Find answers to common questions about language and literacy difficulties and the services offered at the DRCC.
1. What is a diagnostic language and literacy assessment?
A diagnostic language and literacy assessment provides an in-depth evaluation of the skills associated with language, reading, and writing development.
The purpose of the diagnostic language and literacy assessment is to establish a clear profile of the learner’s current strengths and challenges in language, reading, and writing skills.
A combination of standardized, informal, and dynamic assessment measures is used to evaluate each learner’s current level of development and the source and nature of any difficulties. The results of the various diagnostic assessments are critically analysed to identify the aspects of language and literacy needing further development and to make recommendations regarding the most effective instructional methods, strategies, and print materials for helping each learner to improve his/her language, reading, and writing proficiency.
The diagnostic language and literacy assessment examines the following component language and literacy subskills:
Oral Language Development
Oral narrative story generation and comprehension (listening comprehension)
Oral vocabulary (labeling and defining pictured vocabulary)
2. How do I know if my child has reading difficulties?
The following list of characteristics will help parents to determine whether their child has a problem in reading which may require additional, specialized educational assessment and support to address the areas of concern.
Consider whether your child demonstrates any of these common signs of reading difficulty:
Has problems saying or writing the alphabet (remembering the letter names and the sounds that the letters make)
Struggles to read many words
Has difficulty sounding out words
Substitutes words that may or may not make sense while reading
Reads too fast and skips words while reading
Gets frustrated easily during reading tasks
Avoids reading because it is too difficult or he/she does not like to read
Becomes self-conscious and lacks confidence when asked to read aloud
Has difficulty with reading comprehension including remembering important information from print or audio text or understanding what the reading was about
For the most part, parents instinctively know whether their child is experiencing reading difficulties because the child typically shows clear and consistent signs of frustration when asked to complete reading tasks. In addition, the child’s teacher(s) often communicate to parents that the child is experiencing difficulty with reading in class and has yet to master the reading skills expected for his/her age and grade.
If your child has not developed the reading skills expected for his/her age and grade, then he/she is likely a struggling reader and would benefit from the specialized one-on-one support at the Diagnostic Reading Centre of Calgary to develop greater reading proficiency.
Contact the Diagnostic Reading Centre of Calgary today to inquire about getting some individualized reading help for your child.
3. What are the signs that my child has writing difficulty?
The following list of characteristics indicate that a learner is experiencing writing difficulties which may warrant specialized, diagnostic literacy assessment and intervention to address the areas of concern.
Poor legibility (awkward letter formation, word spacing)
Reluctant to engage in writing tasks
Struggles to think of ideas for writing
Writing is confusing or does not make sense
Does not consistently use punctuation or upper-case letters in writing
Has considerable difficulty with spelling
Gets frustrated easily during writing tasks
Avoids writing because it’s too hard or he/she doesn’t like to write
Becomes self-conscious and lacks confidence when asked to write
Has difficulty completing writing assignments
Writing is minimal and simplistic (does not develop or clearly explain ideas)
If your child experiences considerable difficulty with writing, then he/she would benefit from the specialized one-on-one support at the Diagnostic Reading Centre of Calgary to improve his/her writing ability.
Contact the Diagnostic Reading Centre of Calgary today to inquire about getting some individualized writing support for your child.
4. How do I know if my child is experiencing language difficulty?
When a learner consistently demonstrates the following types of language difficulties, he/she may require a specialized, diagnostic language assessment and educational intervention to address the areas of concern.
Struggles to identify words that start and end with the same sound
Has difficulty identifying rhyming words
Does not use specific vocabulary to name objects or actions
Has difficulty understanding and following verbal instructions
Has difficulty communicating and describing a personal experience or story that was read aloud
Gets frustrated easily during language tasks
Is reluctant to engage in language tasks
Becomes self-conscious and lacks confidence when responding to questions or explaining their thinking
Uses minimal and simplistic language and vocabulary
If your child has considerable difficulty with language, then he/she would benefit from the specialized one-on-one support at the Diagnostic Reading Centre of Calgary to improve his/her expressive and receptive language proficiency.
Contact the Diagnostic Reading Centre of Calgary today to inquire about getting some individualized educational support for your child.
5. How do I know if my child needs a diagnostic language and literacy assessment?
Individuals who benefit most from a diagnostic language and literacy assessment have a history of learning difficulties. In particular, they struggle with various aspects of language and literacy development including (but not limited to):
Recognizing and discriminating sounds in words
Knowing the alphabet and the sounds that different letters and letter combinations make
Recognizing common words
Reading and understanding grade-level textual material
Understanding and using specific vocabulary
Expressing thoughts and ideas clearly (verbal and written communication)
Completing written tasks with sufficient quality and quantity
Handwriting (print and/or cursive)
These learners have often received additional support at school or through private and/or franchised tutoring agencies and have found that the generic and repetitive types of learning tasks did not effectively address their particular language, reading, and/or writing difficulties. Consequently, their reading and writing difficulties have persisted over time and the gap between their skill development and what is expected for their age and grade continues to grow.
