In this week’s Q&A, The Texas Tribune interviews Jill Allor, professor of teaching and learning at Southern Methodist University.
Texas Tribune reporter Sanya Monsoor interviewed SMU education expert Jill Allor, professor of Teaching and Learning in the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development for a Q&A about kids with disabilities and struggling readers.
A former special education teacher, Allor’s research is school-based and focuses on reading acquisition for students with and without disabilities, including students with learning disabilities and intellectual disabilities.
She is principal investigator on the federally-funded research grant “Project Intensity: The Development of a Supplemental Literacy Program Designed to Provide Extensive Practice with Multiple-Criteria Text for Students with Intellectual Disabilities” from the Institute of Education Sciences.
The grant’s purpose is to develop carefully designed texts and application lessons to provide students who are struggling to learn to read, particularly those with intellectual disabilities.
Allor was awarded the 2000 Award for Outstanding Research by the Council on Learning Disabilities.
The Texas Tribune article, “The Q&A: Jill Allor,” published June 21, 2017.
By Sanya Monsoor
With each issue, Trib+Edu brings you an interview with experts on issues related to public education. Here is this week’s subject:
Jill Allor is a professor with the Department of Teaching and Learning at Southern Methodist University. Her research focuses on reading and reading disabilities.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Trib+Edu: Tell me about the most important aspects of your research as it relates to kids with disabilities and struggling readers.
Jill Allor: One of the things that’s really interesting about kids with disabilities is the things we know that are effective for teaching kids in general are also effective for them.
The differences are in how explicit we need to be and how much repetition is needed. A child with a disability needs more intensive instruction — they need more practice and they need every step laid out very carefully.
Research shows if you start out with explicit instruction in kindergarten and first grade, you can address reading problems extremely early. You can prevent many problems and prevent some kids from even needing a diagnosis.
Trib+Edu: What are some of the biggest challenges in identifying and addressing these problems?
Allor: There are some kids that have average intelligence or better but yet struggle to learn how to read. We have a lot of research about what to do for them. They need explicit instruction and the primary problem is usually in the phonological areas. So focusing on phonics early and making that very explicit is critical.
The majority of the kids in special education have learning disabilities. But more recently, since 2005, my focus has been on students who have intellectual disabilities.
A student with a learning disability generally has an average IQ level but has an unexpected problem learning how to read. For a student with an intellectual disability, they’re going to have problems learning in all areas.
What we found in our research is all of the things that work for students who have a learning disability, who are struggling readers, also work for (students with an intellectual disability) but it needs to be even more explicit and more intensive.
Trip+Edu: How do you attain that intensive instruction?