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IES Grant

Title: Implementing an emergent literacy program for students with intellectual disabilities and autism in general education classrooms
Center: NCSER Year: 2015
Principal Investigator: Hunt, Pamela Awardee: San Francisco State University
Program: Reading, Writing, and Language      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years (9/1/2015–/31/2018) Award Amount: $2,750,825
Type: Efficacy and Replication Award Number: R324A150021

Co-Principal Investigator: Kozleski, Elizabeth

Purpose: This project planned to evaluate the efficacy of the Early Literacy Skills Builder for increasing the literacy skills of students with severe intellectual disabilities or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) when it is implemented in small group contexts in general education classrooms. Literacy outcomes for students with intellectual disabilities or ASD have been typically poor. In addition, their instruction has often been provided in settings outside of the general education classrooms and away from their typically developing peers. The Early Literacy Skills Builder is an early literacy curriculum for students with severe intellectual disabilities, including students with ASD. The curriculum was designed to meet the diverse instructional needs of young students who are verbal or nonverbal. This study planned to evaluate whether this intervention, which had demonstrated efficacy for improving early literacy outcomes in segregated settings, can also be efficacious when implemented in inclusive general education settings. It also planned to examine changes in their typically developing peers' attitudes toward disability.

Project Activities: The research team planned to conduct a randomized controlled trial to study the efficacy of the Early Literacy Skills Builder with pairs of students randomly assigned to the treatment group or business-as-usual control group. Students were to be assessed every 2 months during the school year to determine whether students who received Early Literacy Skills Builder had better reading outcomes than those in the control group.

Structured Abstract


Setting: The research takes place in elementary schools in Kansas and California.

Population: Approximately 80 students in kindergarten through fourth grade will participate. They will be identified as having moderate to severe intellectual disabilities, multiple disabilities, or ASD according to the education eligibility category recorded on their Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Participation criteria include an IQ score below 55 with comparable deficits in adaptive behavior, but with the skills necessary to participate in the study activities (e.g., adequate hearing and vision, English speaking, and ability to sit and respond upon request).

Intervention: The Early Literacy Skills Builder is an early literacy curriculum designed to meet the diverse instructional needs of young students who are verbal or nonverbal. It has two components: Building with Sounds and Symbols and Building with Stories. Building with Sounds and Symbols provides instruction on the phonological awareness and written language awareness skills needed as a foundation for literacy. Building with Stories focuses on developing comprehension, vocabulary, and other literacy skills through instruction provided in the context of reading grade-level literature. Small groups of students will participate in approximately 60 minutes of instruction each day during their general education classroom's English Language Arts block, with Building with Sounds and Symbolsoccurring during the first half of instruction and Building with Storiesoccurring during the second half. A rotating set of classmates (or "reading buddies") will also participate in the small-group instruction so that the intervention can take place as part of an integrated small-group setting.

Research Design and Methods: A randomized controlled trial will be used to study the efficacy of the Early Literacy Skills Builder. Pairs of students will be matched on disability diagnosis, verbal status, and IQ scores. Within pairs, one student will be randomly assigned to the treatment group and the other to the business-as-usual condition. Students will be assessed on literacy skills every 2 months during the school year. Analyses will examine the efficacy of the intervention and moderators of its impact. The team will also gather data on the attitudes of peers without disabilities on their classmates with disabilities to determine whether the intervention has an impact.

Control Condition: A business-as-usual comparison group will be included in the study, with students receiving literacy instruction in their general education classrooms with adaptations to support their active participation and acquisition of their IEP goals.

Key Measures: Students will be administered the Conventions of Reading and Phonics Skills subtests of the Nonverbal Literacy Assessment and the Phonological Awareness and Letters/Letter-Sound Correspondences subtests of the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test. In addition, the team will administer the Friendship Activity Scale to investigate the extent to which students' participation as reading buddies impacts their attitudes towards their classmate with disabilities. Finally, data will be collected on fidelity of implementation, the nature of school-provided instruction, and cost of intervention implementation.

Data Analytic Strategy: A series of data analysis techniques, including multilevel modeling, will be used to estimate the effects of Early Literacy Skills Builder on measures of literacy skills. The team will also conduct a series of exploratory analyses to examine potential moderators of the effects of Early Literacy Skills Builder. Finally, the team will use a paired-samples t-test to examine change in peers' attitudes toward their classmates with disabilities.

Related IES Projects: RAISE: Reading Accommodations and Interventions for Students with Emergent Literacy (H324K040004)

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