Typically, learners who attend the Diagnostic Reading Centre of Calgary for specialized assessment and weekly intervention have either been diagnosed with or are suspected of having a learning disability and/or Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) which affects their language, reading, and writing development (i.e., Specific Learning Disorder with impairment in reading (dyslexia) and/or written expression).
6. What is the process of a diagnostic language and literacy assessment at the Diagnostic Reading Centre of Calgary (DRCC)?
The Diagnostic Reading Centre of Calgary (DRCC) offers comprehensive, diagnostic assessment and evaluation of early language and literacy, reading, and/or writing skills with Dr. Karen Vavra (B.Ed., M.Ed., Ph.D.), a language and literacy assessment and intervention specialist.
The DRCC language and literacy assessment determines each learner’s current level of development and the source and nature of the challenges in reading, writing, and language development.
Assessment results are analysed to establish a profile of individual strengths and needs and to provide recommendations and a proposed remediation plan for addressing specific areas of difficulty.
The DRCC language and literacy assessment typically involves the following components:
The purpose of the initial parent consultation meeting is to discuss the background and nature of the child’s language and literacy challenges and to determine whether to proceed with a comprehensive diagnostic language and literacy assessment.
Application for Assessment and Document Review
To initiate a diagnostic literacy assessment, parents/guardians will complete the DRCC Parental Consent for Diagnostic Literacy Assessment Services and Client Information Form to give informed consent and to specify the areas of concern and the history of the child’s learning and literacy challenges.
Other pertinent documents may be requested for review in order to learn more about the background and nature of the learning difficulties and any previous interventions to address the child’s learning challenges (i.e., psychoeducational assessment reports; speech-language pathology reports; school records & report cards; individual program plans; school work including tests, assignments, & writing samples).
Diagnostic Language and Literacy Assessment Test Administration
(Approximately 3 or 4 one-hour sessions)
Several appointments will be scheduled for the diagnostic language and literacy assessment. During each assessment session, the child will complete a range of language and literacy tasks under the direction of Dr. Karen Vavra.
The comprehensive language and literacy assessment typically includes a combination of standardized, informal, and dynamic testing measures. The selected measures are determined based on each child’s learning profile and developmental level.
Test Performance Scoring, Interpretation, Analysis and Report Writing
Test results are systematically scored, interpreted, and analysed by Dr. Karen Vavra and a diagnostic language and literacy assessment report will be provided. The report includes a detailed account of the test results and current literacy development; strengths and challenges in language, reading, and writing; and recommendations for intervention and remediation of the specific area(s) of difficulty.
A follow-up consultation is scheduled to share and discuss the diagnostic language and literacy assessment results focusing primarily on the learner’s particular challenges and the most effective interventions for addressing his/her needs.
7. How do the language and literacy interventions (specialized educational tutoring) at the Diagnostic Reading Centre of Calgary (DRCC) differ from other private and franchised tutoring agencies?
Dr. Vavra introduces a strategy for making words at the DRCC
The diagnostic literacy intervention at the Diagnostic Reading Centre of Calgary (DRCC) involves regularly-scheduled, individualized remedial educational tutoring sessions designed specifically to address each learner’s particular literacy challenges. The specialised literacy interventions are developed and implemented by a literacy assessment and intervention specialist with a PhD in Language and Literacy Education. The personalized interventions are based on information gathered from the comprehensive diagnostic language and literacy assessment, as well as observations during each subsequent intervention session. The literacy interventions focus on deliberate and purposeful selection and development of research-based instructional strategies and activities; teaching materials and artifacts; learning strategies and skills; and textual materials to focus on specific learning goals.
The weekly one-on-one interventions include systematic and explicit instruction, modeling, and scaffolded literacy tasks to ensure that learners experience success and have ample opportunities for practice and meaningful application of the targeted language and literacy skills and strategies.
The interventions incorporate quality print materials (i.e., picture books, short stories, poetry, magazine and news articles) as the foundation for rich and authentic language and literacy experiences and development.
Specific literacy goals are addressed simultaneously through a combination of language, word study, reading, and writing tasks in each session.
Learners understand the purpose and benefit of the reading and writing strategies that they are learning. Much consideration is given to ensure that the interventions are appealing, stimulating, and sufficiently challenging for each learner by taking into account his/her unique intellectual and learning profile, and personal interests.
Overall, the specialized tutoring sessions at the DRCC have a cumulative effect which means that the strategies and skills learned and practiced in each session build on previous sessions.
In contrast, other private and franchised educational tutoring agencies tend to focus on predetermined goals using a prescribed approach or program. Typical educational tutoring services do not include a complete assessment of skill development in order to determine which areas of language and literacy require further instruction and support. In addition, the generic and repetitive types of learning tasks used in common tutoring practices do not effectively address each individual’s particular challenges in language, reading, and/or writing development. Instead, their approach tends to be unsystematic and limited in scope.
Supporting individuals with reading, writing, and language difficulties.
The Diagnostic Reading Centre of Calgary (DRCC) provides specialized, diagnostic language and literacy assessment, intervention, and consultation services for children, adolescents, and adults who experience significant and persistent challenges in language, reading, and/or writing development.