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IES Grant

Title: Reading Enhancements for Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders (Project READ): A Reading Comprehension Intervention
Center: NCSER Year: 2022
Principal Investigator: Solis, Michael Awardee: University of California, Riverside
Program: Reading, Writing, and Language      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years (07/01/2022 – 06/30/2027) Award Amount: $3,799,999
Type: Initial Efficacy Award Number: R324A220215

Co-Principal Investigator: Vaughn, Sharon; Reutebuch, Colleen

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to evaluate the efficacy of a reading comprehension intervention for 4th to 8th grade students with ASD called Reading Enhancements for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (Project READ). Project READ is a tutoring intervention designed with prior IES funding that has demonstrated promise for meeting the heterogeneous reading comprehension needs of students with ASD. For students with ASD, improving reading comprehension is critical for increasing their opportunities to attend college and obtain meaningful employment. Higher levels of reading comprehension are associated with greater gains in other academic areas, higher levels of employment, increased independence, and overall improved quality of life.

Project Activities: The research team will evaluate the efficacy of Project READ using a randomized controlled trial conducted across three cohorts and will examine follow-up effects 3 months after the intervention is complete. The team will also collect data on the costs to implement the intervention and its incremental cost-effectiveness.

Products: This project will provide evidence of the efficacy of Project READ and result in a publicly available dataset, peer-reviewed publications and presentations, and plain language summaries and short videos to reach education stakeholders, such as practitioners and policymakers. Intervention materials, including lessons and resources, will be available for free download.

Structured Abstract

Setting: The research will take place in low-income elementary and middle schools in California and Texas.

Sample: Participants will include 180 students in grades 4–8 (ages 9–14) with ASD and low reading comprehension.

Intervention: Project READ is a multicomponent reading intervention that addresses vocabulary, fluency, and reading comprehension. It consists of 50 30-minute tutoring sessions delivered one-on-one daily across 10-12 weeks. Difficulty is scaffolded and builds across lessons, first focusing on word-level meaning, then sentence-level comprehension, and finally multi-paragraph passage comprehension. Materials include texts with multiple readability levels to meet student individualized needs within a standard protocol.

Research Design and Methods: This study will use a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the efficacy of Project READ. The study will be conducted over 3 years, with three nonoverlapping samples of 60 students with ASD per year. Each student will be matched in a pair and then randomly assigned to treatment and business-as-usual (BAU) comparison conditions within districts. The team will conduct assessments before and after the intervention and collect follow-up data approximately 3 months after treatment.

Control Condition: Students in the control condition will receive services as usual in their schools. The research team will document the time and duration of reading instruction for students in the control condition, as well at the curriculum used and the instructional focus.

Key Measures: To screen and match pairs of students, the team will use the Autism Diagnostic Observation Scaleó2nd Edition and the AIMSweb MAZE and Oral Reading Fluency probes. To examine reading outcomes, they will use the passage comprehension and reading fluency subtests of the Woodcock-Johnson IV and a researcher-developed vocabulary measure. To examine whether language ability at pre-test moderates the effect of the intervention, researchers will measure language at baseline with the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals Recalling Sentences and the Receptive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test.

Data Analytic Strategy: To address the research questions, the team will use multilevel regression models. To estimate the main effect of treatment on overall reading comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary, the team will use models with students partially nested in tutors and blocked on site. Language ability will be examined as a moderator in this model. Effect sizes will be calculated as Hedges' g.

Cost Analysis: The ingredients method will be used to determine intervention costs of all resources used in the intervention and control conditions, including personnel, facilities, materials and equipment, training, and miscellaneous costs. Costs will be based on the CostOut Tool Kit with adjustments for local costs. To determine cost-effectiveness, the research team will first determine the incremental cost of Project READ beyond what schools would typically spend providing instruction. The incremental costs and the effect sizes for each outcome will then be used to calculate incremental cost-effectiveness ratios at the student level. Finally, the research team will compute incremental cost-effectiveness ratios under varying assumptions about program implementation and program costs.

Related IES Projects: Reading Enhancements for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (Project READ): A Reading Comprehension Intervention for Students with Autism. (R324A160299); Center on Secondary Education for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (R324C120006)