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Learning Disabilities : Practice Concerns and Students with LD
 9781781904282, 9781781904275

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ADVANCES IN SPECIAL EDUCATION Series Editor: Anthony F. Rotatori Recent Volumes: Volume 18:

Autism and Developmental Disabilities: Current Practices and Issues – Edited by Anthony F. Rotatori, Festus E. Obiakor and Sandra Burkhardt

Volume 19:

Current Issues and Trends in Special Education: Identification, Assessment and Instruction – Edited by Festus E. Obiakor, Jeffrey P. Bakken and Anthony F. Rotatori

Volume 20:

Current Issues and Trends in Special Education: Research, Technology and Teacher Preparation – Edited by Festus E. Obiakor, Jeffrey P. Bakken and Anthony F. Rotatori

Volume 21:

History of Special Education – Edited by Anthony F. Rotatori, Festus E. Obiakor, and Jeffrey P. Bakken

Volume 22:

Behavioral Disorders: Identification, Assessment, and Instruction of Students with EBD – Edited by Jeffrey P. Bakken, Festus E. Obiakor, and Anthony F. Rotatori

Volume 23:

Behavioral Disorders: Practice Concerns and Students with EDB – Edited by Jeffrey P. Bakken, Festus E. Obiakor, and Anthony F. Rotatori

Volume 24:

Learning Disabilities: Identification, Assessment, and Instruction of Students with LD – Edited by Jeffrey P. Bakken, Festus E. Obiakor, and Anthony F. Rotatori



JEFFREY P. BAKKEN Bradley University, Peoria, IL, USA

FESTUS E. OBIAKOR The City College of New York, New York, NY, USA

ANTHONY F. ROTATORI Saint Xavier University, Chicago, IL, USA

United Kingdom – North America – Japan India – Malaysia – China

Emerald Group Publishing Limited Howard House, Wagon Lane, Bingley BD16 1WA, UK First edition 2013 Copyright r 2013 Emerald Group Publishing Limited Reprints and permission service Contact: [email protected] No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without either the prior written permission of the publisher or a licence permitting restricted copying issued in the UK by The Copyright Licensing Agency and in the USA by The Copyright Clearance Center. Any opinions expressed in the chapters are those of the authors. Whilst Emerald makes every effort to ensure the quality and accuracy of its content, Emerald makes no representation implied or otherwise, as to the chapters’ suitability and application and disclaims any warranties, express or implied, to their use. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN: 978-1-78190-427-5 ISSN: 0270-4013 (Series)





INCLUSION AND LEARNING DISABILITIES: WILL THE PAST BE PROLOGUE? Margo A. Mastropieri, Thomas E. Scruggs, Mary Guckert, Catherine Creighton Thompson and Margaret P. Weiss






















Department of Educational Studies, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA

Wendy Cavendish

Department of Teaching and Learning, University of Miami, Miami, FL, USA

Carrie Anna Courtad

Department of Special Education, Illinois State University, Normal, IL, USA

Anabel Espinosa

Department of Teaching and Learning, University of Miami, Miami, FL, USA

Joanne M. Hill

Ascending Trends, LLC, New York, NY, USA

Don T. D. Gala

Department of Criminal Justice and Education Martin Methodist College Pulaski, TN, USA

Lenwood Gibson Jr.

Department of Leadership & Special Education, The City College of New York, New York, NY, USA

Mary Guckert

Division of Special Education and disAbility Research, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, USA

Sarah Katz

Department of Special Education, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA

Temple S. Lovelace

Department of Counseling, Psychology and Special Education, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA




Paula Maccini

Department of Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA

Linda H. Mason

Department of Educational Psychology, Counseling, and Special Education, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA

Margo A. Mastropieri

Division of Special Education and disAbility Research, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, USA

Lisa V. McCulley

Department of Special Education, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA

Jason A. Miller

Department of Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA

Mark P. Mostert

Disability Consultants International, Norfolk, VA, USA

Jessica Neu

Establishing Operations, LLC, Morristown, NJ, USA

Festus E. Obiakor

Department of Special Education, The City College of New York, New York, NY, USA

Thomas E. Scruggs

Division of Special Education and disAbility Research, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, USA

JoVonne Tabb

Department of Counseling, Psychology, and Special Education, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Catherine Creighton Thompson

Division of Special Education and disAbility Research, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, USA


List of Contributors

Allyson P. Toronto

Department of Counseling, Higher Education, and Special Education, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA

Nicole M. Uphold

Department of Special Education, Illinois State University, Normal, IL, USA

Sharon Vaughn

Department of Special Education, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, USA

Margaret P. Weiss

Division of Special Education and disAbility Research, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA, USA

Christopher D. Yawn

Department of Leadership & Special Education, The City College of New York, New York, NY, USA

PREFACE Learning Disabilities are divided into two volumes: Volume 24, Identification, Assessment and Instruction of Students with LD, and this book, Volume 25, Practice Concerns and Students with LD. Since the beginning of the field of learning disabilities (LD), professionals have argued and debated about what society accepts as normal learning patterns of children and youth in school environments. This situation has led to many approaches concerned with the identification, assessment, instruction, and clinical practices applied to students with LD. Unfortunately, some of these approaches were unwarranted, inappropriate, misguided, misinterpreted, over generalized, unneeded, and lacking in fidelity of treatment. In addition, some of the approaches did not take into consideration how treatment and instruction need to be modified as classrooms and school environments change regarding students with LD. Positively, special education LD professionals have gravitated toward the utilization of scientific and research-based analysis to evaluate past and current approaches. Such an approach produces greater fidelity of treatment as the LD knowledge base evolves. This is the emphasis that is used by chapter authors as they analyze and discern current perspectives and issues in identification, assessment, instruction, and practice of working with children and youth with LD. Volumes 24 and 25 address the current top perspectives and issues in the field of LD by providing chapters written by active researchers and scholarly university professors who specialize in this area. Volume 24 first delineates legal issues, themes, and dimensions related to the historical development of the LD field. Then this volume addresses best practices for the assessment and placement of students with LD. These discussions are followed by innovative examinations of critical issues that have faced the field of LD for many years such as culturally and linguistically diverse students and LD, prevention strategies for students at-risk for LD, evaluating bilingual students for LD, and the dilemma of instructing English language learners with LD. The volume concludes with comprehensive discussions of instructional issues such as differentiated instruction and the problem-solving approach for students with LD. Volume 25 begins with a strong ideological rationale and convincing research arguments for the inclusion of students xi



with LD in general education classes. This chapter supports an examination of academic instruction parameters that are currently being practiced in the LD field to support inclusion practices. Next, the volume provides knowledge base components for general and special educators related to effective practices and interventions such as reading, written instruction, mathematics, and social skills training. These chapters are followed by thorough discussions of response to intervention and the use of assistive technology with students with LD. Successful inclusion for students with LD necessitates educators understanding their families and one informative chapter deals with this aspect. The volume concludes with a chapter that is devoted to effectively preparing teachers of the students who have LD. Volumes 24 and 25 comprise 10 chapters each that are written by wellknown university professors who are actively involved in teaching undergraduate and graduate special education courses and engaged in research in the LD field. Learning Disabilities: Practice Concerns and Students with LD is an excellent supplementary text for advanced undergraduate special education majors and graduate students who are looking for detailed, comprehensive, and current information for their research papers or theses. Jeffrey P. Bakken Festus E. Obiakor Anthony F. Rotatori Editors

