Learning Disabilities

Assistive technology as reading interventions for children with reading impairments with a one-year follow-up

Emma Lindeblad, Staffan Nilsson, Stefan Gustafson & Idor Svensson. Assistive technology as reading interventions for children with reading impairments with a one-year follow-up. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, Vol 12 (7) 2017.

This pilot study looked at the possible transfer effect on reading ability in children with reading difficulties to compensate for their reading deficiencies. The study used assistive technology, smartphones and tablets. The 35 pupils aged 10-12 years were assessed five times with reading tests. Also, their parents and teachers were surveyed regarding their experience of using assistive technology. The study outcome shows that using AT can create transfer effects on reading ability one year after the study was finished. The study highlights that children with reading disability may develop at the same rate as non-impaired readers.

Dysfunction of Rapid Neural Adaptation in Dyslexia

Perrachione, Tyler K. et al. Dysfunction of Rapid Neural Adaptation in Dyslexia. Neuron, Volume 9 , Issue 6, 1383-1397, December 21, 2016. DOI:

This study suggests that people with the reading disability dyslexia may have brain differences that are surprisingly wide-ranging. Using specialized brain imaging, scientists found that adults and children with dyslexia showed less ability to "adapt" to sensory information compared to people without the disorder. And the differences were seen not only in the brain's response to written words, which would be expected. People with dyslexia also showed less adaptability in response to pictures of faces and objects. That suggests they have "deficits" that are more general, across the whole brain, said study lead author Tyler Perrachione. He's an assistant professor of speech, hearing and language sciences at Boston University. The findings offer clues to the root causes of dyslexia.

Auditory Processing in Noise: A Preschool Biomarker for Literacy

White-Schwoch T, Woodruff Carr K, Thompson EC, Anderson S, Nicol T, Bradlow AR, et al. (2015) Auditory Processing in Noise: A Preschool Biomarker for Literacy. PLoS Biol 13(7): e1002196.

This study suggests that the neural processing of consonants in noise plays a fundamental role in language development. Children who struggle to listen in noisy environments may struggle to make meaning of the language they hear on a daily basis, which can in turn set them at risk for literacy challenges. Evaluating the neural coding of speech in noise may provide an objective neurophysiological marker for these at-risk children, opening a door to early and specific interventions that may stave off a life spent struggling to read.

Identifying and supporting English learner students with learning disabilities: Key issues in the literature and state practice

Burr, E., Haas, E., and Ferriere, K. (July 2015). Identifying and supporting English learner students with learning disabilities: Key issues in the literature and state practice, U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, Regional Educational Laboratory at WestEd.

This review of research and policy literature — aimed at district and state policymakers — distills several key elements of processes that can help identify and support English learner students with learning disabilities. It also describes current guidelines and protocols used by the 20 states with the largest populations of English learner students. The report informs education leaders who are setting up processes to determine which English learner students may need placement in special education programs as opposed to other assistance. The report acknowledges that the research base in this area is thin.

Evaluation of Response to Intervention Practices for Elementary School Reading

Balu, R., Zhu, P., Doolittle, F., Schiller, E., Jenkins, J., and Gersten, R. (November 2015) Evaluation of Response to  Intervention Practices for  Elementary School Reading, Washington D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences.

Response to Intervention (RtI) is a framework for collecting and using data to match students to interventions of varying intensity. This study examines the implementation of RtI in Grade 1–3 reading in 13 states during the 2011–12 school year, focusing on 146 schools that were experienced with RtI. Full implementation of the RtI framework in Grade 1–3 reading was reported by 86 percent of the experienced schools. Fifty-five percent of these schools focused reading intervention services on Grade 1 students reading below grade level, while 45 percent of the schools also provided reading intervention services for Grade 1 students reading at or above grade level. Students who scored just below school-determined benchmarks on fall screening tests, and who were assigned to interventions for struggling readers, had lower spring reading scores in Grade 1 than students just above the threshold for intervention. In Grades 2 and 3, there were no statistically significant impacts of interventions for struggling readers on the spring reading scores of students just below the threshold for intervention.

Achievement Gap in Reading Is Present as Early as First Grade and Persists through Adolescence

Ferrer, E., Shatwitz, B.A., Holahan, J.M., Marchione, K.E., Michaels, R., and Shaywitz, S.E. (2015) Achievement Gap in Reading Is Present as Early as First Grade and Persists through Adolescence, Journal of Pediatrics, November 2015,167 (5):1121-1125.

