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Comprehensive Assessment for Disorders of Reading and Writing: Typical Components

Case history
  • History of speech, language, and/or literacy difficulties in the family
  • History of hearing or vision problems
  • Language(s) used in home, including preferred spoken language(s) and preferred written language(s)
  • Developmental milestones
  • Child's interest in reading and writing activities
  • Beliefs about the importance of literacy and literacy-building activities
  • Family's and teacher's concerns about the child's reading and writing skills

See the ASHA Practice Portal page on cultural responsiveness for guidance on taking a case history with all clients.

Hearing screening

This is conducted if not completed during screening. See ASHA’s Portal Page on childhood hearing screening.

Spoken language assessment

See the assessment section of the ASHA Practice Portal page on spoken language disorders.

Speech sound assessment (if indicated)

See the assessment section of the ASHA Practice Portal on speech sound disorders.

Phonological processing

This includes phonological awareness, phonological working memory, and phonological retrieval.

See phonological processing for a more detailed discussion of phonological processing and the development of spoken and written language.

Social Communication (if indicated)

See the assessment section of the ASHA Practice Portal page on social communication disorders.

Curriculum-based assessment
  • Analyze the language demands of curricular activities
  • Observe the student as he or she attempts curricular activities without assistance
  • Identify gaps between the demands of the task and the abilities of the student
Literacy assessment

This includes basic and higher-level reading, writing, and spelling skills, listed roughly in developmental order.


  • Print awareness—recognizing that books have a front and a back and that the direction of words is from left to right; recognizing where words on the page start and stop; recognizing word boundaries; recognizing environmental signs/logos
  • Phonological awareness—including phonemic awareness; rhyming, blending, and segmenting; manipulating syllables and sounds
  • Alphabet knowledge—including naming alphabetic letters from A to Z
  • Sound—symbol correspondence—knowing that letters have sounds; knowing the sounds for corresponding letters and letter combinations
  • Reading decoding—using sound—symbol knowledge to segment and blend sounds in grade-level words; reading decoding may be assessed with tasks that involve nonword or pseudoword reading
  • Word recognition —the ability to identify words when reading, either through word decoding or sight word identification; word recognition must be assessed with tasks that involve real words
  • Reading automaticity —reading isolated words rapidly and accurately
  • Reading fluency—reading connected text smoothly and accurately with appropriate intonation and without frequent or significant pausing
  • Knowledge of derivational morphology (prefixes and suffixes that change the part of speech or meaning of a word)
  • Knowledge of inflectional morphology (changes in word form that mark tense, number, possession, or comparison)
  • Knowledge of orthographic patterns of irregularly spelled words
  • Knowledge of variations in text structures and genres (e.g., narratives vs. expository text) and different purposes of text (to persuade, inform, or entertain)
  • Reading comprehension
    • Retelling or summarizing a passage while maintaining the essential meaning
    • Answering questions about a passage to demonstrate the following:
      • Knowledge of multiple-meaning words
      • Knowledge of age-appropriate vocabulary
      • Knowledge of synonyms and antonyms
      • Knowledge of figurative language (e.g., idioms, metaphors, proverbs)
      • Ability to understand complex sentences
      • Ability to make inferences and integrate meaning within text
    • Using strategies to facilitate comprehension (e.g., skimming, using end-of-chapter questions to guide reading, rereading, and taking notes)
    • Using strategies to demonstrate comprehension of a reading passage
    • Using strategies for managing different styles of reading (e.g., reading for overview, critical reading for complete meaning and interpretation, activating background knowledge to facilitate comprehension)


  • Making marks on paper
  • Demonstrating intent to communicate meaning in writing
  • Printing all letters of the alphabet
  • Printing first and last name
  • Labeling pictures
  • Producing conventional text via copying dictation
  • Demonstrating fluency with text production via handwriting and/or keyboarding
  • Writing process
    • Planning (e.g., brainstorming, story maps, webbing) and organizing, composing, reflection
    • Drafting (e.g., refer to planning notes and revise during drafting process)
    • Revising and editing content, spelling, and conventions
    • Publishing and presenting to meet the needs of specific audiences
  • Writing product
    • Fluency (number of words produced in a specified time period)
    • Vocabulary and lexical diversity
      • Word choice
      • Word inflection in sentence contexts
      • Use of multisyllabic words
    • Evidence of morphemic awareness in word choice and spelling
    • Sentence formulation (e.g., diversity of sentence types; using end punctuation as evidence of concepts of sentence)
    • Grammaticality of sentences (coding for correct versus incorrect sentences)
    • Sentence complexity
      • Code for simple versus complex sentences
      • Calculate clause density ratios
      • Calculate mean length of T-unit
    • Ability to stay true to assigned genre
    • Ability to ensure completeness, organization, and cohesiveness
    • Writing conventions (capitalization, punctuation, and paragraph formations)


  • Using one to three letters to spell words (e.g., P for purple, TN for train, or PTE for pretty)
  • Spelling words as they sound (e.g., LETL for little or EGL for eagle)
  • Knowing different conventions for encoding the same sound
  • Recognizing and correcting spelling errors
  • Not avoiding particular words due to uncertainty in how to spell them
  • Demonstrating understanding of the phonemic, morphological, and orthographic components of spelling in context (see linguistic analysis of spelling errors)

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