligence.

S-RCD often goes undiagnosed until it becomes an unavoidable problem. According to Neuroscience News, “Neuroimaging of children showed that the brain function of those with S-RCD while reading is quite different and distinct from those with dyslexia. Those with dyslexia exhibited abnormalities in a specific region in the occipital-temporal cortex, a part of the brain that is associated with successfully recognizing words on a page.”

A few months ago, the Mississippi Board of Education notified 5,612 third grade students that they failed to pass the reading test that would allow them to enter the fourth grade. While some deemed the test unfair, Governor Bryant believes that taking a tough stance is the best course of action in the long run, crediting his own fourth grade teacher with discovering that his reading disability was caused by dyslexia, and helping him overcome it. “Repeating the third grade was the best thing that ever happened to me,” the governor said.

Because of its prominence in the news, dyslexia often overshadows other reading disorders. In schools, it is necessary to break down reading disabilities, or learning disabilities in general, and match the disability with intervention strategies to assist the student. Once the underlying causes of reading disabilities are understood, school personnel can use their knowledge to help students understand their strengths and weaknesses regarding reading and language.

What do you think? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!

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The Feifer Assessment of Reading: Brain Science and the Response-to-Intervention Approach

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.

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Now available… The Feifer Assessment of Reading!

PAR is pleased to announce the release of the Feifer Assessment of Reading™ (FAR™) by Steven G. Feifer, DEd. This comprehensive test is designed to help identify specific reading disorder subtypes so clients can individualize a child’s education plan with interventions targeted to that child’s needs.

  • Based on the author’s neurodevelopmental theory of reading, which maps reading disorders to specific neural pathways in different regions of the brain.
  • Aids diagnosis by generating index scores for four dyslexic subtypes: dysphonetic dyslexia, surface dyslexia, mixed dyslexia, and reading comprehension deficits.
  • Puts the I back in IEP by directly informing intervention decisions; helps educators develop customized learning goals and objectives.
  • Features colorful, engaging, and unique item content.
  • Offers norms based on a diverse standardization sample of 1,074 individuals.
  • In just 15 minutes, the Screening Form can identify those who may be at risk for a reading disorder.
  • Can be used by professionals qualified to diagnose reading disorders and by teachers qualified to screen students for reading difficulties, develop individualized interventions, and monitor progress.
  • Includes a Fast Guide, a quick-start manual that will help you get up to speed on the FAR in minutes.
  • Scoring will soon be available on PARiConnect. Free on-demand, training is coming soon to the PAR Training Portal!

For more information on the FAR, visit the product page.

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Feed your head: Reading a good book improves brain function

Most of us can remember reading a book that changed our lives. Whether it was a comforting childhood favorite, a college assignment that surprised or shocked us, or a novel that resonated at a particular stage in our adult lives, books clearly have the power to change our thinking and expand our points of view.

Taking it a step further, recent research from Emory University suggests that the act of reading a novel produces measurable changes in the brain itself, specifically, improvements in resting-state connectivity that can persist for days after reading.

“We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically,” said neuroscientist and lead author Gregory Berns in a recent interview with Emory University’s eScience Commons online newsletter.

The study was published last month in the journal Brain Connectivity. Emory students—twelve women and nine men—participated in the experiment, which was conducted over a 19-day period. The students read Pompeii, a novel by Robert Harris based on the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in ancient Italy. For the first five days, participants came in each morning for a baseline scan of their brains using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) device. Starting on the sixth day, they were asked to read a section of the novel each evening and come in the following morning for another fMRI scan. After completing all nine sections of the novel, the participants returned for five more mornings to undergo additional scans in a resting state. On the mornings following the reading assignments, the participants showed heightened connectivity in the left temporal cortex, an area associated with receptivity for language, and in the central sulcus, the primary sensory motor region of the brain. “Even though the participants were not actually reading the novel while they were in the scanner, they retained this heightened connectivity,” Berns says. “We call that a ‘shadow activity,’ almost like a muscle memory.” The neural changes persisted not only in the morning after the reading but also for five days after participants completed the novel. “It remains an open question how long these neural changes might last,” Berns says. “But the fact that we’re detecting them over a few days for a randomly assigned novel suggests that your favorite novels could certainly have a bigger and longer-lasting effect on the biology of your brain.”

This study may have implications for counselors and educators who work with developing readers; the benefits of focused reading time may extend to the brain itself, helping to improve a student’s “wiring” and therefore his or her receptivity to other learning.

What do you think? PAR wants to hear from you, so leave a comment and join the conversation!

 

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