The subjects were the 414 participants comprising the Connecticut Longitudinal Study, a sample survey cohort, assessed yearly from 1st to 12th grade on measures of reading and IQ. Statistical analysis employed longitudinal models based on growth curves and multiple groups. Results from the study indicated that as early as first grade, compared with typical readers, dyslexic readers had lower reading scores and verbal IQ, and their trajectories over time never converge with those of typical readers. Researchers concluded that the achievement gap between typical and dyslexic readers is evident as early as first grade, and this gap persists into adolescence. These findings provide strong evidence and impetus for early identification of and intervention for young children at risk for dyslexia. Implementing effective reading programs as early as kindergarten or even preschool offers the potential to close the achievement gap.

Using Assistive Technology in Teaching Children with Learning Disabilities in the 21st Century

Adebisi, Rufus Olanrewaju; Liman, Nalado Abubakar; Longpoe, Patricia Kwalzoom. Using Assistive Technology in Teaching Children with Learning Disabilities in the 21st Century. Journal of Education and Practice, 2015, Vol6(24), p14-20.

This paper was written to expose the meaning, benefits, and purpose for using assistive technology for children with learning disabilities. The paper discusses the various types of assistive technology devices that were designed and used to solve written language, reading, listening, memory and mathematic problems of children with learning disabilities. The possible challenges faced by developing nations in using assistive technology were mentioned.

The State of Learning Disabilities

The National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD) (2014). The State of Learning Disabilities (Third Edition). New York: NCLD

This report summarizes the latest facts, figures, and information about individuals with learning disabilities in the U.S. The report details basic statistics about learning disabilities, public perceptions, LD in schools and beyond school, and much more. The report also addresses several important issues for which more reliable data are urgently needed, including: Response to Intervention (RTI), Common Core State Standards and Assessments, online learning, Accessible Instructional Materials (AIM), charter schools, school vouchers and juvenile justice.

Improving Reading Outcomes for Students with or at Risk for Reading Disabilities

Connor, C., Alberto, P.A., Compton, D.L., and O'Connor, R.E. (February 2014) Improving Reading Outcomes for Students with or at Risk for Reading Disabilities: A Synthesis of the Contributions from the Institute of Education Sciences Research Centers, U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Special Education Research.

This report describes what has been learned about the improvement of reading outcomes for children with or at risk for reading disabilities through published research funded by the Institute of Education Science (IES). The report describes contributions to the knowledge base across four focal areas: assessment, basic cognitive and linguistic processes that support successful reading, intervention, and professional development.

Glutamate and Choline Levels Predict Individual Differences in Reading Ability in Emergent Readers

Fulbright, R. et al (2014) Glutamate and Choline Levels Predict Individual Differences in Reading Ability in Emergent Readers, The Journal of Neuroscience, 12 March 2014, 34(11): 4082-4089.

The research team measured levels of glutamate, choline, and other metabolites in 75 children, aged 6 to 10, whose reading abilities ranged from what is considered impaired to superior. The researchers conducted behavioral testing to characterize the children’s reading, language, and general cognitive skills, and used MR spectroscopy to assess metabolite levels. They found that children with higher glutamate and choline levels in their brains tended to have lower composite scores for reading and language. In follow-up testing two years later, the same correlation still existed for initial glutamate levels. This study is believed to be the first to examine neurochemistry in a longitudinal study of children during the critical period when they are considered "emergent readers" — the age at which neurocircuits that support skilled reading and speaking are still developing.

On the Importance of Listening Comprehension

Hogan TP1, Adlof SM, Alonzo CN. (2014) On the importance of listening comprehension, International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology June 16 (3):199-207.

The simple view of reading highlights the importance of two primary components which account for individual differences in reading comprehension across development: word recognition (i.e., decoding) and listening comprehension. This paper reviews evidence showing that listening comprehension becomes the dominating influence on reading comprehension starting even in the elementary grades. It also highlights a growing number of children who fail to develop adequate reading comprehension skills, primarily due to deficient listening comprehension skills (i.e., poor comprehenders). Finally we discuss key language influences on listening comprehension for consideration during assessment and treatment of reading disabilities.