INCLUSION AND LEARNING DISABILITIES: WILL THE PAST BE PROLOGUE? Margo A. Mastropieri, Thomas E. Scruggs, Mary Guckert, Catherine Creighton Thompson and Margaret P. Weiss ABSTRACT The field of learning disabilities has been greatly influenced by both legal and policy decisions throughout its relatively short history. This chapter presents an overview of the historical analysis of learning disabilities and inclusion to provide a context for the present. An analysis of the studies conducted examining effects of inclusive interventions with students with learning disabilities is provided. Finally, predictions for the future of learning disabilities and inclusion are made based on the historical analysis and literature reviewed. Implications for educators, policy, and practice are made.

Since its inception, learning disabilities (LD) has posed challenges for the field to precisely define, identify, and remediate. The definition, identification procedures, interventions, and placements have changed considerably Learning Disabilities: Practice Concerns and Students with LD Advances in Special Education, Volume 25, 1–17 Copyright r 2013 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited All rights of reproduction in any form reserved ISSN: 0270-4013/doi:10.1108/S0270-4013(2013)0000025004




over time. Although change can bring positive results, unintended consequences and ambiguities may also arise among constituencies including parents, educators, researchers, advocacy groups, and policy makers. The history of learning disabilities includes many examples of significant successes, as well as missteps and shortcomings. Learning disabilities, in the form of, for example, ‘‘word blindness’’ were first identified in the 19th and early 20th century, and began to gain more research attention through the 20th century with the assistance of researchers/practitioners such as Hinshelwood, Fernald, Orton, Monroe, Werner, Kirk, Gillingham, and Kephart (Hallahan & Mercer, 2002). Although several of these approaches, including multisensory instruction, perceptual and motor training, and psycholinguistic training, failed to result in generalized benefits to learners, earlier researchers agreed that intensive, systematic instruction conducted individually or in small groups, was important for success. For example, Hinshelwood (1917, p. 99) argued, ‘‘The first condition of successful instruction in such casesyis that the child must have personal instruction and be taught alone.’’ While such individualized instruction appeared to lead to increased learning, it would contrast sharply with efforts for students with learning disabilities to be taught in more inclusive settings. By 1958, Samuel Kirk had proposed that the term ‘‘learning disabilities’’ be used to describe a cluster of disorders of academic performance (LDAA, 2012), and in 1969, the Children with Specific Learning Disabilities Act was the first federal act to mandate support services for students with learning disabilities (Hallahan & Mercer, 2002). The category of learning disabilities was included in PL 94-142 of 1975, presently referred to as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and numbers of students referred for learning disabilities continued to increase after that time. Initially, students with identified learning disabilities were largely served in special education classes, particularly for basic skills acquisition. In 1986, however, an article by Madeline Will, based upon an earlier Wingspread Conference presentation, argued persuasively for inclusive placements of students with disabilities. This article was widely cited, and set the stage for more inclusive placements for all students with disabilities, but particularly for students with learning disabilities. In the 1990s, organizations, particularly those interested in more severe disabilities, advocated strongly for full-time inclusion (‘‘full inclusion’’) of all students with disabilities in general education classroom settings. Advocates for students with learning disabilities suggested more caution in this approach, being reluctant to lose opportunities for individualized

Inclusion and Learning Disabilities


instruction in reading and other skill areas, when needed (Fuchs & Fuchs, 1994). Today, over 86% of students with learning disabilities spend at least 40% of their school day in general education settings; more than half spend at least 79% of their school day in general education settings (USDOE, 2011).

LITERACY AND INCLUSION Peer Assisted Learning Strategies One of the most significant developments in literacy instruction for students with learning disabilities is Peer Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS), developed by Doug and Lynn Fuchs and colleagues (e.g., Fuchs, Fuchs, & Burish, 2000; Fuchs et al., 2001; McMaster, Fuchs, & Fuchs, 2006; see also Mastropieri & Scruggs, in press, Chapter 14, for a discussion). This model incorporates classwide peer tutoring with word reading practice and feedback, paired with comprehension instruction. The value of PALS is that students, even in inclusive classrooms, receive intensive one-to-one instruction, with much practice and feedback. In this way, students with learning disabilities receive individual instruction, as recommended by early learning disabilities researchers, and also receive instruction in inclusive settings, as recommended by more recent policy advocates. An important element of PALS instruction is careful selection of tutoring pairs, systematic instruction of tutoring procedures, and active monitoring of tutoring practice. PALS tutoring partners are selected such that there is a stronger and a weaker student in each dyad, and the skill difference is relatively consistent throughout the classroom. When the teacher announces the reading selection and tells the class to begin tutoring, the stronger reader first reads the passage to the partner for a period of 5 minutes. The roles are then reversed, and the weaker reader then reads for the next 5 minutes. During the oral reading, the tutor partner follows along and corrects reading errors of the tutee. Following the 10-minute reading session is a 2-minute ‘‘Retell’’ session, in which the weaker reader is directed to answer:  What did you learn first?  What did you learn next?  What did you learn next? (as needed)



The tutoring partner provides feedback on the answers. The next, third, segment is referred to as ‘‘Paragraph Shrinking,’’ where the weaker reader is asked by the tutoring partner to provide the following information for each paragraph:  Name the ‘‘who’’ or ‘‘what’’ (i.e., that the passage refers to).  State the most important thing about the ‘‘who’’ or ‘‘what.’’  Say the main idea in 10 words or less. Tutoring partners are provided with directions for providing feedback. When a partner makes an error, the other partner is taught to say, ‘‘No, that’s not quite correct,’’ and to encourage the partner to skim the passage for the correct answer. The final segment is referred to as the ‘‘Prediction Relay,’’ and it is composed of four segments: Predict____What do you predict will happen next? Read____Read half a page. Check____ Did the prediction come true? Summarize____ Say the main idea in 10 words or less. (Mathes, Fuchs, Fuchs, Henley, & Sanders, 1994, p. 46) Students receive prompt cards that contain this information, that they can use in questioning their partners. Every 4 weeks, the tutoring pairs are rearranged, and the entire class is divided into two teams (‘‘Red,’’ and ‘‘Blue’’). Each pair of each team is given points for good reading, and good tutoring, on a daily basis, and at the end of the 4-week session, points are tallied to reveal a winning team, that is congratulated, as is the second team, for participating. Then, two new teams are formed, and again begin accumulating points. A number of recommendations have been made, for example, by Mathes et al. (1994) and Fuchs et al. (2000) about implementing PALS programs. These authors suggest careful selection of tutoring materials for appropriateness, and being careful not to use materials too difficult for the weaker readers. Stopwatches and calculators are also useful materials. Regular PALS tutoring sessions should be scheduled regularly (e.g., 3 days per week, 35 minutes per session, over 15 weeks), and at times when all students are in class. Training for tutoring should be carefully executed, with one session of about 45 minutes to introduce the tutoring procedures, and two sessions each for each of the reading activities. Students need time to acquire all the necessary skills to appropriately implement PALS. Finally, these researchers suggest systematic training for reinforcing partners, good sportsmanship, and cooperative behavior. Mathes et al. (1994) suggested, ‘‘many students

Inclusion and Learning Disabilities


left to their own devices may become bossy, impatient, or disrespectful toward their tutoring partneryGiving positive feedback and rewards is not a natural behavior for most children’’ (p. 47).

