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Can people with an intellectual disability learn to read?

Dr Kerry Hempenstall, Senior Industry Fellow, School of Education, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.

First published Dec 13 2012, updated March 28 2018

All my blogs can be viewed on-line or downloaded as a Word file or PDF at https://www.dropbox.com/sh/olxpifutwcgvg8j/AABU8YNr4ZxiXPXzvHrrirR8a?dl=0


 

The short answer increasingly appears to be - yes; however, it becomes more difficult as the severity and nature of the disability increases. The interventions that are effective for other struggling learners have proved the most effective for the population with intellectual disability too (Allor, Mathes, Roberts, Cheatham, & Al Otaiba, 2014). This is not surprising as the skills involved in successful reading are the same for those with a disability as they are for others. To teach this population well, it is necessary to begin early, teach intensively, expect the duration of instruction to be extended, and monitor progress continuously to ascertain how effective is the current intervention strategy. A requirement for success is that not only decoding but also students’ language development is addressed so that the students are capable of comprehending what they are reading. Of course, not only are comprehension strategies important components of reading skill; so too, world knowledge is needed to supply the context for understanding much of that which is read. Ultimately, access to world knowledge is at least partly consequent upon the capacity “to get words off the page.” So, world knowledge is both an enabling aspect of reading and a consequence of reading.

Teaching to special populations does have its own special challenges. However, there have been relatively few well designed studies that clearly demonstrate how best to go about developing literacy in this cohort of students. There appears to be some increased interest among researchers, but a large number of research questions remain unresolved. Indeed, it is only now becoming acknowledged that the teaching of phonic generalisations should be a significant component of a literacy program for these students.

Historically, there has been an assumption that students with intellectual disability have little prospect of achieving a state of self-directed knowledge acquisition. In the past, well-intentioned attempts to introduce students to reading have been through teaching “survival reading”. In this perspective, a number of sight words are taught – those considered to be valuable if the person is to achieve some limited life skills, such reading street and suburb names, or recognising important safety signs. This approach is unproductive, in the sense that students are not taught the logic of the alphabetic system, so have little prospect of generalising what they have learned to new (untaught) words.


What research there is has raised a number of potential outcomes:

A tantalising prospect relates to the possibility that people with intellectual disability may increase their intelligence through reading. For example:

“Much evidence has now accumulated to indicate that reading itself is a moderately powerful determinant of vocabulary growth, verbal intelligence, and general comprehension ability” (p.239). … “Print exposure appears to compensate for modest levels of general cognitive abilities .... low ability need not necessarily hamper the development of vocabulary and verbal knowledge as long as the individual is exposed to a lot of print” (p.162).

Stanovich, K.E. (1993). Does reading make you smarter? Literacy and the development of verbal intelligence. Advances in Child Development and Behaviour, 24, 133-180.

“ … diagnostic concepts assume that IQ sets a limit on either the level of achievement or the rate of progress of which a child is capable. This assumption was investigated in a longitudinal study of an unselected cohort of 741 children whose reading achievement was assessed at ages 7, 9, 11, and 13 years. Findings on rates of progress and levels of achievement clearly indicate that IQ does not set a limit on reading progress, even in extreme low IQ children” (p.97).

Share, D.L., McGee, R., & Silva, P. (1989). IQ and reading progress: A test of the capacity notion of IQ. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 28, 97-100.

“Reading has cognitive consequences that extend beyond its immediate task of lifting meaning from a particular passage. Furthermore, these consequences are reciprocal and exponential in nature. Accumulated over time—spiraling either upward or downward—they carry profound implications for the development of a wide range of cognitive capabilities. Concern about the reciprocal influences of reading achievement has been elucidated through discussions of so-called “Matthew effects” in academic achievement (Stanovich, 1986;Walberg & Tsai, 1983).The term “Matthew effects” is taken from the Biblical passage that describes a rich-get-richer and poor-get-poorer phenomenon. Applying this concept to reading, we see that very early in the reading process poor readers, who experience greater difficulty in breaking the spelling-to-sound code, begin to be exposed to much less text than their more skilled peers (Allington, 1984; Biemiller, 1977-1978)” (p.8).

Cunningham, A., & Stanovich, K. E. (1998). What reading does for the mind. American Educator, 22(1-2), 8-15. Retrieved from http://www.aft.org/pdfs/americaneducator/springsummer1998/cunningham.pdf

There were also a number of studies in the 1970’s evaluating Direct Instruction programs in which IQ was an outcome variable. See later for an annotated list.

It comes down to an empirical question: Can students with intellectual disability be taught to achieve independent reading (with comprehension). If so, which students? To what level? Under what instructional approaches? What time and resources is required?

Until recently there has been a dearth of research that addressed these questions; however, there is now a small but growing research base offering some optimistic findings and predictions.

 


Below are some of the findings on instruction in literacy:

 “Our review illustrated that it is possible to integrate several evidence-based strategies such as direct instruction, time delay, repeated trials, and read aloud into a multicomponent program. … Students who master phonemic awareness skills in their early grades are more likely to become effective readers than students who do not have these skills (Browder et al., 2009). Providing phonemic awareness instruction in early grades is vital for the reading development of students with ID because they do not easily develop phonemic awareness skills (Gombert, 2002). Teachers in the studies reviewed were able to successfully improve their students’ phonemic awareness skill through multicomponent interventions. This is particularly important because past research suggested that mastery of phonemic awareness skills improved the reading success of students with ID in other reading skills (e.g., vocabulary, Wise, Sevcik, Romski, & Morris, 2010). … In those studies in which improvement in reading comprehension was observed, it was only observed after systematic and explicit instruction had been implemented over an extended period of time (e.g., over 4 years; see Allor et al., 2014). … These findings demonstrated that all students, including students with nonverbal skills who used augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), could be included in multicomponent reading instruction and that their progress could be measured via specially designed assessments. It is clear this research area is in its infancy but holds great potential for improving reading instruction and outcomes for students with ID. Findings from the intervention studies are promising as they provide evidence of students with ID improving their reading skills across multiple reading components. Six studies reported that students receiving multicomponent reading instruction outperformed students receiving traditional sight word instruction in all reading measures (Allor et al., 2014; Allor, Mathes, Roberts, Cheatham et al., 2010; Allor, Mathes, Roberts, Jones et al., 2010; Browder et al., 2008; Browder et al., 2012; Coyne et al., 2012). This finding calls into question the sole use of a sight word approach in reading instruction for students with ID, as the multicomponent approach was shown to be more effective than only sight word instruction across multiple studies.” (p.10-11)

Afacan, K., Wilkerson, K.L., & Ruppar, A.L. (2017). Multicomponent reading interventions for students with intellectual disability. Remedial and Special Education, 1–14.


“Limited research has been available to help teachers determine suitable methods for teaching students with ID to read (Browder, Wakeman, Spooner, Ahlgrim-Delzell, & Algozzine, 2006); however, this situation is changing. Systematic instruction is effective for teaching students with ID to recognize sight words (Browder et al.), but recent research is also demonstrating that with an integrated and systematic approach, students with ID can successfully combine the separate skills of phonemic awareness and letter-sound correspondence to decode unfamiliar words (Allor, Mathes, Jones, & Roberts, in press: Browder, Ahlgrim-Delzell, Courtade, Gibbs, & Flowers, 2008; O'Connor, Bocian, Beebe-Frankenberger, & Linklater, in press). Research also reports positive effects in the area of language skills (Allor et al., in press). In a nutshell, researchers are finding that effective methods for teaching struggling readers (see National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000; Rayner, Foorman, Perfetti, Pesetsky, & Seidenberg, 2001) are also effective for students with low IQs, provided that the students have extensive opportunities to practice and that teachers carefully pace the instruction (Allor et al., in press; Browder et al., 2006; O'Connor et al.). It is important to note that these researchers acknowledge the challenges that they faced during their research. For example, the progress of students was much slower than that of students with higher IQs who experience difficulty learning to read. Further, measuring progress in the very early stages of phonemic awareness and early language skills was problematic, because existing measures were not sensitive to small amounts of improvement. In spite of these issues, students in these studies demonstrated clear, important progress in the development of early reading skills” (p.8).

Allor, J.L., Mathes, P.G., Jones, F.G., Champlin, T.M., & Cheatham, J.P. (2010). Individualized research-based reading instruction for students with intellectual disabilities: Success stories. Teaching Exceptional Children; 42(3), 6-12.


“The results of the present meta-analysis are generally in line with earlier research suggesting that decoding skills are a relative strength in children with Down syndrome, and adding that the limited number of studies in this area means that more research is needed. The role of vocabulary knowledge in learning to decode words has also been highlighted. Children with Down syndrome perform in line with typically developing children at the same word recognition level on measures of nonword decoding, but show deficits on measures of the two underlying skills: vocabulary and phonological awareness. Differences in vocabulary explain substantial variance in nonword decoding skills, while phonological awareness did not have as much impact as traditionally seen in studies of typically developing children. We suggest that early vocabulary interventions for children with Down syndrome may be beneficial to their development of decoding skills, but such programmes need to be rigorously evaluated in future research studies.” (p.745)

Naess, K., Melby-Lervag, M., Hulme, C. & Lyster, S. (2011). Language and verbal short-term memory skills in children with Down syndrome: A meta-analytic review. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 33(12), 737-747.


“Our findings from the present study have several important implications for serving students with low IQs in general and special education settings. First and foremost, students with low IQs, including those with ID and those with IQs in the borderline range (i.e., 70-80), should be provided with evidence-based reading instruction. Although it might seem unsurprising to some that these students made meaningful progress, our study provides strong empirical evidence of reading progress across several academic years with a relatively large sample of students with low IQs who participated in a randomized control trial in which the treatment was delivered by highly trained interventionists. Specifically, our data indicate what is possible for students with low IQs if they are given access to evidence-based reading instruction. The curriculum is very explicit and systematic and was delivered with fidelity, providing very consistent, explicit, and repetitive routines, focusing on key skills, and delivering clear and explicit modeling. Thus, students with low IQs do benefit from comprehensive reading programs that were designed for struggling readers and readers with LD, but progress is slower.  302-4). … this study is both a clear demonstration of the potential of students with low IQs to achieve meaningful literacy goals and a clear demonstration of the persistence and intensity it takes to help children with low IQs learn to read. This longitudinal study provides solid empirical support for educators to provide intensive, comprehensive, research-based reading instruction to all students, including those with mild or moderate ID” (p.302-4).

Allor, J. H., Mathes, P. G., Roberts, J. K., Cheatham, J. P., & Al Otaiba, S. (2014). Is scientifically based reading instruction effective for students with below-average IQs? Exceptional Children, 80(3), 287-306.