Intact but Less Accessible Phonetic Representations in Adults with Dyslexia

Bart Boets et al. (2013) Intact But Less Accessible Phonetic Representations in Adults with Dyslexia. Science 6 December 2013: 342 (6163), 1251-1254. [DOI:10.1126/science.1244333]

People with dyslexia seem to have difficulty identifying and manipulating the speech sounds to be linked to written symbols. Researchers have long debated whether the underlying representations of these sounds are disrupted in the dyslexic brain, or whether they are intact but language-processing centers are simply unable to access them properly. This study indicates that dyslexia may be caused by impaired connections between auditory and speech centers of the brain. The researchers analyzed whether for adult readers with dyslexia the internal references for word sounds are poorly constructed or whether accessing those references is abnormally difficult. Brain imaging during phonetic discrimination tasks suggested that the internal dictionary for word sounds was correct, but accessing the dictionary was more difficult than normal.

Don't DYS Our Kids: Dyslexia and the Quest for Grade-Level Reading Proficiency

Fiester, L. (2012). Don't DYS Our Kids: Dyslexia and the Quest for Grade-Level Reading Proficiency. Commissioned by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation in partnership with the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

About 2.4 million children across the nation have been diagnosed with learning disabilities — but how successful is the U.S. education system in teaching these students to read? This new report provides a far-reaching overview of the history and progress in understanding and meeting the needs of children with dyslexia, as well as the persisting challenges that must be overcome, to ensure that all students can read proficiently by the third grade. The report also highlights best practices and examples of solutions that are already working in communities. Based on interviews with nearly 30 experts, the report includes a collection of recommended actions for advancing this movement.

Human Voice Recognition Depends on Language Ability

Perrachione, T., Stephanie Del Tufo, S., Gabrieli, J. Human Voice Recognition Depends on Language Ability. Science 29 July 2011: 595.

The ability to recognize people by their voice is an important social behavior. Individuals differ in how they pronounce words, and listeners may take advantage of language-specific knowledge of speech phonology to facilitate recognizing voices. Impaired phonological processing is characteristic of dyslexia and thought to be a basis for difficulty in learning to read. The researchers tested voice-recognition abilities of dyslexic and control listeners for voices speaking listeners’ native language or an unfamiliar language. Individuals with dyslexia exhibited impaired voice-recognition abilities compared with controls only for voices speaking their native language. These results demonstrate the importance of linguistic representations for voice recognition. Humans appear to identify voices by making comparisons between talkers' pronunciations of words and listeners' stored abstract representations of the sounds in those words. Related article: Study Sheds Light on Auditory Role in Dyslexia.

Reading Comprehension Instruction for Students with Learning Disabilities, 1995–2006: A Meta-Analysis

Berkeley, S., Scruggs, T. E., and Mastropieri, M., A. (2010). Reading comprehension instruction for students with learning disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 31(6), 423-436

This meta-analysis of research conducted between 1995 and 2006 synthesizes findings of 40 studies for improving the reading comprehension of students with learning disabilities. Nearly 2,000 students participated in the interventions, which were classified as fundamental reading instruction, text enhancements, and questioning/strategy instruction (including those that incorporated peer-mediated instruction and self-regulation). Results showed that reading comprehension interventions are generally very effective. Higher outcomes were noted for interventions that were implemented by researchers than those implemented by teachers. Implications for practice and further research are discussed.

Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, and Vision

American Academy of Pediatrics, Section on Ophthalmology, Council on Children with Disabilities et al. (2009). Pediatrics 2009;124;837-844; originally published online Jul 27, 2009. Retrieved January 7, 2010 from

This joint statement of pediatric ophthalmologists and pediatricians concerned with learning disabilities states: most experts believe that dyslexia is a language based disorder. Vision problems can interfere with the process of learning; however, vision problems are not the cause of primary dyslexia or learning disabilities. Scientific evidence does not support the efficacy of eye exercises, behavioral vision therapy, or special tinted filters or lenses for improving the long-term educational performance in these complex pediatric neurocognitive conditions. Diagnostic and treatment approaches that lack scientific evidence of efficacy, including eye exercises, behavioral vision therapy, or special tinted filters or lenses, are not endorsed and should not be recommended.

Extensive Reading Interventions in Grades K-3: From Research to Practice

Scammacca, N., Vaughn, S., Roberts, G., Wanzek, J., & Torgesen, J. K. (2007). Extensive reading interventions in grades K-3: From research to practice. Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction.