Other Peer-Mediated Literacy Programs Vaughn, Klingner, and Bryant (2001) described a model they referred to as ‘‘Collaborative Strategic Reading’’ (CSR), which can be used in inclusive upper elementary, middle school, and high school classrooms (see also Kim et al., 2006; Klingner, Vaughn, Dimino, Schumm, & Bryant, 2001). Since reading instruction is not commonly included in secondary classrooms, this model can be employed for reading in the content areas. The CSR model contains four components, similar in many respects to the PALS model: 1. Preview: Brainstorm prior knowledge and predict outcomes, before reading. 2. Click and Clunk: Students identify difficult words or word parts (‘‘clunks’’). Then, a series of ‘‘fix-up strategies’’ is used to decode the ‘‘clunk’’; these include (a) rereading for key ideas, (b) looking for context clues, (c) examining prefixes or suffixes, and (d) looking for smaller words within the larger word. 3. Get the gist: Students are taught to self-question: What is the most important person, place, or thing? What is the most important idea about the person, place, or thing? 4. Wrap up: After reading is completed, students are asked to construct their own questions, to review their understanding of the passage, answer relevant questions, and summarize what they have learned. Students undertake CSR in cooperative groups, and are taught the following roles: 1. Leader, who directs reading and what strategies to apply, 2. Clunk expert, who reminds the group about the steps in reading the words, 3. Gist expert, who helps the group summarize the passage, 4. Announcer, who directs reading and sharing ideas, and 5. Encourager, who provides praise and encouragement. Other similar peer mediated reading programs appropriate for inclusive classrooms include the Text Content and Structure Program (Lovett et al., 1996), reciprocal teaching (e.g., Klingner & Vaughn, 1996), and classwide



peer tutoring (Mastropieri et al., 2001). Berkeley, Scruggs, and Mastropieri (2010) reviewed peer-mediated reading strategies for students with learning disabilities, as part of a larger meta-analysis, and reported an overall weighted mean effect size of .65, suggesting that these are effective and appropriate teaching and learning strategies for including students with learning disabilities in general education elementary and secondary classrooms. Relevant chapters in this volume provide additional information for teaching reading, writing, and mathematics to students with learning disabilities.

CONTENT AREA LEARNING AND INCLUSION Content area learning is of significant importance to inclusion for several reasons. Special education teachers, especially on the secondary level, may not be well suited to teaching in areas such as English literature, citizenship, geography, history, and science; instructional programming may in these cases be best accomplished in inclusive classrooms. Since secondary schooling is largely concerned with content area learning, it seems appropriate for much of this to take place in inclusive settings, while special education teachers can also focus on basic literacy and math skills, and organizational and learning strategies (Scruggs, Mastropieri, Berkeley, & Graetz, 2010). Earlier research in content area learning in inclusive settings, much of which was conducted by Horton, Lovitt, and colleagues, focused on study guides, computerized tutorials, and graphic organizers which provide strategies for poor readers to abstract main ideas from textual material, reduce readability level, and manage the overwhelming amounts of detail often found in secondary textbooks (e.g., Horton & Lovitt, 1989; Horton, Lovitt, & Bergerud, 1990; Lovitt, Rudsit, Jenkins, Pious, & Benedetti, 1985). These curriculum modifications were generally effective in improving learning of students with learning disabilities, and other students, in general education science and social studies classes. More recent research has focused on peer-mediated instruction in inclusive content area classes (Scruggs, in press). Inclusive content area learning is also of interest in studying differential learning effects. While learning skills such as reading, cumulative skill development is required, and students must develop automaticity to be successful. In content area learning, on the other hand, learning requires declarative, purposeful, deliberative processing (generally of verbal information). In

Inclusion and Learning Disabilities


the study of content acquisition of discrete domains of knowledge in inclusive classes, we can evaluate specifically the relative effects of specific instructional treatments on students with learning disabilities versus general education students. We have recently investigated differential learning gains in inclusive classrooms using a number of closely related investigations of inclusive content area learning conducted by ourselves and colleagues (Scruggs, in press). These included the entirety of studies grouped under our label of ‘‘Differentiated Curriculum Enhancements’’ where all students in inclusive classrooms receive the same instructional practices and materials, yet these are presented in a manner that allows for individualized instruction to occur. We also included two teacher implementation studies, and one study by Bulgren, Schumaker, and Deshler (1994), which we considered very similar in design and implementation. Although the literature search was not exhaustive, these studies nonetheless represent a significant number of interventions conducted in inclusive content area classes, for which separate effects could be calculated for students with and without special needs (including substantial numbers of students with learning disabilities).

Differentiated Curriculum Enhancements The Differentiated Curriculum Enhancements studies were of three types. One type employed activities on several levels of difficulty, to be completed in small student groups. Although all groups were expected to proceed through all levels of activities, they employed self-recording techniques, and moved through the activities at their own pace. Similarly, in the classwide peer tutoring studies, student dyads took turns tutoring each other at their own learning pace. In the third type, tutoring pairs employed mnemonic (memory-enhancing) strategies when needed. All studies were implemented over periods of 8–12 weeks. We describe each type of intervention next. Tiered Activities Mastropieri et al. (2006) employed small group activities on three levels or tiers to promote learning of a unit on scientific methods (e.g., charting and measurement, experimental variables, quantitative and qualitative research questions). A number of game-like activities were developed, each of which was presented at three difficulty levels. For example, in level one students were asked to identify correct answers to relevant questions or problems. For level two, students were expected to produce correct answers, with