“Findings from this body of work indicate that children and adolescents with ID can obtain higher levels of reading achievement than previously anticipated (Allor, Mathes, Roberts, Cheatham, & Al Otaiba, 2014). Recent research also suggests that the historic focus on functional reading (e.g., signs, restaurant words) for this population of learners is likely too limited of a focus for many (Browder et al., 2009). Research outcomes suggest that integrating components of traditional reading instruction (e.g., phonics, phonemic awareness) into programs for students with ID will lead to increases in independent reading skills for many (Allor, Al Otaiba, Ortiz, & Folsom, 2014). These increased reading abilities are likely to lead to greater postsecondary outcomes, including employment, independence, and quality of life. Unfortunately, many teachers remain unsure of how to best design and deliver reading intervention for students with ID.” (p.19)

Lemons, C.J., Allor, J.H., Al Otaiba, S., & LeJeune, L.M. (2016). 10 research-based tips for enhancing literacy instruction for students with intellectual disability. Teaching Exceptional Children, 49(1), 18– 30.


“Using carefully directed instruction, individuals with intellectual disability can develop decoding, a crucial reading skill – one considered difficult for this population. Emphasising phonological reading skills will pay off if the instruction is sufficiently intense and appropriately targeted”

Conners, F.A., Rosenquist, C.J., Sligh, A.C., Atwell, J.A., & Kiser, T. (2006). Phonological reading skills acquisition by children with mental retardation. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 27(2), 121-37.


“Until recently, phonological awareness instruction had been neglected in research on reading interventions for children with ID in favor of sight word instruction (Browder, Wakeman, Spooner, Ahlgrim-Delzell, & Algozzine, 2006; Browder, Ahlgrim-Delzell, Flowers, & Baker, 2012; Joseph & Seery, 2004; Saunders, 2007). … The results of our longitudinal study on predictors of progress in reading skills conducted with a relatively large sample of children with ID with unspecified etiology indicated that phonological awareness and letter-sound knowledge at 6–8 years old significantly predicted progress in word and non-word reading after one school year and two school years. Phonological awareness and letter-sound knowledge at 6–8 years old also predicted progress in reading comprehension after one school year and two school years. As a whole, our findings confirmed the results of studies conducted with typically developing children, highlighting the important role of phonological awareness and letter-sound knowledge for reading development (Elbro & Scarborough, 2004; National Institute for Literacy, 2008). They extend the findings from the few studies conducted on the contribution of phonological awareness to current word and non-word reading among children, adolescents and adults with mixed or unspecified etiology (Channell et al., 2013; Saunders & DeFulio, 2007; Soltani & Roslan, 2013; Wise et al., 2010).” (p. 2, 9)

Dessemontet, R.S., & de Chambrier, A-F. (2015). The role of phonological awareness and letter-sound knowledge in the reading development of children with intellectual disabilities. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 41–42, 1–12.


So it is apparent that phonology and vocabulary are important in designing instruction for students with intellectual disability, just as they are for any student who struggles with reading. However, there may be other cognitive factors that also have an impact on reading comprehension for this cohort.

“The present article addresses the development of reading comprehension in a group of children with mixed-aetiology intellectual disabilities. The average levels of reading comprehension, decoding, and listening comprehension that were observed in the participants at an age of 12 years were all comparable to the levels of typical children at an age of 6 years. Their scores on the precursor measures were also below those otherwise expected for children in this age range. The effects of the children’s cognitive limitations on skills related to reading comprehension are thus widespread. The low levels of overall performance that we found are in line with earlier findings (Lemons et al., 2013; Nash & Heath, 2011) and show that general cognitive limitations affect the acquisition and development of reading comprehension on many levels. In line with the simple view of reading (Hoover & Gough, 1990), decoding and listening comprehension were the key precursors of reading comprehension and its development. The stronger contribution of decoding relative to listening comprehension among this group is consistent with the pattern found for early readers without disabilities (Ouellette & Beers, 2010; Vellutino et al., 2007). … foundational literacy skills and nonverbal reasoning exerted an additional, direct effect on the longitudinal reading comprehension of children with intellectual disabilities, over and above decoding, listening comprehension, and prior reading comprehension. The final pattern is very similar to the long-term precursors for reading comprehension that have been found by Fuchs et al. (2012) in children who were poor readers despite a normal intelligence. It seems that the pattern observed in the present analysis is not specific to children with low intelligence but can also be observed in other children who struggle to read.” (p. 330)

van Wingerden, E., Segersa, E., van Balkoma,H., & Verhoevena, L. (2018). Cognitive constraints on the simple view of reading: A longitudinal study in children with intellectual disabilities. Scientific Studies of Reading, 22(4), 321–334.


“Because children with developmental and language delays often develop reading difficulties, it is important that early intervention in phonological skills such as phonemic awareness is implemented (Al Otaiba et al., 2009). This study also supports other findings that suggest the use of curriculum-based measures such as DIBELS and intervention can guide instructors to assist children in meeting early literacy goals (VanDerHeyden et al., 2007).” (p. 383-384)

Isakson, L., Marchand - Martella, N., & Martella, R. C. (2011). Assessing the effects of the McGraw Hill Phonemic Awareness program with preschool children with developmental delays: A case study. Education and Treatment of Children, 34, 373 – 388.


“Our findings suggest that the Read It Once Again curriculum promote s positive outcomes using features of evidence - based practices recommended for effective early literacy instruction (cf. IRA & NAEYC, 1998; Justice, Invernizzi, Geller, Sullivan, & Welsch, 2005; Justice et al., 2011; Morrow & Tracey, 2007; NELP, 2009; Scarborough, 2005; Wilcox et al., 2011). Because of the limited number of currently available research - based preschool curricula, particularly for children with disabilities (e.g., Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research Consortium, 2008), we believe this is a significant and important finding. Understanding the importance of early literacy and language development as well as the increased risk for young children with disabilities to develop reading difficulties underscores the critical need to identify research - based curricula that can effectively address the needs of this population. Read It Once Again appears to be a promising example. Our findings also validate the use of the IGDI measures to monitor progress over a relatively short period of time. The Picture Naming IGDI and the Rhyming IGDI were sensitive to changes in expressive language and phonological awareness respectively over a 12 - week period. These findings corroborate those of previous researchers (cf. Missall et al., 2006) and offer guidance for teachers and other professionals addressing both summative and formative evaluation questions with young children. … Identifying research - validated early literacy curriculum for young children with disabilities and at - risk for disabilities continues to be a challenge for the field of early education and special education (Justice et al. , 2010; Missall , et al., 2006; Morrow & Tracey, 2007; National Early Literacy Panel, 2009; Preschool Curriculum Evaluation Research Consortium, 2008 ; U.S. Department of Education, 2005 ) . This quasi - experimental study provides support for the use of the Read It Once Again curriculum for young children with disabilities.” (p. 41-42, 43)

Correa, V.I., Baughan, C.B., Fries, K.M., Thompson, M., & Algozzine, R. (2013). Evaluation of the effects of Read it Once Again across two groups of students. Dialog, 16(4), 30–47. Retrieved from https://journals.uncc.edu/dialog/article/viewFile/155/194


“In conclusion, differential patterns of memory abilities are documented across different etiological groups of individuals with ID, and the irregularities in the memory profile may reflect discrepancies in the maturation of different cerebral networks linked to a specific genotype.”

Vicari, S., Costanzo, F., & Menghini, D. (2016). Memory and learning in intellectual disability. International Review of Research in Developmental Disabilities. In Press, Corrected Proof, Available online 4 July 2016


“Although the low incidence nature of severe intellectual disability makes conducting group experimental studies difficult (and sometimes impossible), researchers have and will continue to conduct group experimental studies to examine the effectiveness of interventions for learners with severe intellectual disability (e.g., Browder, Ahlgrim-Delzell, Flowers, & Baker, 2012; Browder, Trela, et al., 2012). … Using the Horner et al. (2005) framework for establishing EBPs, Browder et al. (2006) identified the following EBPs (evidence-based practices) for teaching reading components:

•• Vocabulary (sight word identification): Massed trial training, time delay, systematic prompting (other than time delay);

•• Vocabulary (picture identification): Massed trial training, systematic prompting (varied);

•• Comprehension: Massed trial training, systematic prompting (varied), use of pictures, use of sight words during functional activities;

•• Fluency: Time delay (for low error rate);

•• Phonics and phonemic awareness: None identified.” (p. 307-308)

Courtade, G.R., Test, D.W., & Cook, B.G. (2015). Evidence-based practices for learners with severe intellectual disability. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 39(4), 305– 318.


Will it take forever?

A concern when initial progress is halting is whether it will always be infuriatingly slow, or is there a habit of learning that leads to an acceleration of future progress. There is some evidence cited below that: first, we should anticipate slow initial progress and not discontinue intervention prematurely; and second, that an acceleration will occur as the foundations for learning are laboriously laid down. In a case study reported by the author, the average number of trials to mastery did not reduce significantly (except at the very conclusion), but on the other hand, as the difficulty level of the reading tasks increased nor did the number of trials necessary for mastery increase. Perhaps the hoped-for acceleration would have occurred at a later stage of the intervention had it been possible to continue for longer than one year. See later in this summary for further details of the case study - The use of a direct instruction reading program to tutor an adult with a moderate intellectual disability)


 “If learners master beginning skills thoroughly they will learn subsequent skills faster, i.e., at an accelerated pace. Initial examples require more time and a greater number of trials to learn than later examples. The basic assumption is that children learn about learning and how-to-learn just as they learn other skills” (p. 177).

Engelmann, S. (1995). Theory of mastery and acceleration. In John Lloyd, Edward Kameenui, and David Chard (Eds.), Issues in educating students with disabilities (pp.177-195). New York: Lawrence Erlbaum.


“To obtain automaticity in word recognition, some children require extremely high levels of over-learning and practice” (p. 4).

Felton, R. H., & Wood, F. B. (1989). Cognitive deficits in reading disability and attention deficit disorder. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 22, 3-13.


“The potential for individuals with mental retardation to grasp and generalise literacy skills has been underestimated by many educators and researchers. The findings from this review of studies suggest that individuals with mental retardation have the capabilities to grasp and generalise phonetic analysis skills from one context to another context”.

Laurice, J., & Seery, M.E. (2004). Where is the phonics? A review of the literature on the use of phonetic analysis with students with mental retardation. Remedial and Special Education, 25(2), 88-94.


