The National Center for Special Education Research funded two $10 million Research and Development Center awards in July 2012: the Special Education Research and Development Center on Reading Instruction for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students, led by Principal Investigator Amy Lederberg and co-Principal Investigator Susan Easterbrooks (Georgia State University); and the Center on Secondary Education for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders, led by Principal Investigator Samuel Odom and co-Principal Investigator Kara Hume (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill).
Special Education Research and Development Center on Reading Instruction for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students
The Special Education Research and Development Center on Reading Instruction for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students aims to identify child and instructional factors that affect reading growth in this population and to develop individualized interventions specifically designed for deaf or hard of hearing (DHH) struggling readers in grades K-2. The award will provide funding to create the National Research and Development Center for Literacy and Deafness (CLAD), the first of its kind to focus on deaf children. The Center will involve collaboration among researchers at Georgia State University, the University of Arizona, the University of Colorado at Boulder, the Rochester Institute of Technology, and Arizona State University.
According to Principal Investigator Lederberg, the focus on DHH children is important given that poor literacy outcomes have long characterized the DHH population, despite the fact that most of these students have normal intellectual potential. Historically, many DHH children graduated from high school with reading skills insufficient to access many postsecondary opportunities. The DHH population is diverse, requiring researchers to investigate different ways in which a range of children learn to read. For example, there are DHH children with hearing aids or cochlear implants, as well as those who learn American Sign Language (ASL) as a first language. Each population faces challenges associating their communicative language (spoken or ASL) with printed English. The Center for Literacy and Deafness will address the need for interventions for the range of DHH struggling readers in elementary school through an iterative process of development followed by a small cluster randomized controlled pilot study to demonstrate the promise of the developed intervention.
Center on Secondary Education for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders
The Center on Secondary Education for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders (CSESA) aims to develop a comprehensive, school- and community-based intervention model for high school students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and test the efficacy of this intervention. CSESA is collaboration among researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Wisconsin, the University of California at Davis, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Texas at Austin.
Research on interventions for children with autism tends to focus on the early grades rather than secondary school students. According to CSESA Principal Investigator Samuel Odom, more adolescents with ASD are entering high school each year, and the research about effective programs for those students and their families is very limited. The new center aims to help fill that gap by developing new programs and evaluate their impact in high schools across the country.
The CSESA research team is developing an intervention model that has five components: (1) evidence-based practice implementation and quality improvement (the National Professional Development Center on Autism Spectrum Disorders Model); (2) academic performance; (3) social competence and peer relations; (4) adaptive behavior; and (5) transition and family. The components will first be developed individually and then in combination. In the final years of the 5-year project, the full intervention will be pilot tested in a randomized cluster design efficacy trial.