prompting when needed, and for level three, students produced correct answers without prompting. The investigation involved 13 eighth grade science classes, matched by classroom teacher first and then randomly assigned to either an experimental or control condition. Participants included 213 students, of whom 44 were classified with disabilities (37 with LD and 7 with EBD). Results supported the effectiveness of using peermediated, tiered learning activities in inclusive middle school classrooms on content tests as well as yearly high stakes tests. Simpkins, Mastropieri, and Scruggs (2009) investigated the effectiveness of tiered learning activities in three fifth grade classes. Sixty-one fifth grade students (43 general ed., 15 at-risk, 3 LD), in three inclusive classrooms, were taught two 5-week science units (light/sound, and earth/space science) via experimental or control conditions in a crossover design in which treatment order and unit of instruction were counterbalanced. In the control condition, students received typical instruction, with teacher lecture and discussion, textbook reading, and worksheet exercise completion. In the experimental condition, students received multitiered activities that were undertaken by students in pairs or small groups. Analysis of gain score data revealed that students scored higher on production tests when in the experimental condition. Classwide Peer Tutoring with Self-Monitoring Similar to previous peer-tutoring interventions studies (e.g., Maheady & Gard, 2010), Mastropieri, Scruggs, and Marshak (2008) employed a peer tutoring procedure to enhance learning in inclusive middle school American history classes. Students tutored each other, using ‘‘fact sheets’’ identified by teachers, for specific periods of time, alternating the role of tutor and tutee, and self-recording progress, so that they proceeded to new material only after they had mastered previous content. Using four classrooms in a crossover design in which all students received both traditional instruction and peer tutoring conditions, Mastropieri et al. reported that students scored higher on posttests with the experimental condition. In a replication study with 10 classrooms, randomly assigned to condition, students in experimental classrooms (N=133 general education students, 21 students with learning disabilities, and 3 students with emotional/behavioral disabilities), Scruggs, Mastropieri, and Marshak (2012) reported that students scored higher on tutored content as well as related content that had not been specifically tutored. McDuffie, Mastropieri, and Scruggs (2009). employed classwide peer tutoring with self-monitoring in middle schools classrooms studying a unit

Inclusion and Learning Disabilities


on genetics (nitrogenous bases, protein, DNA). The investigation included 141 general education students and 62 students with special needs, of whom 77% had learning disabilities. Again, students using the peer tutoring intervention outscored students receiving traditional instruction. Mnemonic Strategies Mastropieri, Scruggs, and Graetz (2005) developed mnemonic strategies (see Scruggs, Mastropieri, Berkeley, & Marshak, 2010) in high school chemistry classes containing students with learning disabilities. Classwide peer tutoring was employed, in which students took turns questioning each other about important chemistry content (e.g., molarity, core and valence electrons, exothermic reactions, nonpolar covalent bonding). When students demonstrated difficulty retrieving this content, tutors employed mnemonic strategies to facilitate retrieval. For example, a ‘‘mole’’ (the burrowing animal) was shown sitting on a scale to remind students that a mole is the atomic weight in grams of an element or compound. Students also questioned each other on comprehension of the content (‘‘What is an example of a mole?’’, ‘‘What else can you tell me about moles?’’). At the end of the unit, tests indicated that students in the mnemonic tutoring condition outperformed students in the traditional instruction condition. Marshak, Mastropieri, and Scruggs (2011) employedmnemonic strategies in the context of classwide peer tutoring to improve learning in an inclusive middle school American history class. For example, if students had difficulty remembering that John D. Rockefeller controlled much of the oil industry, tutors presented a picture of a rock (keyword for Rockefeller) with oil on it (for oil industry). This investigation employed 8 classrooms, randomly assigned to tutoring and traditional conditions, including 144 general education students, 21 students with learning disabilities, and 21 students with other special needs. Students in the mnemonic tutoring condition greatly outperformed students in the traditional instruction condition on unit posttests.

Other Related Investigations Two teacher implementation studies were also included in this review. Mastropieri, Sweda, and Scruggs (2000) employed mnemonic strategies in an inclusive fourth grade history classroom studying the European discovery of America; while Uberti, Scruggs, and Mastropieri (2003) employed mnemonic strategies (e.g., for jettison=throw overboard, a



picture of a jet throwing something overboard) to improve learning of reading vocabulary in three inclusive third grade classrooms. In both cases, students scored much higher on recall tests when mnemonic strategies were implemented. Bulgren et al. (1994) employed a ‘‘Recall Enhancement Routine,’’ which employed mnemonic strategies to improve learning in middle school social studies classrooms. Students with and without learning disabilities benefited from the treatment. Summary of Effects for Students With and Without Learning Disabilities Table 1 provides effect size information for students with and without special needs (of whom 80% had learning disabilities) across these 10 studies. As can be seen, across a variety of content areas and grade levels 3–10, the mean overall effect size was .63 for general education students, and 1.40 for students with disabilities. This advantage, which was statistically significant (p=.005, according to a Wilcoxon Matched-Pairs, Signed Ranks test), favored students with special needs (80% of whom had learning disabilities), in every case. In fact, the smallest advantage toward special needs students (.36 vs. .43), was in the Simpkins et al. (2009) investigation, which included the smallest proportion of students with learning disabilities in the special needs group, and included a majority of students considered ‘‘at risk.’’ Table 1. Summary: 10 Experiments, 1,128 Students, 283 with Special Needs (80% LD). Authors



Effect Size General ed.

Mastropieri et al. (2008) Scruggs et al. (2012) Mastropieri et al. (2001) Simpkins et al. (2009) McDuffie et al. (2009) Uberti et al. (2003) Mastropieri et al. (2005) Mastropieri et al. (2006) Marshak et al. (2011) Bulgren et al. (1994) Mean Wilcoxon z=2.803, p=.005.

7 7 4 5 7 3 10 8 7 7

American History American History World History Physical Science Genetics Literature Chemistry Scientific Method American History History of Journalism

.15 .28 .35 .36 .47 .76 .78 .79 1.09 1.29 .63

Special ed. W W W W W W W W W W W

.41 1.04 2.39 .43 .63 3.33 .93 1.15 1.90 1.82 1.40

Inclusion and Learning Disabilities


As noted by Scruggs (in press), such results provide both advantages and challenges for students with learning disabilities in inclusive classrooms. On the positive side, research has revealed a number of strategies for teaching students with learning disabilities in inclusive classes that apparently differentially facilitate outcomes for students with learning disabilities, such that, after intervention, students with and without disabilities perform more similarly. In fact, in three of these investigations (Marshak et al., 2011; Scruggs et al., 2012; Uberti et al., 2003) students with learning disabilities, after intervention, scored the same or higher than general education students. These results suggest, at least in some cases, students can benefit substantially from appropriate inclusive instruction. On the other hand, there is evidence that appropriate inclusive strategies are infrequently implemented in existing content area classrooms. Scruggs and Mastropieri (1996) and Scruggs, Mastropieri, and Leins (2011) summarized research from 68 surveys of teacher attitude toward inclusion between 1958 and 2011, which included 18,926 respondents. These surveys indicated that attitudes have changed little over the years: While a majority supported the general idea of inclusion (only a minority supported full time inclusion), and much smaller numbers agreed that they had sufficient time (o30%), training (o40%), or administrative support (o30%) to carry out inclusive practices effectively. Even when personnel support for inclusion is available, in the form of a co-teacher, effective teaching practices are not necessarily implemented. Scruggs, Mastropieri, and McDuffie (2007) completed a ‘‘meta-synthesis’’ of 32 qualitative studies of co-teaching in inclusive classrooms, which in all cases included students with learning disabilities. In these studies, 453 co-teachers, 142 students, 42 administrators were studied in detail. Collectively, the dominant model of co-teaching was ‘‘one teach, one assist’’ (see, e.g., Friend & Cook, 2010), where the special education teacher serves in a secondary role. Zigmond and Matta (2004) represented the conclusions of many when they stated ynone of what we saw would make it more likely .that the students with disabilities in the class would master the materialyWe virtually never saw the special education teacher provide explicit strategic instruction to facilitate learning or memory of the content material. (p. 73)