“This longitudinal experimental study investigated the reading progress of students with IQs ranging from 40 to 69 (i.e., range for students with mild or moderate mental retardation or intellectual disabilities [ID]) across at least two academic years, as well as the effectiveness of a comprehensive reading intervention for these students across the same period of time. Participants were59 elementary students who were randomly placed into treatment and contrast groups. Students in the treatment condition received daily, comprehensive reading instruction in small groups of1–4 students for 40–50 minutes per session across two or three academic years. Measures of phonemic awareness, phonics, word recognition, comprehension, and oral language were included.Findings indicate that students with IQs in the ID range made significant progress on multiple standardized measures of reading. Furthermore, significant differences between the treatment group and contrast group were found on several measures, including progress-monitoring measures of phoneme segmentation, phonics, and oral reading fluency. Results demonstrate that,on average, students with ID, even those with IQs in the moderate range, learn basic reading skills given consistent, explicit, and comprehensive reading instruction across an extended period of time”.

Allor, J.L., Mathes, P.G., Roberts, K., Cheatham, J.P., & Champlin, T.M. (2010). Comprehensive reading instruction for students with intellectual disabilities: Findings from the first three years of a longitudinal study. Psychology in the Schools, 47(5), 445-466.


“A series of phonemic awareness (PA) and single-word reading tasks, which did not require spoken responses, was developed for administration to people with complex communication needs. The aims of the study were to (a) determine the construct validity of the PA tasks and (b) investigate the relationship between PA and single-word reading in adults with complex communication needs. Forty adults with physical and/or intellectual disability were administered these tasks and a standardized measure of receptive spoken vocabulary. In assessing construct validity, data from all participants, including those who used speech, were included in a factor analysis, which indicated that the PA tasks loaded onto a single factor. This factor was interpreted to be PA. The relationship between PA and single-word reading in adults with complex communication needs was determined using correlational and multiple regression analyses of data from 34 of the original participants who did not have functional speech skills. These analyses indicated that receptive spoken vocabulary accounted for a significant amount of variance on most tasks. Additional significant variance in performance on the single-word reading tasks was accounted for by performance on the PA tasks, in particular, Nonword Blending and Phoneme Analysis. These results indicate that the tasks developed provide a valid means of assessing PA and single-word reading skills. In addition, the results indicate that adults with complex communication needs demonstrate the same positive association between PA and reading as has been found in other groups of individuals with and without disability”.

Iacono, T., & Cupples, L. (2004). Assessment of phonemic awareness and word reading skills of people with complex communication needs. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 47(2), 437-449.


“The bottom line is that the role of mental age is not one of limiting what a child can learn but of limiting the ways in which they can be effectively taught”.

Adams, M. J. (1990). Beginning to read: Thinking & learning about print. Cambridge, M.A: MIT Press.


Concluding their recent comprehensive review of research on reading instruction Browder, Wakeman, Spooner, Ahlgrim, Delzell, and Algozzine (2006) recommended involving individuals with significant cognitive disabilities in a comprehensive, longitudinal literacy instruction that focuses on all components of reading (p. 404). Different components highlighted were vocabulary development, fluency, comprehension, phonics, and phonemic awareness. This was in support of National Research Council (NRC, 1998) and National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHHD 2000) that also recommended such approach to reading instruction for students. Realizing the need for systematic reading instruction NRC emphasized effective reading instruction to include adequate initial reading instruction that comprises opportunities for obtaining meaning from print, opportunities to read, and spelling-sound relationship. NICHHD reported the National Reading Panel's (NRP) recommendations for a reading approach to include 1) alphabetics (phonemic awareness instruction & phonics), 2) fluency (guided oral reading & independent silent reading), and 3) comprehension (vocabulary instruction & text comprehension instruction). In their study, The New Science of Reading and Its Implications for the Classroom, Shaywitz and Shaywitz (2004) emphasized it is not sufficient to present different components and foundational skills of reading casually and matter of factly; the skills acquired should be translated into higher order skills. Using methods where children are given opportunity to transfer /translate the foundational skills into higher order skills, these authors assert that just about every child can be taught to read”.

Rao, S. (2009). From isolation to combination: A multilevel, multicomponent approach to developing literacy skills of students with cognitive impairment. Reading Improvement, 46(2), 63-79.


"As students with milder disabilities are increasingly enrolled in inclusive school environments, it is necessary for teachers to develop strategies that consider the needs of all learners. Teachers should use empirically sound instructional strategies not only for typical learners but also for those who have special learning needs. Many students with learning difficulties or disabilities and/ or emotional and behavioural difficulties do not keep up with academic learning in regular classes and are at increased risk of dropping out of school. Academic learning is strongly related to active engagement (or time on task), so strategies that increase active engagement are likely to improve academic outcomes not only for students with disabilities, but for other students as well. This article reviews the literature on the efficacy of response cards in improving student social and academic performance. Eleven small-n design studies are overviewed and synthesised in order to extract the pertinent elements applicable to the improvements in student responding and learning during whole-group instruction. The majority of the studies compared the use of response-cards with the more traditional use of hand-raising as a means of student responding. Event-recording and time-sampling were used to measure classroom behaviour. Quiz and test scores were used to measure academic achievement. The use of response cards was shown to increase quiz and test scores, and keep students more on-task. Several studies noted a preference for response cards among both students and teachers. The importance of active student response and its effect on student academic and social performance is discussed. Limitations of studies are discussed and possibilities for future research are presented”.

Munro, D.W., & Stephenson, J. (2009). Response cards: An effective strategy for increasing student participation, achievement, and on-task behaviour. Special Education Perspectives, 18(1), 16-34.


“The use of a three-step decoding strategy with constant time delay for teaching decoding and word reading to students with mild and moderate mental retardation was investigated in this study. A multiple probe design was used to examine the percentage of words correctly decoded and read as well as the percentage of sounds correctly decoded. The data indicate that all five students learned to read words using the three-step decoding strategy with constant time delay. This was replicated with increased learning efficiency using a second set of phonetically similar words. Implications of this study on phonological memory and reading ability are discussed”.

Cohen, E.T., Heller, K.W., Alberto, P., & Fredrick, L.D. (2008). Using a three-step decoding strategy with constant time delay to teach word reading to students with mild and moderate mental retardation. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 23, 67-78.


Study offers hope for children with mental retardation http://www.smu.edu/smunews/education/reading.asp

Patricia Mathes, SMU principal investigator and director of the Institute for Reading Research says a plethora of studies conducted over the last 25 years has demonstrated that children once assumed as unable to read, do learn to read when taught very carefully and with constant intervention.


“Current standards for the preparation and certification of special education teachers do not provide guidelines about instructional strategies for teaching reading to students with mental retardation”.

Al Otaiba, S., & Hosp, M.K. (2004). Providing effective literacy instruction to students with Down Syndrome. Teaching Exceptional Children, 36(4), 28.


“One of the difficulties of teaching communication to children with mental retardation or autism, particularly to those with severe deficits, is the extent to which each skill seems to need to be analyzed and taught separately. Independent research from two different laboratories now confirms the ability of persons with mental retardation and developmental disabilities to learn whole new classes of language, rather than having to depend on word-by-word instruction. One laboratory has identified the importance of certain teachable prerequisite skills such as distal gestures, the concept of equivalence, and the ability to instruct oneself in this process. The other has shown that individuals with even the most severe cognitive and language impairments can rapidly learn new words (or other symbols) not explicitly taught, if the task, setting, and teaching demands are structured in such a way as to encourage this less dependent learning (emergent mapping). Other research has demonstrated the effectiveness in facilitating verbal language of training parents to exploit the possibilities of the home environment to increase both language learning and language use”.

National Institutes for Health (1997). Report to the NACHHD Council. The Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Branch. Retrieved 11/9/2000 from http://www.nichd.nih.gov/publications/pubs/coun_mrdd.htm


See below for evidence that programs effective for other populations are also appropriate with students with intellectual disability:

"Initially established with learners of more average abilities (for) learning basic skills, these (effective) teaching practices have also been shown to be strongly related to achievement of students with mild mental retardation.....A substantial amount of research evidence now supports the effectiveness of this approach for special education."

Scruggs, T. & Mastropieri, K. (1993). Teaching students with mild mental retardation. In R. Gable and & S. Warren (Eds.), Advances in mental retardation and developmental disabilities: Strategies for teaching students with mild to severe mental retardation.Vol.5. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley.


"... the areas discussed may be viewed as illustrations of the general applicability of effective instructional methods … The similarity of teaching methods suggests that principles underlying effective instruction may be more influential in the process of learning than the special characteristics of any particular student population."

O'Neill, R. & Dunlap, G. DI principles in teaching autistic children. Direct Instruction News, Spring. 1984.


"Effective reading programmes are not differentially effective - they are equally effective for all groups of children" (p. 234).

Goyen, J. (1992). Diagnosis of reading problems: Is there a case? Educational Psychology. 12, 225-237.


“Two issues dominate special education for students with intellectual disabilities in the early 21st century. First, what should be taught to such students and who should teach them? Second, where should such students be taught - in 'inclusive' settings alongside normal peers or in special settings dedicated to their special needs? Research on teaching reading, arithmetic, and functional daily living skills to students with disabilities suggests the superiority of direct, systematic instruction. Universal design is often seen as supportive of inclusion. Inclusion has been seen as the central issue in special education but is gradually giving way to concern for what students learn. … Direct, systematic instruction in reading, arithmetic, and daily living skills is the most effective approach to teaching students with intellectual disabilities. Basic concepts and logic suggest that special and general education cannot be equivalent. We conclude that what students are taught should be put ahead of where they are taught. Our fundamental concern is that students with intellectual disabilities be respected and be taught all they can learn”.

Kauffman, J.M. (2009). Special education for intellectual disability: Current trends and perspectives. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 22(5), 452-456.


"Abstract: Constructivist literature has become increasingly prominent in the area of special education. The nature of constructivism and its relevance and limitations for students with special needs is discussed, as is the importance of appropriate research in determining the efficacy of instructional interventions. A search of the literature into the efficacy of constructivism for students with special needs in K-12 settings revealed a predominance of descriptive and discussion-based research and very limited experimental research. The limited existing experimental research indicates that constructivist instructional approaches may have circumscribed applications in special education. Specifically, they may be appropriate to applications for students with learning difficulties in areas such as science education. Nevertheless, there are major methodological and interpretative problems that undermine confidence in the existing body of research. These problems include an absence of adequate procedural reliability data, interventions that often involve teaching single or very small groups of students, and conditions that do not approximate regular classrooms. There is also evidence suggesting that constructivist approaches may be inappropriate and ineffective for students with intellectual disabilities. The need for considerable caution and extensive further research in this area is evident, in light of the ready adoption of constructivism in schools and the increase of constructivist literature”.

