What the Science Says: Effective Reading Interventions for Kids With Learning Disabilities
Research-based information and advice for sizing up reading programs and finding the right one for your child with a learning disability.
By Kristin Stanberry , Lee Swanson, Ph.D.
A worried mother says, "There's so much publicity about the best programs for teaching kids to read. But my daughter has a learning disability and really struggles with reading. Will those programs help her? I can't bear to watch her to fall further behind."
Fortunately, in recent years, several excellent, well-publicized research studies (including the Report of the National Reading Panel) have helped parents and educators understand the most effective guidelines for teaching all children to read. But, to date, the general public has heard little about research on effective reading interventions for children who have learning disabilities (LD). Until now, that is!
This article will describe the findings of a research study that will help you become a wise consumer of reading programs for kids with reading disabilities.
Research Reveals the Best Approach to Teaching Kids With LD to Read
You'll be glad to know that, over the past 30 years, a great deal of research has been done to identify the most effective reading interventions for students with learning disabilities who struggle with word recognition and/or reading comprehension skills. Between 1996 and 1998, a group of researchers led by H. Lee Swanson, Ph.D., Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of California at Riverside, set out to synthesize (via meta-analysis) the results of 92 such research studies (all of them scientifically-based). Through that analysis, Dr. Swanson identified the specific teaching methods and instruction components that proved most effective for increasing word recognition and reading comprehension skills in children and teens with LD.
Some of the findings that emerged from the meta-analysis were surprising. For example, Dr. Swanson points out, "Traditionally, one-on-one reading instruction has been considered optimal for students with LD. Yet we found that students with LD who received reading instruction in small groups (e.g., in a resource room) experienced a greater increase in skills than did students who had individual instruction."
In this article, we'll summarize and explain Dr. Swanson's research findings. Then, for those of you whose kids have LD related to reading, we'll offer practical tips for using the research findings to "size up" a particular reading program. Let's start by looking at what the research uncovered.