Such findings provide a less positive picture of effective inclusion for students with learning disabilities. However, combined with the positive results of intervention research, it seems possible that, with increased teacher



time, training, and support, positive outcomes can be realized for students with learning disabilities in inclusive classrooms.

RTI AND THE FUTURE OF INCLUSION OF STUDENTS WITH LD In 2004, with the authorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), state and local education authorities have been encouraged to consider responsiveness to intervention (RtI) as a possible marker for identifying of learning disabilities (O’Connor & Sanchez, 2011b), and as an alternative to existing ability–achievement discrepancy models for identification. RtI was conceptualized as a multitiered system of prevention, in which tier one was intended to be evidence-based general education classroom instruction. For students who exhibited difficulty learning satisfactorily with this instruction, tier two services were available, which provided (usually) systematic and structured reading instruction to small groups of primary grade students. Students who continued to exhibit difficulty ‘‘responding’’ to tier two instruction could (in some models) be referred to special education services for students with learning disabilities. In these cases, response to instruction could be considered part of the assessment for learning disabilities, and consequent placement in (in some models) tier three, special education. The model, overall was intended to reduce special education placements, provide early intervention when needed, and provide additional general education services for struggling students (Mastropieri & Scruggs, in press, Chapter 7; Mellard & Johnson, 2008). Since RtI, at least at the tier one and tier two levels, is implemented entirely within general education with nonreferred students, it can not necessarily be thought of as an inclusion strategy. However, its intention is to promote greater inclusiveness by intervening within the general education system and potentially reducing unnecessary referrals to special education. At present, RtI has been widely implemented, employing a wide variety of different models (Berkeley, Bender, Peaster, & Saunders, 2009). At this writing, after nearly a decade of research, there are still many questions about RtI left unanswered. Although many tier two interventions have demonstrated success in improving early reading, particularly at the reading subskill level (O’Connor & Sanchez, 2011a), the degree to which RtI has reduced special education referrals is unknown, as is the question of whether RtI is a better approach to identification of learning disabilities (O’Connor & Sanchez, 2011b). Uses of RtI beyond early reading and math,

Inclusion and Learning Disabilities


and involving higher grade levels, or difficulties in content areas also are less well understood (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 2005; Scruggs & Mastropieri, 2002). Since students with learning disabilities clearly do respond to appropriate instruction, the conceptual validity of RtI is questionable for this purpose, as is the inability of RtI, by itself, to address commonly considered characterizations of learning disabilities (Learning Disabilities Association of America, 2010; Scruggs & Mastropieri, 2002). When inappropriately applied, RtI may actually delay or deny appropriate special education services, and there is evidence that this is happening in several states and districts (Musgrove, 2011; Yell & Walker, 2010). Notwithstanding the present challenges of RtI programs, it is possible that in the future RtI programs may provide better general education services to struggling learners, and help provide a smoother transition between general and special education. These would be very positive outcomes, although it seems less likely that in the future, RtI will prove effective as an identification instrument for learning disabilities, without significant modification (Reynolds & Shaywitz, 2009; Reynolds & Shaywitz, 1999).

CONCLUSION Researchers and practitioners have attempted to address the learning needs of students with learning disabilities with a variety of strategies. Throughout the history of the field, efforts have been made to provide individualized and intensive instruction to students with learning disabilities, from individualized to more inclusive settings. Recent research has identified the effectiveness of these strategies, and some has suggested the possibility that students with learning disabilities may profit differentially from systematic, strategic instruction. Although many strategies have proven to be effective, additional effort and resources will need to be provided in the future to ensure that teachers are supported to provide the most effective teaching and learning strategies in general education classrooms, and to ensure that all students, including those with learning disabilities are able to maximize their learning potential.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT This research was supported in part by a grant from the Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education Grant No.



H325D070008, but does not represent an endorsement by the US Department of Education of its contents.

REFERENCES Berkeley, S., Bender, W. N., Peaster, L. G., & Saunders, L. (2009). Implementation of response to intervention: A snapshot of progress. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 85–95. Berkeley, S., Scruggs, T. E., & Mastropieri, M. A. (2010). Reading comprehension instruction for students with learning disabilities, 1995–2006: A meta-analysis. Remedial and Special Education, 31, 423–436. doi: 10.1177/0741932509355988. Bulgren, J. A., Schumaker, J. B., & Deshler, D. D. (1994). The effects of a recall enhancement routine on the test performance of secondary students with and without learning disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 9, 2–11. Friend, M. D., & Cook, L. (2010). Interactions: Collaboration skills for school professionals (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Fuchs, D., & Fuchs, L. S. (1994). Inclusive schools movement and the radicalization of special education reform. Exceptional Children, 60, 294–309. Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L. S., & Burish, P. (2000). Peer-assisted learning strategies: An evidencebased practice to promote reading achievement. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 15, 85–91. Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L. S., Thompson, A., Svenson, E., Yen, L., Al Otaiba, S., y Saenz, L. (2001). Peer-assisted learning strategies in reading: Extensions for kindergarten, first grade, and high school. Remedial and Special Education, 22, 15–21. Hallahan, D. P., & Mercer, C. P. (2002). Learning disabilities: A historical perspective. In R. Bradley, L. Danielson & D. P. Hallahan (Eds.), Identification of learning disabilities: Research to practice (pp. 1–66). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Hinshelwood, J. (1917). Congenital word-blindness. London: H. K. Lewis & Co. LTD. Horton, S. V., & Lovitt, T. C. (1989). Using study guides with three classifications of secondary students. Journal of Special Education, 22, 447–462. Horton, S. V., Lovitt, T. C., & Bergerud, D. (1990). The effectiveness of graphic organizers for three classifications of secondary students in content area classes. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 23, 12–29. doi: 10.1177/002221949002300107. Kim, A., Vaughn, S., Klingner, J. K., Woodruff, A. L., Klein, C., & Kouzekanani, K. (2006). Improving the reading comprehension of middle school students with disabilities through computer-assisted Collaborative Strategic Reading (CACSR). Remedial and Special Education, 27, 235–248. Klingner, J. K., & Vaughn, S. (1996). Reciprocal teaching of reading comprehension strategies for students with learning disabilities who use English as a second language. Elementary School Journal, 96, 275–293. Klingner, J. K., Vaughn, S., Dimino, J., Schumm, J. S., & Bryant, D. (2001). From clunk to click: Collaborative Strategic Reading. Longmont, CO: Sopris West. Learning Disabilities Association of America (2012). History of learning disabilities. Pittsburgh, PA: Author. Retrieved from http://www.ldanatl.org/about/history.asp. Accessed on June 19, 2012.