This report summarizes 12 peer-reviewed, high-quality research studies between 1995 and 2005 and synthesizes their findings on the effects of extensive reading interventions (comprising at least 100 instructional sessions) for struggling K-3 readers. It then explains the related implications for practice for students with reading problems or learning disabilities in an RTI setting.

Reading as Thinking: Integrating Strategy Instruction in a Universally Designed Digital Literacy Environment

Dalton, B. and Proctor, C. P. (2007). "Reading as thinking: Integrating strategy instruction in a universally designed digital literacy environment." In D.S. McNamara (Ed.), Reading comprehension strategies: Theories, interventions, and technologies (423-442). Mahweh, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers.

As reading content in a digital format becomes more important, a question emerges: How can digital reading environments be created to support all students? Here Dalton and Proctor discuss the variety of supports that could be included in designing a "Universal Literacy Environment" for students "in the margins." In particular, they focus on how to help build learners' comprehension.

Dissecting Dyslexia

May, T.S. (2006). Dissecting Dyslexia. BrainWork, the Neuroscience Newsletter from the Dana Foundation.

Genetic differences in the brain make learning to read a struggle for children with dyslexia. Luckily, most of our brain development occurs after we're born, when we interact with our environment. This means that the right teaching techniques can actually re-train the brain, especially when they happen early.

Recognition and Response: An Early Intervening System for Young Children At-Risk for Learning Disabilities

Coleman, M.R., Buysse, V. & Neitzel, J. (2006). Recognition and Response: An early intervening system for young children at-risk for learning disabilities. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, FPG Child Development Institute: Chapel Hill, NC.

Some young children show signs that they may not be learning in an expected manner, even before they begin kindergarten. These children may exhibit problems in areas such as language development, phonological awareness, perceptual-motor abilities and attention, which are considered precursors of learning disabilities in older children. However, under current state and federal guidelines, these children are unlikely to meet eligibility criteria for having a learning disability. This is because formal identification of a child's learning disability generally does not occur until there is a measurable discrepancy between the child's aptitude and academic achievement, often not until the second or third grade. This report describes a method of addressing those warning signs immediately.

On the Mind of a Child: A Conversation with Sally Shaywitz

D'Arcangelo, M. (2003). On the mind of a child: A conversation with Sally Shaywitz. Educational Leadership, 60(7), 6-10.

A pediatrician, neuroscientist, and member of the National Reading Panel, Dr. Sally Shaywitz talks with Educational Leadership readers about the ways the brains of young children develop and what can be done to prevent early learning difficulties.

Remediation Training Improves Reading Ability of Dyslexic Children

Trei, L. Remediation Training Improves Reading Ability of Dyslexic Children. Stanford Report, 25 May 2003.
For the first time, researchers have shown that the brains of dyslexic children can be rewired — after undergoing intensive remediation training — to function more like those found in normal readers.

Procedural Facilitators and Cognitive Strategies:Tools for Unraveling the Mysteries of Comprehension and the Writing Process, and for Providing Meaningful Access to the General Curriculum

Baker, S., Gersten, R., & Scanlon, D. (2002). Procedural Facilitators and Cognitive Strategies: Tools for Unraveling the Mysteries of Comprehension and the Writing Process, and for Providing Meaningful Access to the General Curriculum. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 17, 65-77.

A solid, emerging research base exists to inform how we provide meaningful access to the general education curriculum for students with learning disabilities. For example, the presentation of challenging content to academically diverse learners can be demystified using content enhancement techniques. Additionally, a range of strategies can be taught to enhance reading comprehension and expressive writing abilities. Examples from several lines of research in comprehension and writing are used to highlight the underlying features of these empirically based approaches and to introduce the reader to the history of this expanding body of research.

Writer's Workshop, Graphic Organizers, and Six-Trait Assessment: A Winning Writing Strategy Combo

James, L., Abbott, M., & Greenwood, C. R. (2001). Writer's workshop, graphic organizers, and six-trait assessment: A winning writing strategy combo. Teaching Exceptional Children, 33 (3), 30-37.

