Excellent Reading Comprehension, But Slow Reading Rate

Alex* is a lovely adolescent girl who has strong verbal comprehension and perceptual reasoning skills. Alex’s processing speed is excellent on tasks that only require visual perception and visual discrimination. In other words, she is quickly able to perceive and write symbols that lack linguistic meaning. Her rate of processing information is hindered when Alex is required to read and comprehend information. Alex’s reading fluency is her greatest weakness and has caused her to struggle with reading since first grade. In spite of years of intervention Alex’s reading speed continues to be significantly lower than her verbal comprehension abilities when she is reading passages under time constraints.

Alex has strong reading comprehension skills.  She has a superior ability to read words from a list, as well as read short sentences. However, Alex’s reading rate and rapid naming skills are significantly below her vocabulary and sight-reading skills. Strengthening Alex’s rapid naming skills will enable her to read more fluently.

At this time Alex is able to perform to her potential in school due to the extra time she is provided on tests. When Alex is required to read within a time limit she is severely hindered in the amount of material she can process. Without extra time, Alex is unable to read enough material to demonstrate her comprehension of the material. Alex qualifies for extra time on standardized tests, but is there anything that can be done to help her reading rate?

Here are some ideas for Alex and her family to explore:

  • Read Naturally Program to build reading fluency
  • Dynamic Reader Computer program for reading fluency
  • Use higher levels of Lindamood-Bell LIPs  program to build phonological memory skills
  • Use Rapid Naming material to integrate visual and auditory modalities
  • Use visual worksheets to build visual attention
* Note: The student profile above is a composite of students with similar learning styles.

About Melissa Mullin, Ph.D.

I am the director of the K & M Center in Santa Monica, CA. Our goal is to help children reach their academic potential. We specialize in creating individualize learning programs so each of our students can do better in school and life.
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4 Responses to Excellent Reading Comprehension, But Slow Reading Rate

  1. Khebert says:

    Thank you for this website entry! My son is a First Grader whose comprehension and decoding skills put him at a Third Grade level. However, his reading speed is at a Second Grade level. Finally, the teachers moved him up because his reading speed did not *decrease* as he moved up levels, even though he was not at the fluency level. He has had a full visual exam and has a significant prescription and has been receiving OT for handwriting. He also has Tourette’s/OCD. Do you believe that vision therapy and/or continued OT would improve his reading speed? His visual-perceptual scores are very high.

    • Great question. There are many ways to look at this issue. Let’s consider the reading speed first from:
      1. An academic/achievement point of view
      2. A developmental view
      3. An individual difference view

      1. The academic viewpoint: Your son’s reading skills, including reading speed are above grade level. So, all is good.
      2. The developmental viewpoint: You son’s cognitive development for decoding and comprehension are advanced, even his eye tracking is above age level. It may be that the vision skills needed for tracking are still developing. If so, his reading fluency will increase without any intervention. From this perspective you would wait and see what happens.
      3. From an individual difference viewpoint, your son has a significant difference between his reading comprehension and reading rate and we would like those to be even. If you look at the issue from this perspective you would see a vision therapist to see if he has a tracking issue which vision therapy could address.

      My humble opinion is to wait, and see what happens on the developmental level. Your son may just want to make sure he is decoding the words and comprehending what he is reading, so he reads at the rate that he is comfortable and secure at. He is young enough that there is a lot of development going on. If in a year there is still a discrepancy, I would address the issue. That said, there is no down side of going to a vision therapist now to see if eye tracking issues are interfering with his reading speed.

      Now, we look at the OT issue along with the Tourette’s/OCD factors. I would continue OT to help build his skills. You don’t say whether this is for sensory integration issues or fine motor skills, but either way OT is important to get the motor skills fluid. Down the road this can make a big difference in writing skills.

