Meet John: Why are we concerned about this student?

John is a 12-year-old middle school student who has difficulty with reading comprehension, spelling and reversing his letters. John is currently reading and writing at only the 4th grade level. His challenges were less apparent when he was 5 and 6, but now that his schoolwork has become more complicated, he has fallen behind in all subject areas. In addition, John has been acting up in class, laughing at other students when they read aloud and generally not paying attention to directions. The school provided counseling and a behavior program with minimal success. Eventually John was referred for evaluation and was found to qualify for special education services.

The IEP team agreed that John qualified for special education as a child with a learning disability. The IEP team also recommended that a formal Assistive Technology assessment be completed. The AT team first looked at the areas affected by John’s disability and concluded that he was falling behind in all subjects because of the challenges of both reading and writing. The AT team then looked at a variety of tools that would let him work independently and concluded that a text reader would be ideal because it highlights words and offers word prediction but would allow John to turn the sound on and off and to control the speed of the computer’s reading.

The IEP team considered the results of the AT assessment and determined that John needed:

  • to work 1:1 with an aide (90 minutes per day) using a multi-sensory approach,
  • to work on basic reading skills,
  • to learn how to use the text reading software,
  • to choose appropriate materials at his 4th grade reading level, and to work with electronic quizzes on the texts chosen.

Monitor Progress: How do we know the student is on track?

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After the team had made sure that the school would be ready to help John with his new tools, they worked collaboratively to pull all the parts of his program together into a coordinated plan. They asked themselves question like “How would we design a data collection trail to monitor John’s progress while working with the aide?” and “How will we know when John has worked independently enough to reduce the aide time?” They wanted to make a plan that clearly showed how the new tools and strategies they had identified were working for John throughout the year.

The team decided to start with the benchmarks and timelines they had identified for John’s work with the aide. They reviewed them to make sure that the aide knew what to do if John made rapid progress and met a benchmark before a review was scheduled. They also wanted to make sure that she knew when to ask for help if things weren’t going well with one of John’s tools or strategies.

In order to help with program review, the special education teacher developed some record keeping sheets for the aide to use. One simply asked her to record what she did with John each day in his reading instruction and what his reading comprehension score was for that day. Another was a record of what John read using his computer software and what his comprehension was when he used that tool. Finally, because part of John’s program was to learn to use the text reading software independently, the team developed a list of the specific tasks that John needed to do to operate the software. The aide was asked to check each of John’s daily tasks and the level of support he needed to complete the tasks successfully. When John was able to use his new software without help, the team agreed to meet again and decide the next steps for reducing aide time and increasing the integration of his tools and strategies into his general education program.