Adam is a 9-year-old fourthgrade boy from a low-income, two-parent home who receives special education services in the areas of speech/language and learning disabilities. He is withdrawn and quiet, typically speaking only when asked a question. Adam had little confidence in his overall academic ability and was leery of writing. At the beginning of his fourth-grade year, Adam scored at first grade, fifth month on the Individual Reading Inventory (Aoki et al., 1997); and his writing pretest was only five words long. During the writing workshop described in this article, Adam made substantial gains in all areas of the writing assessment. His posttest writing contained 54 words and showed marked improvement in content and form. His learning was no longer stagnant, but progressive and enthusiastic. In addition, the teacher and other staff members noticed a change in Adam’s demeanor. He initiated conversations; took a more active role in the larger classroom setting; and, for the first time, even made jokes. Adam continued to prosper academically and socially the following year. The writing workshop and its combination of strategies seemed to be the most beneficial of a number of alternatives the teachers had tried to facilitate Adam’s academic and social growth.

Components of Effective Remediation for Developmental Reading Disabilities: Combining Phonological and Strategy-Based Introduction to Improve Outcomes

Lovett, Maureen W., Lacerenza, L., Borden, Susan L., Frijters, Jan C., et al. (2000). Components of Effective Remediation for Developmental Reading Disabilities: Combining Phonological and Strategy-Based Introduction to Improve Outcomes. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92, 263-283.

The efficacy of a combination of phonological and strategy-based remedial approaches for reading disability (RD) was compared with that of each approach separately. Eighty-five children with severe RD were randomly assigned to 70 intervention hours in 1 of 5 sequences. Performance was assessed before, 3 times during, and after intervention. Four orthogonal contrasts based on a linear trend analysis model were evaluated. There were generalized treatment effects on standardized measures of word identification, passage comprehension, and nonword reading. A combination of PHAB/DI and WIST proved superior to either program alone on nonword reading, letter-sound and keyword knowledge, and 3 word identification measures. Generalization of nonword decoding to real word identification was achieved with a combination of effective remedial components.

Repeated Reading and Reading Fluency in Learning Disabled Children

Rashotte, C. & Torgesen, J. (1985). Repeated reading and reading fluency in learning disabled children. Reading Research Quarterly, 20, 180-188.

This study investigated whether improved fluency and comprehension across different stories in repeated reading depend on the degree of word overlap among passages and whether repeated reading is more effective than an equivalent amount of nonrepetitive reading. Non-fluent, learning disabled students read passages presented and timed by a computer under three different conditions. Results suggest that over short periods of time, increases in reading speed with the repeated reading method depend on the amount of shared words among stories, and that if stories have few shared words, repeated reading is not more effective for improving speed than an equivalent amount of nonrepetitive reading.

Common Core State Standards, Writing, and Students with LD: Recommendations

Graham, S. and Harris, K. R. (2013), Common Core State Standards, Writing, and Students with LD: Recommendations. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 28: 28–37. doi: 10.1111/ldrp.12004
This article examines the Common Core State Standards as they apply to writing and students with learning disabilities (LD). We first consider why the implementation of these standards is advantageous to writing instruction for students with LD as well as the challenges in implementing them. Next, we make the following four recommendations in terms of their implementation: (1) increase general and special education teachers’ knowledge about writing development; (2) create a writing environment in which students with LD can thrive; (3) employ evidence-based writing practices in general education classes (where most students with LD are taught); and (4) use evidence-based writing practices effective with students with LD. We conclude by considering research that still needs to be undertaken to help educators maximize the probability that students with and without LD meet the writing benchmarks proposed in these Standards.

The Effects of Self-Regulated Strategy Development on the Writing Performance of Second-Grade Students With Behavioral and Writing Difficulties

Lane, K.L., Harris, K.R., Graham, S., Weisenbach, J.L., Brindle, M. and Morphy, P., The Effects of Self-Regulated Strategy Development on the Writing Performance of Second-Grade Students With Behavioral and Writing Difficulties (2008). Journal of Special Education 41: 234-253

The effects of a secondary academic intervention, embedded in the context of a positive behavior support model, on the writing of second-grade students at risk for emotional and behavioral disorder and writing problems were examined in this study. Students were taught how to plan and draft a story using the self-regulated strategy development model. Results of this multiple-probe design revealed lasting improvements in story completeness, length, and quality for all 6 students. Students and teachers rated the intervention favorably, with some indicating that the intervention exceeded their expectations. Limitations and directions for future research are discussed.
"Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift." — Kate DiCamillo