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Center of READing helps kids with reading disabilities

Riley Rickman, graduate student in psychology, demonstrates how to play connect four in the READing Center on Oct. 26. Alyssa Tyler

The center for Reading at Pittsburg State University was created in 1996, and for the past 21 years they have focused on helping kids with their reading skills.                                     

“We do research, evaluation, awareness, advocacy, work related to dyslexia, and other reading disabilities like dyslexia as well as attentional difficulties like ADHD,” said Alex Fender, director of operations for the center for READing. “So, the biggest part of what we do is we provide very affordable high-quality evaluations for people, children, adults who are struggling to learn to read or who might have attentional difficulties like ADHD. Then for those that we find out do have reading difficulties, we have an intervention program, which is essentially like reading tutoring.”

The process of evaluation begins with a comprehensive assessment administered by a graduate assistant. 

“We use a gold standard assessment, and we are unique in that we assess attention objectively so a lot of providers just use a rating scale and have parents or teachers fill it out, which is a pretty standard method to measure attention,” Fender said. “We kind of go a step beyond that. We actually have a computer-based assessment that objectively measures those skills.” 

More than just reading comprehension is assessed during this original assessment. 

“We actually assess how well the student can pay attention to (the test) and inhibit responses when needed,” Fender said. “And then we also screen their hearing, as well as, of course, the reading assessment, and then we also assess their social-emotional functioning as well as nonverbal attention. It’s a pretty comprehensive evaluation. To try to identify and really to identify you know the cause of the students’ reading difficulty.” 

If the family decides to go through with the intervention, they are then paired with an interventionist by a graduate student in clinical psychology, graduate assistant, and the intervention coordinator for the Center of READing, Riley Rickman. This job is currently helping graduate students prepare for what their jobs outside of class will be like.

“On a professional level, I feel a lot more confident with my supervision skills, but on a personal level, I never really took the time to consider how much people or kids could struggle with reading,” Rickman said. “I was really fortunate that I don’t have those struggles, so I think I took that for granted growing up. It’s just really opened my eyes to the struggles that come with dyslexia and reading difficulties.”

The center for READing is open throughout the summer, even offering a summer camp program for those who may need it. 

“There is a reading crisis happening in our nation. I mean, across the nation including Kansas, our state, and region. We’ve known for a long time in the research field on the science end how to help students who struggle to learn and to read,” Fender said. “We’re really trying to bridge that research to practice and help get those interventions and interventions to children and that information to teachers too.” 

For those interested in the center for READing, more information can be found on their website or at the center itself in Whitesitt Hall.

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