“It’s certainly no shocker that our kids are capable of reading. More than anyone, we know how bright they are.” — Ellen Seidman

Popular mommy blogger Ellen Seidman, whose blog “Lovethatmax” focuses on issues related to children identified with a disability, blogged about new SMU education reading research. Led by SMU reading expert Jill Allor, the study’s findings offer hope for thousands of children identified with intellectual disability or low IQ who have very little, if any, reading ability.

The four-year, pioneering study is the first large-scale longitudinal study of its kind to demonstrate the reading potential of students with intellectual disability or low IQ, said lead author Jill H. Allor, principal investigator of the study, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

The current study also demonstrates the effectiveness of a teaching method that’s scientifically based for use with children identified with intellectual disability or low IQ, said Allor, a reading researcher whose expertise is reading acquisition.

Coauthors included Patricia Mathes, TI Endowed Chair in Evidence-Based Education and a professor in the Simmons School.

Mathes and Allor, former special education teachers, developed the study’s reading program after research into how children with dyslexia and other learning problems learn to read. The program was previously validated with struggling readers without intellectual disability or low IQ.

The research will continue under a new $1.5 million U.S. Department of Education grant, also led by Allor, principal investigator.

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By Ellen Seidman
Love that Max

It’s not every day that I read about a study in the news and I get all emotional. But one about teaching reading to kids with special needs: yes. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, it found that students with intellectual disability who participated in a four-year program with intensive, specialized instruction learned to read at a first-grade level or higher. The kids, who had Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, Williams syndrome and physical disabilities, started the study around age 7.

I’m well aware that it’s possible for kids with ID to learn to read because Max is reading, and making good progress. Still, it’s thrilling to see proof-positive research—and it’s surely going to inspire many parents out there. The study was done at Southern Methodist University and involved two verbal groups of children; one group of 76 received reading intervention, and the other group of 65 kids got the usual instructional method of teaching reading.

Kids in the intervention group were taught reading 40 to 50 minutes a day in small settings, with a ratio of four students per teacher. They used a program developed by two former special education teachers for struggling readers with average IQs called Early Interventions in Reading (here’s a PDF about it). The program helps with letter knowledge and sounds, recognizing syllables and other phonological awareness, sounding out and sight words. Kids repeatedly read in unison, paired up with teachers, and read independently, too. Other activities touched on comprehension and listening.

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