Development of the LARS

One of the things that I noticed over several years of working with children is that those in the early grades who are struggling in school have similar symptoms. After interviewing hundreds of parents, I realized that parents of children in the lower percentiles of their class consistently answer questions concerning their children differently than parents of children in the top percentiles. It occurred to me that a questionnaire could be developed that could alert parents to the fact that their child may be at risk for having difficulty in school.

I developed a questionnaire and used it to conduct a four-year study. I sent the questionnaire to 1,000 parents in several elementary schools. I then compared the answers on the questionnaires of parents of children in the top 25% of their class to those of parents whose children were in the lower 40%, as determined by the children’s scores on the California Achievement Test (CAT). Six hundred of the questionnaires were used in the final study. By comparing the way these children’s parents answered the questions, I could see that there were definite differences between the good readers and poor readers.

I was now ready to see if the questionnaire could be used to identify good readers and poor readers. I selected two public elementary schools that I felt were representative of the general population and sent questionnaires to parents of children who were entering kindergarten, first grade, and second grade. I then collected the questionnaires and made predictions based upon them about how each child would progress by the end of the school year. The children’s names were sent to the schools, and the teachers indicated which children they felt were struggling in reading or math and which were likely in the lower 40% of their class. For children in kindergarten, I asked the teachers to identify which children they felt were having difficulty learning the basic prerequisites of reading or math and which were likely to be in the lower 40% of their class.

The questionnaire correctly identified 13 of the 21 children whom the teachers felt were struggling with reading and math at the end of kindergarten (62%). For first grade, the questionnaire correctly identified 14 of the 21 children (67%). For second grade, it correctly identified 12 of the 17 children (71%).

When I used the questionnaire with parents of children who came into my clinic, it correctly identified 97% of the poor students (32 of 33). This is most likely due to the fact that the children had already been identified as having some sort of problem that needed to be addressed—hence their visit to our clinic.

You can use the questionnaire to see if a child may be at risk for school problems. If the child is at risk, you should have him or her evaluated by a professional. I recommend a diagnostician or a neuropsychologist, in addition to a developmental optometrist from the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD), who will evaluate the child’s visual system. The sooner problems are addressed, the earlier the child will be able to overcome them, thus avoiding potentially negative school experiences.