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Learning Disabilities

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.

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 http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/reprint/124/2/837.

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.

Summary:
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.
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Library Journal | September 17, 2014
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"Oh, magic hour, when a child first knows she can read printed words!" — A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, 1943