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Mellard, D., & Johnson, E. (2008). RTI: A practitioner’s guide to implementing response to intervention. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin. Musgrove, M. (2011). A response to instruction (RTI) process can not be used to delay-deny an evaluation for disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Memo sent to state directors of special education. Washington, DC: Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. O’Connor, R. E., & Sanchez, V. (2011a). Issues in assessment for intervention in implementation of responsiveness to intervention models. In T. E. Scruggs & M. A. Mastropieri (Eds.), Assessment and intervention: Advances in learning and behavioral disabilities (Vol. 24, pp. 149–170). Bingley, UK: Emerald. doi: 10.1108/S0735004X(2011)0000024009. O’Connor, R. E., & Sanchez, V. (2011b). Responsiveness to intervention models for reducing reading difficulties and identifying learning disability. In J. Kauffman, D. P. Hallahan & J. Lloyd (Eds.), Handbook of special education (pp. 123–133). New York, NY: Routledge. Reynolds, C. R., & Shaywitz, S. E. (2009). Response to intervention: Remediation, perhaps, diagnosis, no. Child Development Perspectives, 3, 44–47. Scruggs, T. E. (in press). Differential facilitation of learning outcomes: What does it tell us about learning disabilities and instructional programming? International Journal for Research in Learning Disabilities. Scruggs, T. E., & Mastropieri, M. A. (1996). Teacher perceptions of mainstreaming/inclusion, 1958–1995: A research synthesis. Exceptional Children, 63, 59–74. Scruggs, T. E., & Mastropieri, M. A. (2002). On babies and bathwater: Addressing the problems of identification of learning disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 25, 155–168. Scruggs, T. E., Mastropieri, M. A., Berkeley, S., & Graetz, J. (2010). Do special education interventions improve learning of secondary content? A meta analysis. Remedial and Special Education, 36, 437–449. doi: 10.1177/0741932508327465. Scruggs, T. E., Mastropieri, M. A., Berkeley, S., & Marshak, L. (2010). Mnemonic strategies: Evidence-based practice and practice-based evidence. Intervention in School and Clinic, 46, 79–86. doi: 10.1177/1053451210374985. Scruggs, T. E., Mastropieri, M. A., & Leins, P. (2011, April). Teacher attitudes towards inclusion: A synthesis of survey, comparative, and qualitative research, 1958–2010. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Council for Exceptional Children, Washington, DC. Scruggs, T. E., Mastropieri, M. A., & Marshak, L. (2012). Peer-mediated instruction in inclusive secondary social studies learning: Direct and indirect learning effects. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 27, 12–20. Scruggs, T. E., Mastropieri, M. A., & McDuffie, K. A. (2007). Co-teaching in inclusive classrooms: A meta-synthesis of qualitative research. Exceptional Children, 73, 392–416. Simpkins, P. M., Mastropieri, M. A., & Scruggs, T. E (2009). Differentiated curriculum enhancements in inclusive 5th grade science classes. Remedial and Special Education, 30, 300–308. Uberti, H. Z., Scruggs, T. E., & Mastropieri, M. A. (2003). Keywords make the difference! Mnemonic instruction in inclusive classrooms. Teaching Exceptional Children, 35(3), 56–61.

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U.S. Department of Education. (2011). Thirtieth annual report to congress on the implementation of individuals with disabilities education act. Washington, DC: Author. Vaughn, S., Klingner, J. K., & Bryant, D. P. (2001). Collaborative strategic reading as a means to enhance peer-mediated instruction for reading comprehension and content area learning. Remedial and Special Education, 22, 66–74. Will, M. C. (1986). Educating children with learning problems: A shared responsibility. Exceptional Children, 53, 411–415. Yell, M., & Walker, D. (2010). The legal basis of response to intervention: Analysis and implications. Exceptionality, 18, 124–137. Zigmond, N., & Matta, D. (2004). Value added of the special education teacher on secondary school cotaught classes. In T. E. Scruggs & M. A. Mastropieri (Eds.), Advances in learning and behavioral disabilities: Research in secondary schools (Vol. 17, pp. 55–76). Oxford, UK: Elsevier.

READING INSTRUCTION AND STUDENTS WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES Lisa V. McCulley, Sarah Katz and Sharon Vaughn ABSTRACT Students with learning disabilities characteristically demonstrate unexpected underachievement and continued learning challenges in spite of appropriate instruction. Because reading is fundamental to competency of all future endeavors, reading interventions have been the focus of considerable public and professional attention. Intensive interventions that reflect students’ cognitive processing challenges, address the need for feedback, and take into consideration the learning environment have been associated with improved student learning outcomes. While elementary and secondary struggling readers differ, the targeted reading skills are the same. At all levels, fundamental skills such as phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary knowledge, and comprehension are crucial to reading success. At the elementary level, phonemic awareness and the alphabetic principle are best taught through direct and explicit instruction; vocabulary instruction emphasizes word recognition. Fluency problems can be addressed through such activities as repeated or timed readings.

Learning Disabilities: Practice Concerns and Students with LD Advances in Special Education, Volume 25, 19–43 Copyright r 2013 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited All rights of reproduction in any form reserved ISSN: 0270-4013/doi:10.1108/S0270-4013(2013)0000025005




As students progress to the secondary levels, vocabulary demands become increasingly related to content acquisition, and a combination of generative and non-generative approaches to vocabulary instruction is recommended. At the secondary level, fluency practice is best coupled with comprehension instruction, which can include the explicit teaching of strategies and opportunities for students to work collaboratively. While there are no simple solutions to the challenges experienced by struggling learners, appropriate, differentiated, and intensive interventions can increase the likelihood of improved learning outcomes for these students.