Apps, M., & Carter, M. (2006). When all is said and done, more is said than done: Research examining constructivist instruction for students with special needs. Australasian Journal of Special Education; 30(2), 107-125.


“It is concluded that regardless of the setting (regular or special classroom), the key to achievement gain by low-achieving students is maximizing the time that they spend being actively instructed or supervised by their teachers. The educational programs likely to be most effective with these students are programs developed on the basis of general principles of good instruction rather than programs designed from the beginning as responses to special needs or learning deficits diagnosed in compensatory education students”.

Brophy, J. (1988). Research linking teacher behavior to student achievement: Potential implications for instruction of Chapter 1 students. Educational Psychologist, 23(3), 235-286.


“IQ has a moderate correlation with achievement, but this does not translate to a conceptual model in which IQ is a robust determinant or cause of achievement. Indeed, there is considerable evidence that the cognitive problems that reduce achievement (e.g., language) also reduce IQ. Children who don't learn to read show declines in IQ over time. IQ tests measure skills that are taught in school, such as vocabulary and critical reasoning. If IQ tests measured skills like phonological awareness and rapid naming, many children with reading problems would obtain substantially lower scores”.

Stuebing, K.K., Barth, A.E., Molfese, P.J., Weiss, B., & Fletcher, J.M. (2009). IQ is not strongly related to response to reading instruction: A meta-analytic interpretation. Exceptional Children, 76(1), 31-52.


“A review of research into the acquisition of phonological awareness skills in individuals with intellectual disabilities, the relationship between phonological awareness and reading in these individuals and the effect of phonological awareness training on the development of their phonological skills is presented. Research indicates that children with intellectual disabilities may take a different path to that of typically developing children in the acquisition of phonological skills. Despite this, there is more similarity than difference between the two groups in the relationship between phonological awareness and the acquisition of reading, the indication being that there is a positive relationship between phonological awareness and reading acquisition for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Moreover, the components of phonological awareness that can be associated with the acquisition of reading are similar for both groups. Limited data indicate that, as with typically developing children, the reading related skills of individuals with intellectual disabilities can be developed through explicit instruction that includes a phonological awareness component”.

Kyoung, K. & Kemp, C. (2006). The acquisition of phonological awareness and its relationship to reading in individuals with intellectual disabilities. Australasian Journal of Special Education, 30(1), 86-99.


“Further, recent studies also show that students with low IQs, including those who are nonverbal, respond positively to intensive, individualized, comprehensive research-based reading instruction (Browder, Ahlgrim-Delzell, Courtade, Gibbs, & Flowers, 2008; Browder, Ahlgrim-Delzell, Flowers, & Baker, 2012; Lemons & Fuchs, 2010)” (p.288).

Allor, J. H., Mathes, P. G., Roberts, J. K., Cheatham, J. P., & Al Otaiba, S. (2014). Is scientifically based reading instruction effective for students with below-average IQs? Exceptional Children, 80(3), 287-306.


The message is that curriculum design is more than the selection of instructional content, it is the organization of that content to promote learning. The efficient use of instructional time, and the efficient design of instruction is of greatest importance for those students who have the greatest difficulty learning. … We have focused our discussion of educational strategies around the fundamental vision that students with severe disabilities have the same type of goals as regular students. The way that curricula are developed, instruction delivered, and teaching systems organized will have a major impact on the success of education for students with severe disabilities”.

Horner, R.H., Flannery, K.B., & Snell, M. (1993). Educational strategies for students with severe intellectual disabilities. National Center to Improve the Tools of Educators. Retrieved from http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/14/28/fb.pdf


“Students with low cognitive ability, those with learning difficulties and those from disadvantaged backgrounds require highly structured, systematic and explicit instructional approaches”.

Ysseldyke, J., & Algozzine, B. (1984). Introduction to special education. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.


Evidence that Direct Instruction programs have been successful with students with intellectual disability:


“Results of this study demonstrate that students identified as functioning in the range of MOID are capable of learning word analysis skills such as (a) identifying letter sound correspondence, (b) sounding out words, (c) blending sounds to read words, (d) decoding irregularly spelled words, (e) reading sentences, and (f) reading short passages at approximately the second grade level. These results substantiate the efficacy of explicit instruction in letter-sound correspondence for middle school students with MOID, and extend the research with the Corrective Reading Program to students at this level of functioning. The finding that students with MOID are capable of learning word attack skills is consistent with previous studies (Conners, 1992; Katims, 2000), and confirms that students with intellectual disabilities can benefit from phonics instruction (Joseph & McCachran, 2003). These results extend the research regarding the systematic instruction of letter-sound correspondence through the Corrective Reading Program to students with MOID. This research was previously limited to students with limited English, learning disabilities, emotional/behavioral disabilities, and mild intellectual disabilities. Additionally, this finding is similar to other research using DI with students with a range of abilities (Flores et al., 2004; Gersten et al., 1986; Polloway et al., 1986).” (p.341)

Bradford, S., Shippen, M. E., Alberto, R, Houchins, D. E., & Flores, M. (2006). Using systematic instruction to teach decoding skills to middle school students with moderate intellectual disabilities. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 41, 333-343.


“Bracey et al. (1975) demonstrated long ago that children with MoID can learn phonetic decoding skills. Through the use of a Direct Instruction (DI) program, Distar Reading (Engelmann & Bruner, 1969), students learned letter-sound correspondences, blended sounds into words, and spelled words using their sounds. Results in another early study by Nietupski et al. (1979), revealed that students with MoID could learn letter-sound correspondences through explicit instruction although not specifically a DI program. These early findings are supported in more recent research. Working with middle-school students, Bradford, Shippen, Alberto, Houchins, and Flores (2006) demonstrated that students with MoID are capable of learning word-analysis skills including (a) lettersound correspondences, (b) sounding out words, (c) blending sounds, (d) decoding irregularly spelled words, and (e) reading sentences and short passages at approximately a second-grade level. In only 6 months, these middle-school students learned phonetic decoding skills through the use of the DI Corrective Reading Program (Engelmann, Becker, Hanner, & Johnson, 1980), substantiating findings by Conners (1992) and Katims (2000). Working with elementary-school students with MoID, Flores, Shippen, Alberto, and Crowe (2004) used systematic and explicit instruction to teach phonetic decoding by incorporating modified sequences and formats of the DI program, Corrective Reading: Word-Attack Basics, Decoding A (Engelmann, Carnine, & Johnson, 1988). All five of the students learned letter-sound correspondences, blending, and sounding out. All but one student mastered the four sounds taught and were able to blend the sounds slowly on both instructional and generalization words; however, they struggled with telescoping. Only one student was able to telescope novel consonant- vowel-consonant (CVC) words” (p.50).

Fredrick, L.D., Davis, D.H., Alberto, P.A., & Waugh, R.E. (2013). From initial phonics to functional phonics: Teaching word-analysis skills to students with moderate intellectual disability. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 48(1), 49–66.


“Direct instruction is a systematic instructional method that includes step-by-step instruction and varied amounts of practice based on assessment of student performance that leads to student mastery of concepts and skills. There is evidence that these methods are effective when used for teaching students with moderate disabilities to decode and build comprehension skills. The direct instruction method is also referred to as explicit instruction” (p.17).

 Houston, D., & Torgesen, J. (2004). Teaching students with moderate disabilities to read:Insights from research. Bureau of Instructional Support and Community Services: Florida Department of Education.


"The documented success .... of direct instruction reading programs with thousands of hard-to-teach and high-risk children is unsurpassed in the annals of reading history."

Bateman, B. (1991). Teaching word recognition to slow learning children. Reading, Writing & Learning Disabilities, 7, 1-16.


Adams & Englemann' (1996) meta-analysis resulted in an effect size of 0.69 for the 44 acceptable comparisons involving the Direct Instruction program Reading Mastery. Across DI programs, the average effect size for 173 comparisons was 0.87. In White’s 1988 DI meta-analysis involved learning disabled, intellectually disabled, and reading disabled students, the average effect size for Direct Instruction programs was .84. A similar meta-analysis of the effectiveness of the whole language approach to reading found an effect size of only 0.09 (Stahl & Miller, 1989). An effect size of 1 means a gain of 1 standard deviation - equivalent of a year’s progress (0.8 is a large effect size, 0.5-0.8 is a medium effect size, and less than .5 is a small effect size).

Adams, G., & Engelmann, S. (1996). Research on Direct Instruction: 25 years beyond DISTAR. Seattle, WA: Educational Achievement Systems.


Hattie examines meta-analyses of research studies relating to student achievement, and concludes that Direct Instruction is highly effective. No other curricular program showed such consistently strong effects with students of different ability levels, of different ages, and with different subject matters.

“One of the common criticisms is that Direct Instruction works with very low-level or specific skills, and with lower ability and the youngest students. These are not the findings from the meta-analyses. The effects of Direct Instruction are similar for regular (d=0.99), and special education and lower ability students (d=0.86), higher for reading (d=0.89) than for mathematics (d=0.50), similar for the more low-level word attack (d=0.64) and also for high-level comprehension (d=0.54), and similar for elementary and high school students .The messages of these meta-analyses on Direction Instruction underline the power of stating the learning intentions and success criteria, and then engaging students in moving towards these. The teacher needs to invite the students to learn, provide much deliberative practice and modeling, and provide appropriate feedback and multiple opportunities to learn. Students need opportunities for independent practice, and then there need to be opportunities to learn the skill or knowledge implicit in the learning intention in contexts other than those directly taught” (pp. 206-7).

Hattie, J. A.C. (2009). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. London and New York: Routledge.


“The research literature indicates that (direct instruction) facilitates the acquisition of reading skills. This kind of instruction has been very successful with regular students (Winograd & Hare, 1988). Similarly, it has been applied successfully in teaching students with mild disabilities (Frudden & Healy, 1987; Larrivee, 1989)” (p.24).

Blanton, L.P. & Blanton, W.E. (1994). Providing reading instruction to mildly disabled students: Research into practice. In K.D. Wood & B. Algozzine (Eds.) Teaching reading to high-risk learners: A unified perspective. MA: Allyn & Bacon.


“Even students who would be predicted to have low levels of achievement benefit greatly from Direct Instruction. Gersten, Becker, Heiry, and White (1984) examined the yearly achievement test profiles of students in Direct Instruction classrooms to determine whether annual gains made by students with low IQ scores differed significantly from the gains made by students with average or superior IQ scores. Figure 2.11 shows the yearly gains made by students as measured by the Wide Range Achievement Test. As shown in this figure, students with higher IQ test scores started at higher achievement levels and ended with higher levels than their peers with lower scores. However, the pattern of growth os students with low IQ scores is remarkably similar to that of other students. The group with the lowest scores (under 70) gained nearly as much each year in reading as students with much higher scores. By the end of third grade, those students were performing at the 70th percentile, or at a grade equivalent of 4.3” (p.98-9).

