Reading Enhancements for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (Project READ): A Reading Comprehension Intervention for Students with Autism
Purpose: The purpose of this project is to develop a comprehensive reading comprehension and behavior intervention aligned with current research for students identified with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in upper elementary and middle school who display adequate word reading skills and low reading comprehension. Prior research has found that many individuals with ASD have difficulties with reading comprehension, and providing effective reading comprehension instruction is complicated by the unique and challenging behaviors often present for students with ASD during academic instruction. This intervention will be developed to improve reading and behavioral outcomes for these students.
Project Activities: The research team will combine and refine an existing reading intervention, Reading Enhancements for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (Project READ), to address specific reading comprehension deficits and behavior problems typical of many students with ASD and improve outcomes in reading and behavior. In the first 2 years, the research team will focus on the iterative development of Project READ, integrating and tailoring existing intervention components and examining the intervention's usability and feasibility of implementation. In the final year, Project READ will be pilot tested using a matched randomized controlled trial.
Products: The products of this project will include a fully developed reading comprehension and behavior intervention for students with ASD; findings from its evaluation for usability, feasibility, and promise for efficacy; and peer-reviewed publications and presentations to disseminate the findings.
Setting: Research will be conducted in elementary and middle schools in Texas, Virginia, and California, including schools with high concentrations of socioeconomically and ethnically diverse students.
Sample: Approximately 16 teachers from 8 participating schools districts providing services to students with ASD in Grades 4 through 8 will be participate in the iterative process and delivery of the intervention. In Years 1 and 2, approximately 8 teachers and 20 to 24 of their students will be recruited to provide design input. For the pilot study, an additional 8 teachers and approximately 20 to 24 of their students will participate.
Intervention: Project READ is an existing intervention that will be modified and further developed for the use of teachers and paraprofessionals to meet the specific needs of students with ASD. Professional development including coaching, lesson plans, and student materials will focus on instruction to distinguish main ideas, use and develop questions, and take perspectives based on the text. In addition, instruction will be enhanced with the use of graphic organizers, the use of techniques from Positive Behavior Support (PBS), and the administration of an interest inventory to determine reading material choice based on student's interest and other types positive reinforcement to improve engagement. A token economy and other techniques of PBS including shaping, prompting, and prompt fading will be part of the instructional routines. Off-task behaviors that students with ASD often display during academic instruction will be addressed by integrating techniques of PBS into the reading comprehension instruction.
Research Design and Methods: In the first 2 years, the research team will iteratively develop Project READ using feedback collected from multiple sources, including a series of design experiments, focus groups, observations, and single-case design studies (with randomization of phases). The promise of the intervention for positive reading comprehension outcomes for students will be investigated in Year 3 using matched random assignment of pairs to create equivalent control and treatment groups.
Key Measures: Students will be screened using the Gates MacGinitie Reading Test, 4th Edition to assess reading comprehension skills. To collect baseline data, behavioral skills will be assessed using the Gilliam Childhood Autism Rating Scale, Second Edition (GARS-2) and additional reading skill information will be assessed using the Test of Word Reading Efficiency. Student outcome measures include the following: (1) Woodcock Johnson III Passage Comprehension subtest, (2) Test of Sentence Reading Efficiency and Comprehension, (3) Kaufman Brief Intelligence Test, Second Edition, (4) Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals, 4th Edition, (5) GARS-2, and (6) curriculum-based measures of reading. Focus groups, observation tools focused on student behaviors and reading instruction, and implementation validity checklists will be used to guide the development process and assess feasibility and fidelity of implementation.
Data Analytic Strategy: The research team will analyze descriptive data collected from the initial studies in Years 1 and 2 as well as analyze data from the single-case design multiple baseline studies using visual analysis, trend analysis, and effect sizes. For the pilot study, the researchers will conduct analyses of covariance to assess the effect of using Project READ on students' reading, academic, and behavioral outcomes.