As a team, discuss and write on chart paper any environmental considerations that might impact the student’s reading such as auditory or visual distracters, placement in the classroom, number of different reading environments or any other environmental impacts. Students may encounter different reading requirements, expectations, tasks, stimuli, and other differences that can affect their reading performance in each setting. Some questions to ask and consider for each reading environment include:
What is the student’s position and distance from the text to be read (i.e., the board, computer or other surface which cannot be manipulated by the student)?
Do the student’s reading skills change according to environmental influences such as group reading versus independent reading?
Do individual teachers have different reading expectations for the student?
Does the student have different reading requirements in each classroom/subject?
What kind of support does the student receive in the regular education classroom with standard curriculum?
If the student uses or will potentially use computer based programs for reading or reading assistance, where are the computers located; what is the computer’s age, operating system and system capabilities?
Does the student have ready access to computers with supports (reading support, access support, adult support)?
If text needs to be scanned into the computer, are the scanning stations easily accessible to the student/staff?
Can text be quickly scanned when necessary?
Is the school Technology Coordinator involved in decision-making when discussing options for electronic text?
What assistive technology (AT) has been employed in the past or is currently used with the student? List all assistive technologies that have been used with the student. If some have been discontinued, make note of the reasons. Sometimes effective tools are discontinued for reasons that no longer exist such as computer conflicts, lack of training, lack of interest, or other reasons. Do not discount assistive technology that was previously tried and discarded. There may have been a mismatch between the assistive technology and the student’s skills at the time. Differences in skill development, maturity, a different environment or other factors may make all the difference. If the student is currently using assistive technology note the AT used, location, level of effectiveness, trained staff, and any other issues that are pertinent to the student/building. Be certain to list low and high tech AT supports.
Different environments have different levels of sensory stimulation. If the team has determined that sensory impacts are influential for the student’s learning, identify the sensory levels in each environment in which the student will be reading.
As a team, discuss and write on chart paper the reading tasks that the student needs to do.
One of the most important questions when assessing a student’s need for assistive technology is: What are the tasks the student needs to do? In this instance what does the student need to read and then what does the student need to do with the information read? These are some questions to consider:
Is this student currently reading standard curriculum?
Is the student currently reading modified curriculum? If so, what modifications have been made?
Does the student need assistance in reading worksheets, assessments, directions, information from the board or overhead, study guides or other typical requirements in the classroom?
When the student uses the Internet, can he/she read web sites, wikis, blogs?
Does the student have a need to read electronic text?
Does the student have access to appropriate reading materials for recreation or personal purposes?
How does the student read text they encounter in the community such as menus, signage, product labels?
Skilled readers use multiple cues when reading, such as contextual clues in the sentence, initial letters of an unfamiliar word, word shape, automatic word recognition, prior knowledge, concepts about the type of text they are reading and more. Struggling readers often only employ one or two strategies and will skip unfamiliar words/text if they are not successful (McGee & Richgels).
Does the student employ reading strategies when encountering unfamiliar words? Which strategies?
Does the student automatically use effective strategies or need prompting to do so?
What strategies and cues does the student use to enhance comprehension?
We generally read prior to completing a process, whether it is to take a test, write a report, discuss the material with others, follow directions, pursue an interest, or many other reasons.
What does the student need to do after they have read the material?
Reading is often the first step in eventually using the material. We always need to keep in mind, what will the student do with the material read?
Narrowing the Focus
As a team, identify by circling or other means those few tasks the student needs to do for reading that will have the most impact. After the team has generated a list of tasks that the student needs to do, you may want to refine the list to limit the tasks that the team (including the student) will focus on. Too many tasks can overwhelm the team. Introduction of too many factors and tools may reduce your ability to determine effectiveness. Maintain your original list of tasks and review it later. Some tasks may already be effectively addressed with the new tools/strategies that you are using. The tasks that remain can become your new focus at a later date.