Evaluating the effectiveness of phonics as a method for teaching reading to children and young people who experience learning difficulties and are educated in Special School settings

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Emma Herring
Submitted: June 2017

Abstract

Beginning reading skills are often taught through phonics-based methods. Learning to read is a cognitively demanding task, and for those children who struggle, research has shown that individualised interventions can facilitate the development of reading skills. Although research has demonstrated the effectiveness of phonics as a teaching method with typically developing children, less research has evaluated this method with children who are educated in special school settings. A systematic review was conducted to evaluate research over the past 43 years into the effectiveness of phonics as a method for teaching reading to children who are educated in special school settings. The findings suggested that phonics teaching leads to improvements in phonics skills. However, improvements in phonics skills often did not generalise to whole word reading skills.

The empirical paper evaluated the computerised phonics-based intervention Headsprout Early Reading with eight pupils aged 7 to 19 years, educated in a special school for children and young people who experience severe learning difficulties. The intervention took place over 21 weeks. Three learning conditions were employed, such that four participants completed Headsprout as it was designed with typically developing students, two participants did not complete negation activities, and two non-verbal participants completed Headsprout minus speaking activities. Results indicated that all of the participants improved in initial sound fluency, non-word reading, and word recognition. Participants in the no-negation condition showed improvements despite not completing these activities. The findings suggest that individualised phonics-based reading interventions can be used to support development of early reading skills for students are educated in special school settings.

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Teaching Early Reading Skills to Children with Severe Intellectual Disabilities Using Headsprout Early Reading

Authors: Emma Herring, Corinna Grindle and Hanna Kovshoff
Published: 2019
Publication: Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities

Background: Beginning reading skills are often taught using phonics. Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of phonics with typically developing students, but less research has evaluated this method with students with intellectual disabilities.
Method: This paper evaluated the computerized phonics‐based intervention Headsprout Early Reading® with eight students aged 7–19 years with severe intellectual disability. Six children were verbal, two were non‐verbal. Four students completed Headsprout as it was designed for typically developing children, and four students accessed two adapted version of the intervention. Additional table‐top teaching was used to support the intervention for some participants.
Results: Verbal students improved in initial sound fluency, nonsense word reading, and word recognition, but did not show improvements in phonemic segmentation, regardless of whether or not they accessed the original or adapted intervention.
Conclusions: The findings suggest that Headsprout Early Reading can be used to support the development of reading skills for students with intellectual disability.

Herring, E., Grindle, C. & Kovshoff, H. (2019) Teaching Early Reading Skills to Children with Severe Intellectual Disabilities Using Headsprout Early Reading. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities. DOI: 10.1111/jar.12603

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