 Watkins, C., & Slocum, T. (2003). The components of Direct Instruction. Journal Of Direct Instruction, 3(2), 75-110. Retrieved from http://www.adihome.org/research-a-topic/jodi/doc_download/554-the-components-of-direct-instruction


A number of Direct Instruction studies in recent times have focussed upon what might be called the microskills associated with literacy. For example,

Hicks et al. (2011) successfully used experimenter designed DI scripts to teach prepositions to students with intellectual disability.

Hicks, S. C., Stevenson, K. M., Wood, C. L., Cooke, N. L., & Mims, P. J. (2011). Effects of direct instruction on the acquisition of prepositions by students with an intellectual disability. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44, 675-679.


Fjortoft et al. (2014) developed DI flashcards to assist the development of letter recognition and letter writing in a multiple baseline design.

Fjortoft, A., McLaughlin, T.F., Derby, M., Everson, M., & Johnson, K. (2014). The effects of two Direct Instruction teaching procedures to basic skills to two students with disabilities. REMIE – Multidisciplinary Journal of Educational Research, 4(2), 151-181


Frederick et al. (2013) “developed a 2-part, phonetic instructional sequence based upon Direct Instruction teaching methodology to teach students with MoID word-analysis skills that generalize to untaught words encountered in their environment” (p.49).

Fredrick, L.D., Davis, D.H., Alberto, P.A., & Waugh, R.E. (2013). From initial phonics to functional phonics: Teaching word-analysis skills to students with moderate intellectual disability. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 48(1), 49–66.


Flores and colleagues (2007, 2009, 2013) have been using Corrective Reading: Thinking Basics to teach a variety of comprehension skills.

Flores, M. M., Nelson, C., Hinton, V., Franklin, T.M., Strozier, S.D., Terry, L-T., & Franklin, S. (2013). Teaching reading comprehension and language skills to students with autism spectrum disorders and developmental disabilities using Direct Instruction. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 48(1), 41–48.

Ganz, J. B., Flores, M. M. (2009). The effectiveness of Direct Instruction for teaching language to children with autism spectrum disorders: Identifying materials. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 39(1), 75-83.

Flores, M. M., & Ganz, J. B. (2009). The effects of Direct Instruction on the reading comprehension of students with autism and developmental disabilities. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 44(1), 39-53 .

Flores, M. M., & Ganz, J. B. (2007). The effectiveness of Direct Instruction for teaching reading comprehension to students with developmental disabilities: Statement inference, using facts and analogies. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 22(4), 244-251.


Flores and colleagues (2004, 2006) also focused upon decoding skills using Corrective Reading Decoding, Level A; whereas, Peterson, Marchand-Martella, and Martella (2008) reported on a case study employing Corrective Reading Decoding B1.

Bradford, S., Alberto, A., Shippen, M., Houchins, D., & Flores, M. (2006). Teaching reading decoding through Direct Instruction to middle school students with moderate intellectual disabilities. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 41, 333-343.

Flores, M. M., Shippen, M. E., Alberto, A., & Crowe, L. (2004). Teaching reading decoding to elementary students with moderate intellectual disabilities. Journal of Direct Instruction, 4(2), 173-188.

Peterson, J.L., Marchand-Martella, N.E., Martella, R.C. (2008). Assessing the effects of "Corrective Reading Decoding B1" with a high school student with intellectual and developmental disabilities: A case study. Journal of Direct Instruction, 8(1), 41-52.


There are a number of studies reporting the success of DISTAR Language (the precursor to Language for Learning) with intellectually disabled children. 

Cole, K. N., & Dale, P. S. (1986). Direct language instruction and interactive language instruction with language delayed children: A comparison study. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 29, 206-217.

Cole, K. N., Dale, P. A., & Mills, P. E. (1991). Individual difference in language delayed children’s responses to direct and interactive preschool instruction. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 11, 99-124.

Cole, K. N., Dale, P. A., Mills, P. E., & Jenkins, J. R. (1993). Interaction between early intervention curricula and student characteristics. Exceptional Children, 60, 7-28.

Darch, C., Gersten, R., & Taylor, R. (1987). Evaluation of Williamburg County Direct Instruction Program: Factors leading to success in rural elementary programs. Research in Rural Education, 4, 111-118.

Mitchell, M., Evans, C., & Bernard, J. (1978). Trainable children can learn adjective, polars, and prepositions. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in the Schools, 8, 181-187.


Some early studies on Direct Instruction with students with intellectual disability assessed outcomes on several cognitive skills:

Gersten & Maggs (1982) used the Binet to assess cognitive development arising out of DI instruction. There was a mean IQ shift over 5 years from IQ 41 to IQ 51. They had taught Distar Language 1, 2, 3 and Distar Reading 1, 2, 3. They also assessed with the Baldie Language Ability Test (Baldie, 1978), and the Neale Analysis of Reading (Revised edition is Neale, 1988). On the Baldie, the students on average achieved at a nine year old level, and on the Neale (rate, accuracy, comprehension) at 7.6 years. The age range of students at the commencement was 8 years to 12.6 years.

Maggs and Morath (1976a) provided one hour/day Distar Language to 14 students and Peabody Language kit similarly to another 14 students - ages 6 years to 14 years with an IQ range of 20-45. Binet gains over 2 years were 22.5 months for Distar and 7.5 months for Peabody.

Bracey, Maggs, and Morath (1975) Used Distar Reading 1 with 6 students (7-14 years) with moderate intellectual disability. On the program mastery tests, 14 out of 19 showed significant differences between pre and post test.

Booth et al. (1979) used Distar Reading 1, 2, 3 with 6 students (7-14 years) with moderate intellectual disability over 32 months. On average, students were achieving at a Grade 3 level on the Neale Analysis at the conclusion.

Maggs and Morath (1975) used Distar Reading 1 with 130 students (6-16 years) with moderate intellectual disability. They showed significant progress on the Binet and across a range of language oriented tests.

Maggs and Morath (1976b) provided Distar Reading 1 with 128 students (6-18 years) with moderate and severe intellectual disability over 32 months. On average, they showed significant progress across a range of language oriented tests.

References for the above annotations:

Baldie, B. (1978). Baldie Language Ability test. Nth. Ryde, Australia: MacQuarie University.

Booth, A., Hewitt, D., Jenkins, W., & Maggs, A. (1979) Making retarded children literate: A five year study, Australian Journal of Mental Retardation, 5(7), 257-260.

Bracey, S., Maggs, A., & Morath, P. (1975). The effects of a direct phonic approach in teaching reading with six moderately retarded children: acquisition and mastery learning stages 1, 2, The Slow Learning Child, 22. 83-90.

Gersten, R. M. (1985). Direct instruction with special education students: A review of evaluation research. Journal of Special Education, 19(1), 41-58.

Gersten, R.M., & Maggs, A. (1982). Five years longitudinal study of cognitive development of moderately retarded children in a direct instruction program. Unpublished manuscript. It may have been published as: Gersten, R.M., & Maggs, A. (1982). Teaching the general case to moderately retarded children in a direct instruction program: Evaluation of a five year program. Analysis and Intervention in Developmental Disabilities, 2, 329-334.

Maggs, A. & Morath, P. (1976a). The effects of direct verbal instruction on intellectual development of institutionalised moderately retarded children: A two year study. Journal of Special Education, 10, 357-364.

Maggs, A., & Morath, P. (1975). Improving problem solving skills in 130 moderately retarded and severely retarded school-aged children. Rehabilitation in Australia, 12, 22-34.

Maggs, A., & Morath, P. (1976b). Use of experimental kits among children with moderate mental retardation, Schools Commission Innovations Program, 74/33, 1-43.

Neale, M. D. (1988). Neale Analysis of Reading Ability Revised. Hawthorn, Australia: ACER.


See also: Clunies-Ross, G. (1979). Accelerating the development of Down's Syndrome infants and children. Journal of Special Education, 13, 169-177.

At RMIT University, Melbourne in the seventies the Education Program for Infants and Children (EPIC) was established by Dr Graham Clunies-Ross, who was impressed by the preschool work of Engelmann. The paper describes the development of 36 Down syndrome infants and children (ages 3-35 months) involved in the early intervention project (Distar Reading) for periods ranging between four months and two years.


This study examined the effectiveness of the use of the Corrective Reading Program with a group of students with mildly intellectual disabilities. The authors collected data on achievement in reading recognition and comprehension domains. The group showed significantly greater improvement than in prior years.

Polloway, E. A., Epstein, M. H., Polloway, C. H., Patton, J. R., & Ball, D. W. (1986). Corrective reading program: An analysis of effectiveness with learning disabled and mentally retarded students. RASE, 7(4), 41-47.


The Policy Statement on Literacy for People with Mental Retardation (A.A.M.R., 2001) states:

“There exists a present and growing body of scientific and practical evidence that people with mental retardation can learn to become meaningful literate. …Educational methods, materials, techniques, and technologies are readily available to significantly improve the literacy of the majority of people with mental retardation. … All people with mental retardation must have access to educational programs that emphasize meaningful literacy through their lifetime”.
http://www.ldadvocates.com/Support_Children_with_Low_IQ_to_Read.htm


Traumatic Brain Injury

Literacy expectations for persons with cognitive impairments, including impairments caused by traumatic brain injury (TBI), have remained quite low. Some researchers have suggested that educators move from a focus on teaching functional skills to teaching basic reading skills in a manner similar to instruction for nondisabled learners. The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of basic reading strategies on reading skills for an adult with cognitive impairments caused by TBI while using formative assessment to inform instructional decision making. The findings suggest that persons with traumatic brain injury resulting in cognitive and memory impairments may have the potential to learn basic reading skills, even years after a TBI has occurred.

Goddard, Y., & Rinderknecht, L. (2009). Using basic reading skills instruction and formative assessments to teach an adult with traumatic brain injury to read: A case study. Remedial and Special Education, 30(5), 283 - 299.


Glang, Singer, Cooley, and Tish (1991) used a single subject design to evaluate the effects of Direct Instruction with subjects who had suffered traumatic brain injury. Corrective Reading - Comprehension, Level A was used to teach reasoning to one child. After 13 instructional sessions, the eight-year-old child improved his ability to make deductions from a baseline of 6.7% accuracy to mastery.

Glang, A., Singer, G.,Cooley, E., & Tish, N. (1991). Direct instruction: Applications with students with brain injury. Association for Direct Instruction News, 11(1), 23-28.