  2. Cassie says:

    I don’t know if you would be able to help me, but it’s worth a shot. I’m a 23 year old female college drop out. I have tried and failed multiple times to pass traditional college courses. I never seem to have what it takes to complete the courses, even if I know the material. The classes I have been able to successfully complete were shortened, intensive courses.
    A couple of months ago, I was diagnosed with ADHD (inattentive) and Dyscalculia. My IQ scores were as follows:
    Verbal Comprehension: 130
    Processing Speed: 89
    Working Memory: 89
    Perceptual Organization: 100

    I’m not sure what all of this means, but I know that it has drastically affected my life. Most of my life, I have been told that I am very smart but that I lack the effort to be successful. My stress and anxiety has always been a problem. I have been hospitalized five times for thoughts of suicide and in 2010, I received electroconvulsive therapy to alleviate my symptoms (which, unfortunately, didn’t help much and, as to be expected, severely affected my short term memory). I was never diagnosed with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder or any other “main stream” diagnosis. I have had several doctors look me in the eyes and tell me, “I don’t know what is wrong with you.” I have made significant progress with my depression and anxiety by receiving a service dog, talk therapy, and medication, but it unfortunately, it still lingers. Up until a few months ago, I had just accepted that I was just an unmotivated individual with depression and anxiety issues. I believe that most of my residual anxiety and depression stems from my learning disabilities.

    Being diagnosed has been an eye-opening and heart breaking ordeal. I have started new medication and I seem to be responding well. I have a lot more energy and I feel alert and oriented. Though I have made progress, I am still having difficulties processing and retaining information. I plan to attempt school again in the spring, but I’d like to gather as much information as possible so that I can anticipate what accommodations I will need to be successful.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this.

    • I wish you all the best in your academic career. It is wonderful that you are gathering as much support as you can to help you succeed. I am glad that you are seeing professionals to help you with your depression and anxiety. I can only comment on the educational challenges that you are facing, but I do believe that emotional issues can impact learning and that learning issues can impact emotions. It is important that you continue to work with a good doctor to help support your emotional well-being and to help you process your feelings about your learning challenges. Given that I don’t have your whole history I trust that you will discuss any suggestions with a professional who is both qualified and is familiar with your personal history. My suggestions are based on learning profiles, so please take any advice that sounds like it will help you and discuss it with your therapist and disregard anything that does not sound like it matches your needs.

      Given your diagnoses with ADHD (inattentive) and Dyscalculia you should be eligible for some accommodations. You have a significant difference between your 
Verbal Comprehension Index and 
Processing Speed Index so you should definitely get extra time on in-class assignments and tests. I have listed some accommodations below that might help you. Additionally, I suggest you learn to use Inspiration and Dragon Speak Naturally to enable you to organize your thoughts and then dictate them into the computer.
      Classroom Accommodations:
      Read the whole articles at:
      http://www.add.org/?page=college_accommod
      http://www.bu.edu/cpr/reasaccom/educa-accom.html

      Tests:
      Extended time on tests and assignments,
      Testing in a separate and quiet place,
      Testing over several sessions
      Use of a computer
      Dividing an exam up into parts and allowing student to take them in two or three sessions over 1-2 days helps reduce the effect of fatigue and focus on one section at a time.

      Lectures:
      Permission to record lectures,
      Audio-taped text book,
      Assistance with writing class notes (i.e., note taking service),
      Reading assistance service (i.e., reading group)

      Courses:
      Written instructions from professors,
      Priority registration with a professional in the disability services office,
      The possibility of class substitution within the curriculum,
      Reduced course load
      Advance notice of assignments
      Textbooks on tape
      Use of a calculator for math

      What students with ADHD can provide for themselves:
      Choosing:
      Right college: with good reasonable accommodations for students with ADHD,
      -Support group for students with ADHD,
      College with large number of ADHD-LD specialists,
      College with many registered ADHD students
      To disclose your ADHD diagnosis at the earliest possible opportunity and request appropriate accommodations including those that the school may not readily offer but you can justify the need.

      Contact:
      School’s office of disability and be familiar with its resources;
      Health officials to provide them with documentations that prove your ADHD status and proof that ADHD affects your academic performance;
      Writing center and utilize it properly;
      Professors beyond the classroom, make use of office hours, if only to introduce yourself. Set up appointments to clarify assignments.

      Find:
      How and where to access support from tutors, whether on campus or online;
      Healthy study environment early on: proper time management (including a schedule that includes time for studying, socializing and exercising), distraction free study environment;
      A study buddy or study group: sign up for classes with friends, or make friends in the classes you have so that you will support each other in and out of class;
      An academic coach (through the college counseling office or privately) that will check in with you throughout the week to ensure success.

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