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IES Contract

Title: Access: Language Arts
Center: NCSER Year: 2014
Principal Investigator: Stanger, Carol Awardee: Attainment Company, Inc.
Program: Small Business Innovation Research in Special Education      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2 Years Award Amount: $899,996
Type: Phase II Development Award Number: EDIES14C0018

Success Story:

Project Website:

Purpose: Instruction in English language arts (ELA) for students with severe intellectual disabilities and autism can be challenging, as these students often do not have the skills to engage with text. In recent years, special education experts have proposed a comprehensive approach to supporting students with intellectual disabilities and autism in ELA, centered on strategies including word identification, vocabulary development, comprehension, fluency, writing, and research, and by providing opportunities to independently read and explore a wide array of self-selected texts. This project developed tablet-based and app technology that provides age-appropriate content and a variety of evidence-based strategies to support middle school students with severe disabilities in meeting Common Core State Standards in English language arts.

Project Activities: In 2013 during Phase I, the project team developed and tested a prototype app. The app included simplified versions of researcher-developed content whereby middle school students with cognitive disabilities listened to grade aligned nonfiction stories read-aloud, while individual words were highlighted on the tablet. These stories also included symbol supports, vocabulary instruction with in-text definitions, and comprehension questions. At the end of Phase I, pilot research with three students and two teachers demonstrated usability as the app operated as intended, and initial feasibility as the teachers were able to integrate the tool within standard practice and students found the app to be engaging.

During Phase II, the project team added additional components to the existing prototype, including adaptive instruction to adjust to individual student differences, formative data feedback to guide individualized instruction, additional stories, and additional skills in research and writing. When the technology was fully developed, the research partners at East Tennessee State University carried out an iterative investigative process by implementing three studies to explore the usability and feasibility, fidelity of implementation, and the promise of the app to improve a variety of ELA skills. In study 2, the team completed a randomized control study with approximately 30 students, half of whom were randomly selected for intervention. Students in the control group were provided with the intervention at the end of the study. Analyses compared pre- and post-test ELA scores.

Product: The final product is Access: Language Arts II, an app or tablet-based intervention aligned to common core standards to supplement ELA instruction for middle school students with severe intellectual disabilities and autism. Researcher-developed content populating the app includes simplified versions of a wide range of genres including fiction and non-fiction. The app provides tools and adaptive supports derived from evidence-based practices to facilitate learning, and emphasizes a variety of skills including vocabulary, communication, comprehension, critical thinking, research, and writing. A user guide was developed to facilitate setup, to customize student settings, add student photos or icons for sign-in, change default highlighting or page turning, to create passwords, and collect and view student data.

Video Demonstrations: Early Reading Skills Builder:
Access: Language Arts:
GoManage Phase I Prototype:

2014 Digital Innovation Learning Award (DILA) from EdSurge and Digital Promise for Research@Work.

Related IES Projects:
Go Talk Phonics: Phonics for Individuals with Disabilities (EDIES11C0027), Access: Language Arts (EDIES13C0031), Access: Language Arts (EDIES14C0018), Go Write (91990018C0035), GoManage (91990020C0074), GoManage: A Self-Management Curriculum App for Students with Disabilities (91990021C0043)

ERIC Citations: Find available citations in ERIC for this project here.

Products and Publications

Ahlgrim-Delzell, L., Browder, D. M., & Wood, L., (2014). Effects of systematic instruction and an augmentative communication device on phonics skills acquisition for students with moderate intellectual disability who are nonverbal. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 49(2), 517–532.

Ahlgrim-Delzell, L., Browder, D. M., Wood, L., Stanger, C., Preston, A., Kemp-Inman, A (2014). Systematic instruction of phonics skills using an iPad for students who are AAC users. Journal of Special Education, 50(2), 86–97.

Mims, P. J., Stanger, C., Sears, J. A., & White, W. B. (2018). Applying systematic instruction to teach ELA skills using fictional novels via an iPad app. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 37(4), 197–206.

Stanger, C., Mims, P., Wood, L., Ahlgrim-Delzell, L., (2016). Supporting literacy achievements for students with intellectual disability and autism through curricular programs that incorporate assistive technology. Assistive Technology Outcomes and Benefits, 10(1), 51–73.