by Becky L. Spivey, M.Ed.
When parents express concern about their
kindergartener or first grader’s reading or language skills, and/
or the teacher observes and confirms that a student is having
difficulties in the classroom, an evaluation process usually
begins. The speech-language pathologist (SLP) usually takes
the lead in this process by informally screening and evaluating
the student’s language skills using a checklist similar to one
designed by Dr. Hugh Catts.
Dr. Hugh W. Catts, Professor and Chair of Speech-Language-Hearing: Sciences
& Communication Disorders at the University of Kansas has been instrumental in
compiling research for the early identification of kindergarteners and first graders at
risk for reading disabilities. Through his extensive research, Dr. Catts created the Early
Identification of Language-Based Reading Disabilities: A Checklist
(1997). Click here to
view and print the checklist in its entirety http://www.ocslha.com/LEarly%20ID.htm.
Teachers and Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) can use this checklist to
evaluate the language and reading skills of kindergarteners and first graders at risk for
reading deficits. Parents can use the checklist to document observations and help them
express concerns about their child’s reading and language skills to the classroom teacher
or the school’s SLP. This checklist, or similar ones, can help the SLP or another qualified
educator identify primary students at risk for language-based reading disabilities. If a
checklist reveals many weaknesses, there should be no cause for alarm. Having many
weaknesses simply confirms that the student is in need of immediate intervention. Before
testing to determine if a learning disability is present, the student must participate in a
structured intervention program.
An early intervention program provides very intense, individualized, and targeted
instruction in reading and language skills. This focused intervention gives a student
the opportunity to learn the skills he or she is lacking and provides the best chance
to overcome his or her reading deficits. A student that responds to intervention likely
does not have a true disability but may require intense, targeted instruction to obtain
the skills he or she lacks. If the student does not respond or make progress during an
intervention period, further assessment will determine if a learning disability is present
and if he or she qualifies for special education services.
Children identified early as being at risk in either phonological processing
(kindergarten) or reading skills (first grade) have shown significant gains after
participating in an intense intervention program, placing them well within the average
range of their peers. Unfortunately, many children do not receive quality instruction or
intervention until the third grade and beyond. Early identification of struggling students
and focused, targeted intervention offer students the greatest chance to become
Montgomery, Judy; Moore, Barbara. (2006). START-IN – Students are responding to intervention. Greenville, SC: Super
Duper Publications Page 1.
Catts, H. (1997). Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools. The early identification of language-based
reading disabilities. 28, 88-89.