The isolation of some psychometric indices of severe reading disability
Bean, William James
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Ability to read and read well is a basic requirement for school success. However, some students never develop adequate reading skills even though they receive appropriate teaching and have average or better intelligence. Recent emphasis has focused on minimal brain dysfunction as a probable cause of severe reading retardation. The designation for reading retardation caused by minimal brain dysfunction is primary reading retardation. The characteristics of primary reading retardation which have appeared in the literature are based on clinical impressions. Reports of psychometric test results have been few, and have generally been limited to pattern analysis of scores obtained on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children. The present study had a threefold purpose: (l) to obtain a more comprehensive picture of how retarded readers differ from average readers by using an extensive battery of psychological tests; (2) to isolate through statistical techniques those variables which significantly differentiated retarded readers from average readers; and (3) to examine the different variables for their manifest and probable structure in an effort to isolate basic mechanisms involved in reading retardation. Twenty-five retarded readers from Grades 7, 8, and 9 were matched by age and intelligence quotient with an equal number of average readers. Reading retardation was defined as a two year discrepancy between reading grade obtained on a reading achievement test and the reading grade expected by the subject's age. The 50 matched subjects were administered a comprehensive battery of psychological tests designed to measure intelligence, reading ability, perceptual and visual motor skills, and memory. Data from the matched groups were tested for significant differences by t tests. The same matched data was used in a discriminant analysis. In addition, multiple correlations and regression equations were computed. Results of the statistical treatment indicated that 22 of the variables significantly differentiated the two groups at the .01 level, and an additional 6 differentiated the two groups at the .05 level. A discriminant function was computed utilizing 15 variables that significantly (p. < .01) differentiated the retarded readers from the average readers. A multiple regression equation of six variables was computed which would significantly predict (p.< .01) the number of months retarded in reading a new subject would be on whom the same scores were available. The obtained multiple correlation coefficient was .8087. Eleven factors were extracted which described 62/o of the available variance. Both orthogonal and oblique rotations were performed. Several conclusions were drawn from the treated data. (l) Students retarded in reading show a generalized verbal deficit that was shown on all tests with a verbal concomitant. (2) Visual motor coordination, as such, does not appear to be a critical element in this age group. (3) The deficit that appears critical in reading retardation is sequential memory. The retarded readers were significantly lower on the Digit Span of the WISC, on reproducing from memory an unfamiliar word after a brief exposure, and on the amount of data they could remember from a passage read to them. A deficit in sequential memory was also seen in such non-verbal material as the WISC Coding and Mazes, on which retarded readers were significantly lower. (4) Gross brain pathology was not seen as a factor in the age group studied. However, Eisenson (1956) has shown that sequencing difficulty in all modes is seen in children with brain damage. From this, it can be inferred that retarded readers exhibit some minimal amount of brain dysfunction.