Wednesday, June 12, 2019
Ugh... I hate my Dyslexia
It is essentially a multiple choice test. A long sheet of numbers of silks in order and you write the number of tubes you need on the side. Sitting with the orders I need to fill on the left and the sheet printed out on the right - I lose the information between reading a 4-digit number on the left and looking for it on the right. Often, I transpose the numbers or choose the number with one digit in the middle wrong (I see the beginning and the end and loose the middle). Contrary to the belief that we transpose letters and numbers - it is actually forgetting part of the data string of letters and numbers and putting down or choosing what we do remember.
After spending all year in the agonizing process of proving AGAIN to the new school district that my A/B grade student is dyslexic and needs accommodations in certain situations, I can pretty much explain exactly how this exact mistake keeps happening. For you teachers out there - I started the process with old testing in hand in June. My kid got his accommodations in May. So 8th grade is down the crap hole due to administrative feet dragging.
So our (I say that to represent the three dyslexics in our family) CTOPP digit recall scores are extremely low - in the 25th percentile of all people. Even worse is our rapid digit naming scores - in the 15th percentile. And the working memory scores are in the 25th-50th depending on which one of us you test.
What does that mean? Well, I went around looking for research papers to see a few years ago because shockingly the professionals that handle the 'what do we do next' after the neuropsychological tests are great at telling you the 'what the score is' but absolutely horrible at telling you how that will present to you in life and what you can do about it. Generally they are presented with kids who test very poorly and do poorly in school and so they shuttle them off to some resource room, lower tier of classes, or extra tutoring (or call them lazy). They are very bad at being presented with kids whose parents have already spent ten years having specialists work with their kids so the kids is 'preforming' in school as they have learned how to read well but the kids have these weird blips all the time with a test coming back at 60% when they obviously understand the material really, really well if you talk to them.
They don't know how to write legal accommodations that are useful and targeted to what will help the kid and stand up to time. What I mean about stand up to time is that every year you have to sit down after they have queried all the teachers about how the kid used the accommodations and go through a process of making the kid and parent defend themselves and take accommodations away if the kid is getting A's. I can't tell you how stressful that meeting is every year. One year my kid made an excuse to leave the room for the bathroom and apparently spent a few minutes punching a wall and then came back in and hid his hands so he would not yell at the school administrator telling him because he had done so well they should remove some of the accommodations he gets. Apparently getting Bs is better than getting As is the philosophy - as they never expect kids in this situation to do that well...
So in my research, I found that the link between different types of operations in the classroom and the exact neuropsychological tests is pretty sparse. You would think it wouldn't be. If it was known - then teaching and testing petagogies would change. But one paper made the direct link between multiple choice tests and both digit recall and working memory scores. No matter how high the IQ of the person or how accomplished - the only predictor of the final score on a test that uses multiple choice and especially the type where you transfer a letter or number of an answer to a bubble test score sheet - was what your working memory score is. So after you choose the 'correct answer' you have to then move your eyes to a different paper, find the place to put it and recall the "a, b, c, d, e" and color in the circle. By then, the information in your working memory is gone.
This was a horror show for my son in high school. The science department only used bubble test multiple choice tests for most of the classes and even worse needed to keep the testing book clean so did not allow marks in it so when you forgot what letter you were going to fill in - you couldn't look back at the booklet to see what you had chosen and had to solve it all over again. The only B he ever got was in the first year honors science class. I had to fight with the teacher over these multiple choice tests. She, being an analytical person, decided on her own to test this argument I was making. She gave him specific tests and came to that meeting at the end of the year and showed her data - if she allowed him to do this extra stuff to help him transfer the answer - he got a 100%. If she didn't and he used the normal system - he got 70% at best. I had to appreciate that she verified the problem/solution. (What he didn't appreciate is she still gave him a B even though she knew half his tests were invalid).
While you can remediate that child learning to read by doing slow explicit reading instruction so they learn to decode words, you can not solve the digit recall and working memory problem. That is where accommodations come in to give you extra time to quadruple check or to allow marks in testing books.
The working memory/recall problem comes up in many things for me. Since I was never taught to read the way my sons were, I recall how I have heard the word before or sight read a word like a picture. So new words can not be decoded phoneme by phoneme. So I will tend to recall the first letter and the ending of a name or word and spell it that way or pronounce it that way. Doing introductions at international science conferences is something that is so anxiety producing for me. My husband sometimes speaks the names into my phone recording and I play it back just before I go up and that still only gets me maybe a 20% improvement and I embarrass myself in front of a group of 500 and insult the person I am introducing. Now imagine me taking a foreign language. Yea. That doesn't happen well. And my oldest son was denied the power points the teacher used all year and had to take written notes. Finally I threatened to go to my lawyer and got him some of them a week before the final exam. I came to that 'meeting' with his notes and the power points pasted side by side to show that he only had the first word and then last two of any sentence put up there. His working memory got in the way of listening to what she was saying and reading it on the board and trying to transfer that to the paper as she sped on. So the modern way teachers ignore the blackboard and use powerpoints - that destroys any child who has an average working memory because they go faster than the kid can transfer information. They have useless notes and can't study for any test. And they don't have time to go back and re-read the whole science book (what the teacher told him when he begged for her powerpoint). His ability to use his notes is 100% correlated to if the teacher writes on the blackboard or uses powerpoint.
I am going over this all because I know some readers are teachers, some are parents or grandparents of dyslexic kids and maybe it will help you help them. It also should make you think about this horrible college admissions scandal. Everyone in the dyslexic community is freaking out as the outgrowth will be to tighten requirements on who gets accommodations. Throw Aunt Becky in jail as she and the rest have now hurt so many innocent kids who need them to get to college. And the new SAT concept on adversity score is just so unjust to kids like my sons who have to run this gauntlet every year and then will have their super hard fought test scores devalued because they come from a town that is affluent. Legally, the College Board and ACT is not allowed to tell colleges that a child used accommodations for their tests. So no college knows the child was dyslexic and therefore disadvantaged in the testing process. They just see what race and social-economic background they come from. Adversity comes in many forms. The prevailing thought is to not reveal that on your college applications either as 90% of the readers of college apps are the newly minted 20-somethings they hire who have just graduated and have no life experience and thus are still prejudiced like most people against learning disabilities. I had a long conversation just this weekend with a college professor in an education department who actually said 'isn't dyslexia where you turn the letter upside down?'. Oh god...
Today, my robot-army helper in my office will take all the silk ordering forms and black out all the colors on it that I don't ever order. I tried and - what a surprise, I screwed it up and had to keep starting over. Then we will xerox it many times so I have modified copies that I can't screw up. Those are the extra steps that are exhausting in life as a dyslexic.