INTRODUCTION Students with learning disabilities are characteristically individuals who demonstrate unexpected underachievement. The most consistent defining criterion is that students with learning disabilities demonstrate learning challenges even after being provided appropriate instruction. Reading is the area in which the majority of students with learning disabilities demonstrate learning problems. There is no easy solution to remediate these persistent reading difficulties; however, appropriate intensive interventions are the most agreed upon practice. Vaughn and colleagues (Vaughn, Wanzek, Murray, & Roberts, 2012) suggest several considerations for remediating reading (and math) difficulties: (a) consider the cognitive processing difficulties of the student (e.g., memory, attention) and consider how to design instruction that addresses cognitive challenges while remediating academic difficulties, (b) consider whether instructional delivery is being adequately differentiated to meet the needs of students with reading disabilities including the application of well specified and explicit instruction that maximizes opportunities to respond with feedback, (c) provide students with adequate instructional time to assure that students make better than expected growth for an extended time to provide on level learning opportunities, and (d) consider the extent to which the learning environment promotes opportunities to respond with appropriate instruction including one-on-one instruction and small group learning. Accomplishing these goals requires educators who are aware of the foundation skills (e.g., phonemic awareness instruction) as well as the more cognitively complex elements of reading such as vocabulary knowledge, fluency, and reading comprehension.

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ELEMENTARY STUDENTS WITH READING DISABILITIES Foundation Skills: Phonemic Awareness and the Alphabetic Principle Phonemic awareness, or conscious attentiveness to the individual speech sounds that comprise spoken words (O’Connor, 2011), is widely viewed as a key instructional piece in teaching reading. Some of the most basic components involved in the processes of learning to read are embedded in the systems of phonemic awareness and include letter–sound manipulation, breaking words into spoken sounds, sound matching, blending, and segmenting (Yeh & Connell, 2008). Although phonemic awareness has been documented as far back as early colonial times (O’Connor, 2011), generally this method of instruction was not a prevalent component in early reading programs until the mid-1980s. At that time results from a set of correlational studies in early literacy suggested many young students who were struggling to read were not able to demonstrate understanding of decontextualized phonemic sound structures within words (Roberts, Christo, & Shefelbine, 2010). These correlational studies indicated the existence of strong ties between phoneme segmentation and achievement in reading for young children. According to Lyon (1995), the best predictor of reading difficulty in kindergarten or first grade is the inability to segment words and syllables into their constituent sound units. Phonemic awareness refers to an individual’s ability to understand that spoken words are made up of a pattern of speech sounds that can be manipulated in various ways. These speech sounds also compose syllables or word units. The English language has 26 letters, but consists of approximately 40 individual sound units (phonemes) representing upwards of 300 spellings. Because sounds in the English language are often co-articulated, or not distinctly separated from each other, many students do not readily acquire phoneme awareness and benefit when it is taught explicitly (Coyne, Kameenui, Simmons, & Harn, 2004). This is what separates the concepts of phonics from phonemic awareness. Phonics instruction focuses on phoneme–grapheme matching, pairing sounds, and letters. Phonemic instruction, on the other hand, focuses on manipulation of individual sounds within words and the ways in which blending, segmenting, and matching can support the process of reading. The inability to perform phonemic awareness tasks is one of the first indicators of reading difficulties. This inability will often emerge as early as prekindergarten or kindergarten and can be detrimental to a student’s future



success in reading. Research indicates the existence of a causal relationship between the ability to manipulate phonemes and the acquisition of early reading skills (Elbro & Peterson, 2004). There is also a wealth of research indicating that one of the primary differences between students with difficulties in reading and students without reading difficulties is their ability to process phonological components. If and when difficulties in phonemic awareness begin to become evident, early intervention yields improved outcomes (O’Connor, 2011). Students who struggle with reading need direct and explicit instruction in phonemic awareness activities (Lyon, 1995). Sample activities may include: 1. Sound segmentation:  ‘‘Listen as I say each of the sounds within my words /ssss/-/aaaa/-/ dddd/. The sounds in the word sad are /ssss/-/aaaa/-/dddd/. Say the word sad with me, and then say the sounds separately.’’  Repeat steps above using additional words. Scaffold difficulty of words as appropriate for students. Also ask students to identify the beginning, middle, and final sounds within the word. 2. Elkonin Boxes:  Present students with a set of plastic manipulative letters. Place the letters for a word in front of student.  ‘‘These letters make the word ran. Let’s say the sounds: /rrrr/-/aaaa/-/ nnnn/. The first sound is /r/. What would happen if we get rid of the r and replace it with an m?’’  Move the letter r and replace it with an m. Have students sound out the word.  ‘‘That is right, the word is now man: /mmmm/-/aaaa/-/nnnn/, man. Say it with me.’’  Repeat steps above using additional words. Scaffold difficulty of words as appropriate for students. Also ask students to identify the beginning, middle, and final sounds within the word. Having a grasp on phonemic awareness is critical when learning to read because most languages are set up on an alphabetic system where letters represent sounds; thus, phonemic awareness, once mastered, lends itself nicely to awareness of an alphabetic principle. Understanding the alphabetic principle is one of the most significant and foundational skills when learning to read. The alphabetic principle is based on the concept that words are represented by letters in print. Many students learn readily that the alphabet is made up of letters (static images and/or shapes) and that each of those letters has a name. Many students also understand readily that those letters

Reading Instruction and Students with Learning Disabilities


correspond with a sound or set of sounds in the spoken language, and that the sounds within the spoken language correspond to a sound in written language. Students with reading disabilities do not readily acquire an understanding of the alphabetic principle and require more opportunities to learn letter names and sounds as well as associations. When taught directly and explicitly, the components of the alphabetic principle can assist students with reading difficulties to understand the most basic processes of becoming a successful reader (Lyon, 1995). Also embedded within the concept of alphabetic awareness is the skill of phonological recoding. Phonological recoding consists of the process in which students use analytic skills to decode both regular and irregular words. This process is threefold and includes (a) concept of print structure, (b) sound generation for all letters within a word, and (c) manipulation and blending of sounds to form words (Simmons & Kameenui, 1998).

Vocabulary and Elementary Readers Instruction in vocabulary has long been deemed an essential part of a balanced reading program. However, a longitudinal study by Hart and Risley (1995) portrayed dismal vocabulary outcomes for poor children, resulting in the need for greater emphasis on vocabulary instruction. This study revealed that the number of words a young child knows is directly tied to the complexity and amount of words that were spoken in their home. The amount, and quality, of language used in the home differs depending on the socioeconomic status of the child’s family; students who are raised in poverty often demonstrate knowledge of fewer and less mature vocabulary words when compared to those who were not raised in poverty. Hart and Risley (1995) determined it is very difficult to close the learning gap for students who enter kindergarten with deficits in both their exposure to, and acquisition of, vocabulary. This study further found that the vocabulary level of a child at age three is a robust predictor of that same child’s reading comprehension ability in third and fourth grades. As a result, vocabulary instruction is a vital portion of reading instruction since it ties strongly to comprehension of text (McKeown & Beck, 2011) and is increasingly critical to include as a component in the development of reading in early grades. Vocabulary instruction requires a multifactored approach that includes building both oral language vocabulary and print vocabulary. In early elementary grades, vocabulary instruction is commonly based on teaching unfamiliar words within a text and in matching a vocabulary word with a