Glang, A., Singer, G., Cooley, E., & Tish, N. (1992). Tailoring direct instruction techniques for use with elementary students with brain injury. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation, 7(4), 93-108.


Below is an account of one DI case study:

The use of a direct instruction reading program to tutor an adult with a moderate intellectual disability - Kerry Hempenstall

ABSTRACT

This case study involved teaching a Direct Instruction program (Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons) to an adult with moderate intellectual disability. Lessons were presented by the client’s community carers under supervision of the RMIT University Psychology Clinic. Unfortunately, after 31 completed lessons (131 sessions over almost 12 months), the program was discontinued. By this time, the client knew the sounds of all 16 letters and 63 words taught to that stage. She was reading short decodable passages with appropriate comprehension, and had increased her store of letter sounds and words.

The paper was prompted by a question on a Discussion List: “Could any of the reading programs mentioned in this group be used for a 7 year old with Down Syndrome? My daughter has been stuck at the same level for a year and needs help to move on, but so far nothing has worked. She knows phonics, a few blends and about 50 whole words. She attends mainstream school and is taught using the same method as the other children but at her level. If anyone has any experience in this area I would be grateful for some advice”.

The RMIT Psychology Clinic was established primarily to provide clinic experience for Masters and Doctoral students and also to provide a low cost psychology service to the community. It provides for child, adolescent and adult referrals, and about one third of those referred request educational assistance, most involving reading difficulties. Without the resources to provide the necessary teaching to these students, much of our work in these cases comprises assessment followed by educational programming - using proxy intervention agents, usually parents (though sometimes other family members, teachers, and tutors).

In the Clinic, students train the designated agent to use Direct Instruction programs. These programs do not require knowledge of reading instruction for effective implementation as they are completely scripted. For the beginning reader, the Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons program (Engelmann, Haddox & Bruner, 1983) has been successfully employed for many years (Hempenstall, 2002). This program is written for parents and is based on the original teacher-directed program, Reading Mastery 1 and 2 (Engelmann & Bruner, 1984). In the Clinic, and at schools, training has been provided to parents, volunteers, and teachers to successfully implement this program in an individual or group format. Apart from initial training, the Clinic model involves monitoring of the presenters’ skills, on-going support, and a variety of pre- and post-test evaluation strategies. The success of the program is heavily dependent upon treatment fidelity, thus the necessity of continued support. This overseeing role has an important secondary effect of enhancing the willpower necessary to achieve success. Our experience has been that without this continued Clinic role, programs are often discontinued prematurely, or are altered to the extent that success is jeopardized.

The approach to training involves the following sequence: the clinician provides information about the program; the clinician demonstrates the program - with the parent/tutor initially acting as the student; role-reversal, in which the parent/tutor teaches the clinician (who provides feedback); the clinician teaches the student; finally the parent/tutor teaches the student (with clinician feedback). This process of demonstration-practice-feedback continues until the clinician is satisfied that the parent/tutor is able to correctly present the program. At least one complete session is devoted to this sequence; usually another session (one week later) is scheduled before the parent/tutor is asked to commence the 5 times per week program implementation at home. During this week the parent/tutor practises the various tasks in the first couple of lessons. The training of two parent/tutors is advantageous because it reduces the load on one, reduces the problems of student reluctance, and allows for supportive collaboration - all of which may enhance program endurance.

Follow-up sessions are (typically) weekly for the first two weeks, fading to fortnightly for two subsequent visits, then monthly until the program is completed. The amount of support parent/tutors require varies from case to case. Parent/tutors are asked to tape-record the first, 50th and 100th lessons, as such recordings can provide a more dramatic indication of progress than the standardized pre- and post-test results. Additionally, Mastery tests (adapted from the Reading Mastery series) can be given at 2 lesson intervals to detect any teaching/learning problems before errors become entrenched and progress stalls. At the end of the intervention post testing involves repeating the original test battery to note changes wrought by the program.

In this case, the referral arose from an adult literacy centre requesting assessment in order to determine whether a particular person with an intellectual disability (Alice) could be taught to read. Such a question reflects the low level of awareness of the potential of evidence-based practice to assist a wide range of learners. Indeed, little attempt is made to teach reading to intellectually disabled individuals in Australia (Van Kraayenoord, 1994).

In cases where efforts have been made to assist, interventions usually provide a simple list of survival words to be taught; however, these are taught as whole words (equivalent to pictures), rather than as ordered groupings of letters (Browder & Xin, 1998; Katims, 2000). Alternatively, attempts are to tailor whole language strategies to this population (Van Kraayenoord, 1994). In these settings, teaching phonic principles is not usually considered appropriate, and hence, no generative literacy skills are developed in the clients. Thus, even if the individual learns to identify a limited number of taught words, there will be little or no generalisation to untaught words (Kay-Raining Bird, Cleave, & McConnell, 2000).

Alice wanted to learn in order to read magazines and newspapers, a task that requires mastery of the alphabetic principle - that letters and letter combinations map directly onto sounds. There is little research published on methods of teaching individuals with a moderate intellectual disability to read, but there are some encouraging signs. Also at RMIT University is an early intervention program called EPIC, which has used intensive direct instruction programs for children with Down syndrome from age 18 months (Clunies-Ross, 1988). It continues with such instruction until school commencement, and then provides transition follow-up. Unfortunately, for many of those children their excellent progress under the regimen of the Direct Instruction programs falters when they reach the rather less structured atmosphere of the typical Australian classroom.

One reason for the doubt about the feasibility of teaching reading at this level of disability is the underlying lack of vocabulary presumed to limit the understanding of that which may be correctly decoded. What is the point of correctly pronouncing words that one has never met before in spoken language? It should be noted however that the Alice's language skills approximated those of a kindergarten or first grade student - precisely the time at which reading instruction usually commences. Additionally, reading becomes for most students the vehicle for the majority of their vocabulary development; thus, it was anticipated that Alice’s vocabulary would increase as a consequence of her reading.

Another issue involves the level of determination needed to maintain the effort over an anticipated long period of time to produce real and worthwhile gains. Fortunately, Alice was a strong willed person whose interest in learning to read was not a whim, but a deeply held desire. She was a relatively independent person - living with a similarly disabled friend, and having a full-time position in an electrical assembly plant to which she travelled alone each day.

Training of two tutors in the presentation of the program ensued, and monitoring was maintained over the 12 month period of the intervention. Two lessons from each tutor per week was the average rate of presentation of the program, less than the recommended 5 times per week. The tutors' presentation skills grew dramatically as assessed on a teacher behaviour scale (Bird, Fitzgerald & Fitzgerald, 1994) at regular intervals, and there were numerous hurdles to be overcome as the program progressed, some related to the terminology used in the program. For example, continuous blends (mmmaaannn) rather than discontinuous blends (mmm-aaa-nnn) are important in promoting the correct pronunciation of a word from its blended parts. It was not until the tutors began to use the expression "slow and smooth" that the client understood what was required. A communication booklet was used to keep each tutor in touch with what the other was doing, and was the vehicle allowing for supervisor/Masters student discussion and resolution of problems as they arose. Videotapes of lessons were monitored by the author at regular intervals and suggestions for overcoming obstacles were conveyed to the tutors via the Masters student.

Outcomes were pleasing if hard won. Initially, lessons required about six actual sessions to reach mastery (reducing to four as the program progressed). Both tutors expressed their delight and satisfaction at the progress made by Alice. Near the conclusion of the intervention, one interchange between the tutors was illuminating. "Alice is moving in leaps and bounds…. It's very exciting about her progress". "Yes, she's doing amazing things". Alice, too, was enthusiastic about her own sense of developing mastery over print, and often commented about the letters in street signs and advertising hoardings that she had formerly recognised only as whole symbols, but had not understood alphabetically. Unfortunately, after 31 completed lessons (131 sessions over almost 12 months), the program was discontinued when the client’s partner became jealous of her progress, and refused to allow her further participation. As a consequence of this sudden action, neither further support nor formal post-testing was possible. Results, however, were evident to those who saw her improved reading behaviours. Alice knew the sounds of all 16 letters and 63 words taught to that stage. She was reading short decodable passages with appropriate comprehension, and had increased her store of letter sounds and words. She had not reached her objective of being able to read the newspaper but was picking out words that she knew, and attempting others of a decodable nature.

So, it appeared that the 100 Lessons program was a viable approach for Alice, a 40 year old woman with moderate intellectual disability. Further research with the program is, of course, needed. However, there is already a significant theoretical rationale for the strategies within the 100 Lessons program. Some of this rationale is outlined below in the form of an annotated bibliography.

Is there research to support the direct instruction approach? For which students has it been found effective?

“The decade of the 1990s will witness, in classrooms serving students with mild mental retardation, the implementation of a group of instructional methods often referred to as effective teaching practices or direct instruction, if we heed the literature published in this area over the past 15 years” (Hendrickson & Frank, 1993, p.11).

“The research literature indicates that (direct instruction) facilitates the acquisition of reading skills. This kind of instruction has been very successful with regular students (Winograd & Hare, 1988). Similarly, it has been applied successfully in teaching students with mild disabilities (Frudden & Healy, 1987; Larrivee, 1989)” (Blanton & Blanton, 1994, p. 24).

“Principles underlying effective instruction may be more influential in the process of learning than the special characteristics of any particular student population” (O'Neill & Dunlap, 1984).

 “We are beginning to realize that, for many children, direct instruction is required to help them understand how print maps to speech” (Blachman, 1991, p. 47).

“Direct instructional practices are 5 to 10 times more effective than the practices attempting to improve unobservable constructs, such as perception” (Kavale, 1990).

Summary of research findings on various reading interventions (Kavale, 1990).

Effect size: Strong > 0.5; Moderate 0.35 - 0.5; Weak < 0.35

  No. of studies Av. effect size
Perceptual-motor training 180 0.08
Modality instruction 39 0.14
Direct instruction 25 0.84

 How can a program developed for normal children be effective with adults with a disability?

“Effective reading programmes are not differentially effective - they are equally effective for all groups of children” (Goyen, 1992, p. 234).

“Phoneme segmentation ability was positively associated with early oral reading skill in a sample of intellectually disabled children, suggesting that these children learn to read in the same manner as normally developing children” (Cupples & Iacono, 2000).

“The critical variable is not age but stage. Whether child or adult, the path to facile reading appears to be similar. A number of studies involving adults with reading difficulties have revealed marked deficits in decoding” (Greenberg, Ehri, & Perin, 1997).

“There is no indication that taking a different approach based on age is warranted. Although the activities for improving decoding skills in older students will differ from those used with younger students, the skills that need to be learned remain the same” (Bruck, 1998).

 Why choose a phonic approach over a meaning-based or survival-reading approach?

“Findings from the literature review revealed that individuals with mental retardation have the potential to benefit from phonic analysis strategies and/or instruction. … Phonics programs such as DISTAR were found to be effective in helping children with moderate mental retardation sound out words and blend sounds (Bracey, Maggs, & Morath, 1975; Gersten & Maggs, 1982)” (Joseph & Seery, 2004).

“Rather than relying solely on sight word reading, our program combines phonological awareness, phonics, sight-word fluency, games, vocabulary, and comprehension, plus progress monitoring, and appears to be an appropriate model for teaching reading to students with Down syndrome. All but one student made gains in decoding between 7 months to over 3 years in just 10 weeks” (Al Otaiba & Hosp, 2004).

“Using carefully directed instruction, individuals with intellectual disability can develop decoding, a crucial reading skill – one considered difficult for this population. Emphasising phonological reading skills will pay off if the instruction is sufficiently intense and appropriately targeted” (Conners, Rosenquist, Sligh, Atwell, & Kiser, 2006).

“Prompted by the No Child Left Behind Act, the U.S. Department of Education has given $9 million in grants to Southern Methodist University, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Georgia State University to boost the reading scores of children with mental retardation. The expectation is that by learning to sound out and read words, and also to know what those words mean. Children with mental retardation will navigate more independently through life. “This research will break new ground in determining what levels of reading competence can be achieved by students who are moderately or mildly retarded,” says Patricia Mathes, SMU principal investigator and director of the Institute for Reading Research”. More information can be found at http://www.smu.edu/smunews/education/reading-research.asp

“In the novice or poor reader, comprehension is limited primarily by difficulties in deciphering print” (Lyon & Moats, 1997).

“The low aptitude children learn the phonics they are taught, and do not pick it up as a by-product of more general reading” (Barr & Dreeben, 1983).

“It might be prudent to tell children directly about the alphabetic principle since it appears unwise to rely on their discovery of it themselves. The apparent relative success of programs that do that (Bradley & Bryant, 1983; Byrne & Fielding-Barnsley, 1991, 1993, 1995) support the wisdom of direct instruction” (Byrne, 1996, p. 424).

Share and Stanovich (1995) consider the alphabetic period as crucial, and Share developed a self-teaching hypothesis in which each successful decoding encounter with an unfamiliar word provides an opportunity to acquire the word specific orthographic information that is the foundation of skilled word recognition and spelling. The authors assert that effortless whole word reading can only develop through multiple examples of success in phonic decoding, and the instructional emphasis for older students must still be placed on ensuring letter-sound correspondences, blending and segmenting, and adequate practice. This implies that whole-word recognition strategies should not be over-emphasised in teaching programs, and the instructional emphasis even for older students must still be placed on ensuring letter-sound correspondences, blending and segmenting, and practice.

Recent experimental support for the self-teaching hypothesis has been strong (Cunningham, 2006; Landi, Perfetti, Bolger, Dunlap, & Foorman, 2006; Levin, Shatil-Carmon, & Asif-Rave, 2006; Levy, Gong, Hessels, Evans, & Jared,2006; Share, 2004). Further support for this position is provided by brain imaging studies (Shaywitz et al., 2004) that highlight the importance of the parieto-temporal region of the brain. This region when activated by practice in sounding-out promotes the development of the occipito-temporal region that provides the rapid whole word or orthographic reading characteristic of fluent readers.

While much work remains to be completed with this population, the most parsimonious position is to assume that the reading task should define the instructional content regardless of variation in learner characteristics.


References:

Adams, M. J. (1990). Beginning to read: Thinking & learning about print. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Al Otaiba, S., & Hosp, M.K. (2004). Providing effective literacy instruction to students with Down Syndrome. Teaching Exceptional Children, 36(4), 28-35.

Barr, M. & Dreeben, R. (1983). How schools work. Chicago: U. of Chicago Press

Bateman, B. (1991). Teaching word recognition to slow learning children. Reading, Writing & Learning Disabilities, 7, 1-16.

Bird, C., Fitzgerald, E., & Fitzgerald, M. (1994). Teacher monitoring program. Bondi, NSW: The Mastery Learning Centre.

Blachman, B. A. (1991). Getting ready to read: Learning how print maps to speech. In J.F. Kavanagh (Ed.), The language continuum: From infancy to literacy (pp. 41-62). Parkton, Maryland: York Press.

Blanton, L.P., & Blanton, W.E. (1994). Providing reading instruction to mildly disabled students: Research into practice. In K.D. Wood & B. Algozzine (Eds.), Teaching reading to high-risk learners: A unified perspective (pp. 83-98). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Browder; D.M., & Xin, Y.P. (1998). A meta-analysis and review of sight word research and its implications for teaching functional reading to individuals with moderate and severe disabilities. Journal of Special Education, 32(3), 130-153.

Bruck, M. (1998). Outcomes of adults with childhood histories of dyslexia. In C. Hulme & R. M. Joshi (Eds.), Reading and spelling: Development and disorders (pp. 179-200). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Byrne, B. (1996). The learnability of the alphabetic principle: Children’s initial hypotheses about how print represents spoken speech. Applied Psycholinguistics, 17, 401-426.

Clunies-Ross, G. (1988, July). Direct Instruction and early intervention: A reply to Penney. Bulletin of The Australian Psychological Society, 3-5.

Conners, F.A., Rosenquist, C.J., Sligh, A.C., Atwell, J.A., & Kiser, T. (2006). Phonological reading skills acquisition by children with mental retardation. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 27(2), 121-37.

Cunningham, A.E. (2006). Accounting for children’s orthographic learning while reading text: Do children self-teach? Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 109(1), 39-57.

Cupples, L., & Iacono, T. (2000). Phonological awareness and oral reading skill in children with Down syndrome. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 43, 595-608.

Engelmann, S. (1995). Theory of mastery and acceleration. In John Lloyd, Edward Kameenui, and David Chard (Eds.), Issues in educating students with disabilities (pp.177-195). New York: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Engelmann, S., & Bruner, E. C. (1974). Distar Reading I and II. Chicago, Ill: Science Research Associates.

Engelmann, S., Haddox, P., & Bruner, E. C. (1983). Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Felton, R. H., & Wood, F. B. (1989). Cognitive deficits in reading disability and attention deficit disorder. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 22, 3-13.

Goyen, J. (1992). Diagnosis of reading problems: Is there a case? Educational Psychology, 12, 225-237.

Greenberg, D., Ehri, L. C., & Perin, D. (1997). Are word reading processes the same or different in adult literacy students and third-fifth graders matched for reading level? Journal of Educational Psychology, 89, 262-275.

Greenough, W.T. (1997). We can't focus just on ages zero to three. APA Monitor, 28, 19.

Hempenstall, K. (2002). Phonological processing and phonics: Towards an understanding of their relationship to each other and to reading development. Australian Journal of Learning Disabilities, 7(1), 4-29.

Hendrickson, J. M., & Frank A. R. (1993). Engagement and performance feedback: Enhancing the classroom achievement of students with mild mental disabilities. In. R. A. Gable & S. F. Warren (Eds.): Advances in mental retardation and developmental disabilities: Strategies for teaching students with mild to severe mental retardation (pp. 11-47). Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley.

Joseph, L.M., & Seery, M.E. (2004). Where is the phonics? A review of the literature on the use of phonetic analysis with students with mental retardation. Remedial and Special Education, 25(2), 88-94.

Katims, D. S. (2000). Literacy instruction for people with mental retardation. Historical highlights and contemporary analysis. Education and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, 35(1), 3-15.

Kavale, K.A. (1990). Variances & verities in learning disability interventions. In T. Scruggs & B. Wong (Eds.), Intervention research in learning disabilities (pp.3-33). New York: Springer Verlag.

Kay-Raining Bird, E., Cleave, P.L., & McConnell, L. (2000). Reading and phonological awareness in children with Down Syndrome: A longitudinal study. American Journal of Speech - Language Pathology, 9(4), 319-330.

Landi, N., Perfetti, C.A., Bolger, D.G., Dunlap, S. & Foorman, B.R. (2006). The role of discourse context in developing word form representations: A paradoxical relation between reading and learning. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 94(2), 114-133.

Levin, I., Shatil-Carmon, S., & Asif-Rave, O. (2006). Learning of letter names and sounds and their contribution to word recognition. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 93(2), 139-165.

Levy, B.A., Gong, Z., Hessels, S., Evans, M.A., & Jared,D. (2006). Understanding print: Early reading development and the contributions of home literacy experiences. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 93(1), 63-93.

Lyon, G.R., & Moats, L.C. (1997). Critical conceptual and methodological considerations in reading intervention research. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 30, 578-588.

O'Neill, R. & Dunlap, G. (1984, Spring). DI principles in teaching autistic children. Direct Instruction News, 11-14.

Scruggs, T. & Mastropieri, (1993). Teaching students with mild mental retardation. In R. Gable & S. Warren, Advances in mental retardation and developmental disabilities (pp. 27-41). Vol.5. Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley.

Share, D. (2004). Orthographic learning at a glance: On the time course and developmental onset of self-teaching. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology 87(4), 267-298.

Share, D. L., & Stanovich, K. E. (1995). Cognitive processes in early reading development: accommodating individual differences into a model of acquisition. Issues in Education, 1(1), 1-57.

Shaywitz, B.A., Shaywitz, S.E., Blachman, B.A., Pugh K.R., Fulbright, R.K., Skudlarski, P., Mencl, W.E., Constable, R.T., Holahan, J.M., Marchione, K.E., Fletcher, J.M., Lyon, G.R., & Gore, J.C. (2004). Development of left occipitotemporal systems for skilled reading in children after a phonologically- based intervention. Biological Psychiatry, 55, 926-33.

Van Kraayenoord, C. (1994). Literacy for adults with an intellectual disability in Australia. Journal of Reading, 37(7), 608-610.


This additional reference list is taken from:

Houston, D., & Torgesen, J. (2004). Teaching students with moderate disabilities to read: Insights from research. Bureau of Instructional Support and Community Services: Florida Department of Education.

Limited Experience

Fitzgerald, J., Roberts, J., Pierce, P., & Schuele, M. (1995). Evaluation of home literacy environment: An illustration with preschool children with Down syndrome. Reading and Writing Quarterly: Overcoming Learning Difficulties, 11, 311-334.

Gersten, R., Williams, J. P., Fuchs, L., Baker, S., Koppenhaver, D., Spadorcia,, S., & Harrison, M. (1998). Improving reading comprehension for children with disabilities: A review of research. (Final report). Washington, DC: Special Education Programs (ED/OSERS).

Kliewer, C., & Biklen, D. (2001). School’s not really a place for reading: A research synthesis of the literate lives of students with severe disabilities. Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 26(1), 1-12.

Kliewer, C., & Landis, D. (1999). Individualizing literacy instruction for young children with moderate to severe disabilities. Exceptional Children, 66(1), 85-100.

Koppenhaver, D. A., Coleman, P. P., Kalman, S. L., & Yoder, D. E. (1991). The implications of emergent literacy research for children with developmental disabilities. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 1(1), 38-44.

Marvin, C., & Mirenda, P. (1994). Literacy practices in head start and early childhood special education classrooms. Early Education and Development, 5(4), 289-300.

Structured Comments

Hockenberger, E. H., Goldstein, H., & Haas, L. S. (1999). Effects of commenting during joint book reading by mothers with low SES. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 19(1), 15-27.

Van Kleeck, A., & Vander Woude, J. (2003). Book sharing with preschoolers with language delays. In van Kleeck, A., Stahl, S. A., and Bauer, E. B. (Eds.). On reading books to children. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Hutinger, P., Bell, C., Beard, M., Bond, J., Johanson, J., & Terry, C. (1998). The early childhood emergent literacy technology research study. (Final report). Macomb, IL: Macomb Projects at Western Illinois University. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED418545).

Oral Vocabulary

Stanovich, K. E. (1995). Cognitive determinants of reading in mentally retarded individuals. International Review of Research in Mental Retardation, 13, 181-214.

Direct Instruction

Adams, G. L., & Engelmann, S. (1996). Research on direct instruction: 25 years beyond DISTAR. Seattle, WA: Educational Achievement Services.

Schloss, P. J., Alper, S., Young, H., Arnold-Reid, G., Aylward, M., & Dudenhoeffer, S. (1995). Acquisition of functional sight words in community-based recreation settings. The Journal of Special Education, 29(1), 84-96.

Sight Word Instruction

Browder, D. M., & D’Huyvetters, K. K. (1988). An evaluation of transfer of stimulus control and of comprehension in sight word reading for children with mental retardation and emotional disturbance. School Psychology Review, 17(2), 331-342.

Browder, D. M., & Lalli, J. S. (1991). Review of research on sight word instruction. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 12, 203-228.

Browder, D. M., & Minarovic, T. J. (2000). Utilizing sight words in self-instruction training for employees with moderate mental retardation in competitive jobs. Education and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, 35(1), 78-89.

Browder, D. M., & Shear, S. M. (1996). Interspersal of known items in a treatment package to teach sight words to students with behavior disorders. The Journal of Special Education, 29(4), 400-413.

Browder, D. M., & Xin, Y. P. (1998). A meta-analysis and review of sight word research and its implications for teaching functional reading to individuals with moderate and severe disabilities. The Journal of Special Education, 32(3), 130-153.

Butler, F. M. (1999). Reading partners: Students can help each other learn to read! Education and Treatment of Children, 22(4), 415-426.

Cuvo, A. J., & Klatt, K. P. (1992). Effects of community-based, videotape, and flash card instruction of community-referenced sight words on students with mental retardation. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 25(2), 499-512.

Didden, R., Prinsen, H., & Sigafoos, J. (2000). The blocking effect of pictorial prompts on sight-word reading. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 33(3), 317-320.

Gast, D. L., Wolery, M., Morris, L. L., Munson Doyle, P., & Meyer, S. (1990). Teaching sight word reading in a group instructional arrangement using constant time delay. Exceptionality, 1, 81-96.

Lanquetot, R. (1984). Autistic children and reading. Reading Teacher, 38(2), 182-186.

Marino, G., & Gerber, B. L. (1990). A total communication reading program. Teaching Exceptional Children, 22(4), 33-35.

McGee, G. G., Krantz, P. J., & McClannahan, L. E. (1986). An extension of incidental teaching procedures to reading instruction for autistic children. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 19(2), 147-157.

Miracle, S. A., Collins, B. C., Schuster, J. W., & Grisham-Brown, J. (2001). Peer-versus teacher-delivered instruction: Effects on acquisition and maintenance. Education and Training in Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, 36(4), 373-385.

Pufpaff, L. A., Blischak, D. M., & Lloyd, L. L. (2000). Effects of modified orthography on the identification of printed words. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 105(1), 14-24.

Schloss, P. J., Alper, S., Young, H., Arnold-Reid, G., Aylward, M., & Dudenhoeffer, S. (1995). Acquisition of functional sight words in community-based recreation settings. The Journal of Special Education, 29(1), 84-96.

Sheehy, K. (2002). The effective use of symbols in teaching word recognition to children with severe learning difficulties: A comparison of word alone, integrated picture cueing and the handle technique. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, 49(1), 47-59.

Singh, N. N. (1990). Effects of two error-correction procedures on oral reading errors. Word supply versus sentence repeat. Behavior Modification, 14(2), 188-199.

Wolery, M., Ault, M. J., Gast, D. L., Doyle, P. M., & Mills, B. M. (1990). Use of choral and individual attentional responses with constant time delay when teaching sight word reading. Remedial and Special Education, 11(5), 47-58.

Word Recognition Components

Conners, F. A. (1992). Reading instruction for students with moderate mental retardation: Review and analysis of research. American Journal on Mental Retardation, 96(6), 577-597.

Hedrick, W. B., Katims, D. S., & Carr, N. J. (1999). Implementing a multimethod, multilevel literacy program for students with mental retardation. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 14(4), 231-239.

Kay-Raining Bird, E., Cleave, P. L., & McConnell, L. (2000). Reading and phonological awareness in children with Down syndrome: A longitudinal study. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 9, 319-330.

Nietupski, J., Williams, W., & York, R. (1979). Teaching selected phonic word analysis reading skills to TMR labeled students. Teaching Exceptional Children, 11(4), 140-143.

O’Connor, R. E., Notari-Syverson, A., & Vadasy, P. F. (1996). Ladders to literacy: The effects of teacher-led phonological activities for kindergarten children with and without disabilities. Exceptional Children, 63(1), 117-131.

Explicit Strategies

Hoogeveen, F. R., Kouwenhoven, J. A., & Smeets, P. M. (1989). Establishing sound blending in moderately mentally retarded children: Implications of verbal instruction and pictorial prompting. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 10, 333-348.

Word Study Techniques

Joseph, L. M., & McCachran, M. (2003). Comparison of a word study phonics technique between students with moderate to mild mental retardation and struggling readers without disabilities. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 38(2), 192-199.

Graphic Presentation of Words Hoogeveen, F. R., Kouwenhoven, J. A., & Smeets, P. M. (1989). Establishing sound blending in moderately mentally retarded children: Implications of verbal instruction and pictorial prompting. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 10, 333-348.

Computer Assisted Instruction

Heiman, M., Nelson, K., Tjus, T., & Gillberg, C. (1995). Increasing reading and communication skills in children with autism through an interactive multimedia computer program. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 25(5), 459-480.

Tjus, T., Heimann, M., & Nelson, K. (1998). Gains in literacy through the use of a specially developed multimedia computer strategy. Autism, 2(2), 139-156.

Peer Tutoring (Learning to Read)

Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L. S., Thompson, A., Al Otaiba, S., Yen, L., Yang, N. J., Braun, M., & O’Connor, R. E. (2001). Is reading important in reading-readiness programs? A randomized field trial with teachers as program implementers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 93(2), 251-267.

Kamps, D. M., Barbetta, P. M., Leonard, B. R., & Delquadri, J. (1994). Classwide peer tutoring: An integration strategy to improve reading skills and promote peer interactions among students with autism and general education peers. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 27(1), 49-61.

Reading Rate

Gersten, R., Williams, J. P., Fuchs, L., Baker, S., Koppenhaver, D., Spadorcia, S., & Harrison, M. (1998). Improving reading comprehension for children with disabilities: A review of research. (Final report). Washington, DC: Special Education Programs ED/OSERS.

Reading Vocabulary

Hedrick, W. B., Katims, D. S., & Carr, N. J. (1999). Implementing a multimethod, multilevel literacy program for students with mental retardation. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 14(4), 231-239.

Kay-Raining Bird, E., Cleave, P. L, & McConnell, L. (2000). Reading and phonological awareness in children with Down syndrome: A longitudinal study. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 9, 319-330.

Making Inferences

Bos, C. S., & Tierney, R. J. (1984). Inferential reading abilities of mildly mentally retarded and nonretarded students. American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 89(1), 75-82.

Main Idea

Luftig, R. L., & Johnson, R. E. (1982). Identification and recall of structurally important units in prose by mentally retarded learners. American Journal of Mental Deficiency, 86(5), 495-502.

Fact Recall and Cause-Effect

Wolman, C. (1991). Sensitivity to causal cohesion in stories by children with mild mental retardation, children with learning disabilities, and children without disabilities. The Journal of Special Education, 25(2), 135-154.

Kamps, D. M., Barbetta, P. M., Leonard, B. R., & Delquadri, J. (1994). Classwide peer tutoring: An integration strategy to improve reading skills and promote peer interactions among students with autism and general education peers. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 27(1), 49-61.

Peer Tutoring

Kamps, D., Leonard, B., Potucek, J., & Garrison-Harrell, L. (1995). Cooperative learning groups in reading: An integration strategy for children with autism and general classroom peers. Behavioral Disorders, 21(1), 89-109.

Mastropieri, M. A., Scruggs, T., Mohler, L., Beranek, M., Spencer, V., Boon, R. T., & Talbott, E. (2001). Can middle school students with serious reading difficulties help each other and learn anything? Learning Disabilities, Research, and Practice, 16(1), 18-27.

Implementing Direct Instruction Successfully: An Online Tutorial

When implemented fully, Direct Instruction (DI) is unparalleled in its ability to improve student performance and enhance students’ self-esteem. In order to implement DI effectively, much more is required than simply purchasing instructional materials. The following two-part tutorial guides administrators, teachers and coaches through the key features of a successful DI implementation. Part I provides an overview of the steps schools need to take in preparation for a DI implementation before school starts while Part II provides an overview of the steps schools need to take after school has started.

rating starIMPORTANT: This tutorial is an intensive video series comprised of 18 segments, each followed by a series of questions. Users should allow approximately three hours to watch the videos and complete the questions. NIFDI recognizes the high demand for time placed on school officials and, for this reason, has structured the tutorial so users may stop at anytime and later resume where they left off.

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Have a slow connection? You can view the quiz portion (no videos) of the tutorial here. To get a copy of the videos on disk to use with this method, please contact us at 877.485.1973 or .

New to Direct Instruction? Watch the Introduction to Direct Instruction Video Series before taking the online tutorial.

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