synonym. It is uncommon for text at the kindergarten through second grade level to be heavily laden with difficult vocabulary concepts. It is more common for one or two difficult words to be found within a text. In upper elementary grades, it is more common to find vocabulary instruction existing as an integral part of each reading lesson. Generally, words are defined, taught briefly in context, and previewed before a passage is read in class. Although these words are taught in a slightly more systematic and explicit way than in early elementary grades, they are not commonly reviewed or discussed in any follow up after that particular reading lesson (Rupley & Nichols, 2005). The importance of vocabulary instruction and its implications for impacting struggling readers is well-established, yet there is little research that indicates the most successful methods or combination of methodologies for the provision of this instruction. One of the best approaches to improving vocabulary is extensive word reading, which is less likely to occur with students with reading difficulties since reading is neither easy nor enjoyable. A synthesis of research conducted by Ellman, Lindo, Morphy, and Compton (2009) indicated mixed results as to whether vocabulary instruction transferred to impact students’ global reading comprehension. The same synthesis, however, indicated that individualized vocabulary training holds the potential to make significant impacts on students with reading disabilities. When provided with targeted vocabulary instruction, students with reading disabilities showed gains in reading comprehension three times greater than students without reading disabilities. Although research indicated that after targeted instruction these same students did not demonstrate increases in actual vocabulary knowledge (when compared to their nondisabled peers), the gains in their comprehension are noteworthy. This finding indicates the existence of a link between vocabulary instruction and understanding of text, and provides a framework for potential instructional practices. A few instructional practices have been found effective for remediating vocabulary deficits in struggling readers. One is to teach words both directly (e.g., teach new words and their meanings) and indirectly (e.g., teach students to recognize unknown words they hear or read and methods for discerning meaning). Another useful practice is to teach words in the context of connected text. For example, a teacher can choose approximately two to five vocabulary words from a passage or piece of literature that the student will be asked to read, and focus on these words before, during, and after reading. It is also helpful for the teacher to provide repeated exposures of words within different contexts, as well as multiple exposures of the words

Reading Instruction and Students with Learning Disabilities


being taught. For example, students can look up synonyms and antonyms of words, list examples and non-examples to classify a word, or relate the word to a personal experience (Stahl & Shiel, 1999). Finally, teachers can provide students opportunities for peer interaction to reinforce word understanding, such as ‘‘think-pair-share’’ activities. Teachers can provide partnered students a higher-level thinking question about a vocabulary word; for example, if the vocabulary word being taught is ‘‘challenging,’’ a possible think-pair-share question could be: ‘Think of the most challenging thing you have ever done. How did you feel when you completed it?’ An instructional program aimed at teaching vocabulary that grounded in some of these methods will likely increase the success rates for student mastery of vocabulary. Teachers should keep in mind that instruction is incremental. It is important to understand that student vocabulary accumulates as they progress though the grades.

Fluency and Elementary Readers Fluency is one of the most crucial components of successful reading because it frees up students’ cognitive resources to think about what they are reading, thus improving their understanding of text. Problems with fluency commonly arise in students at the upper elementary level and older; this may be because students at the early elementary level generally need to build proficiency with decoding and phonemic awareness before they are able to apply those skills in the context of fluently reading a connected text. However, this does not discount the importance of building fluency skills in young readers. As described by Hudson (2001) fluent reading involves a process known as ‘‘lexical fluency,’’ or the ability to read connected words with automaticity, even when they appear out of context. Fluent reading requires the simultaneous use of an arsenal of cognitive sub-skills (Torgerson & Hudson, 2006). As young readers master phonemic awareness and letter recognition and begin to apply those skills, they increase the rates at which they process lexical and textual components of reading. This cyclical connection commonly leads to successful decoding of connected words within text. This ability to decode connected text with speed and accuracy is critical to the endeavor of reading and is often lacking in those with reading difficulties. Students who read fluently are able to orally decode a text accurately, quickly, and with appropriate prosody and expression. Struggling readers commonly have difficulty with fluency because they have underdeveloped



word reading and vocabulary. This underdeveloped word reading decreases automaticity and reduces speed. The overall outcome is one in which students spend excessive time thinking about words rather than understanding text. According to LaBerge and Samuels (1974), a fluent reader has automatic decoding processes that require little to no conscious attention. Such automaticity is commonly compromised in students with reading difficulties. For these students, the reading process is often laborious, choppy, and disjointed as they commonly demonstrate one, or a combination, of the following: (a) deficits in word reading abilities, (b) weaknesses in applying letter–sound correspondence to the word they are reading, (c) lack of understanding of word meaning, (d) slow word retrieval skills, or (e) limited practice resulting in a delayed approach to reading. Problems with fluency can arise out of difficulties with phoneme awareness and deficits in the ability to manipulate phonetic material. In addition to reading slowly and inaccurately, dysfluent readers commonly decode at the word level (Hudson, Lane, & Pullen, 2005), which creates difficulty with text comprehension as they begin to see words in the context of short phrases rather than in the context of the connected text in which they exist. Reading instruction for these students can be thought of as a cyclical process in which phonetic awareness impacts fluency and fluency, in turn, impacts both phonetic awareness and comprehension. Thus, if a young student begins to demonstrate weaknesses in his or her ability to synthesize phonetic awareness activities the results commonly manifest as deficits in phoneme–grapheme mapping and a weak understanding of letters and sounds. This resulting lack of foundational understanding of letter– sound correspondence can impact a student’s ability to apply those skills to decoding text (connected or isolated) and can cause dysfluent reading. Research indicates that when any one sub-process of reading fluency is compromised the result is evidenced in comprehension deficits, especially with connected text (Katzir et al., 2006). So, although these separate components of reading (phonemic awareness, fluency, and comprehension) are important individually, when put together they create a powerful, and cyclical, formula for readers. It would seem that in this case, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. If one component is compromised, the impact can be far-reaching and highly detrimental. Fluency is commonly measured using a formula calculating the number of words a student can read accurately in a set amount of time – typically one minute. There are various ways proposed to build fluency; however it should be noted that currently there is not adequate research documenting the type and duration of fluency intervention that yields the most robust results for

Reading Instruction and Students with Learning Disabilities


youngsters with reading disabilities (Chard, Vaughn, & Tyler, 2002). Instruction that includes focused opportunities to build fluency skills by providing exposure to automatized and fluent reading with adult modeling and feedback are thought to be beneficial for young struggling readers (Chard et al., 2002). An example of such instruction might include repeated reading, in which students orally read a series of connected texts multiple times until they reach a predetermined measure of fluency (A set number of correct words read per minute, or a set rate has been reached.). Repeated reading may be done independently, in small groups, or with one-on-one teacher modeling and feedback. Using a fluency rate calculation as a measure of student progress over time can be helpful to teachers and students.

Comprehension and Elementary Readers Comprehension, or constructing meaning from text, requires a series of complex cognitive processes related to knowing how to read the word, its meaning, and bringing adequate background knowledge to text. Active, engaged, and intentional thinking in which meaning is constructed is a key component to academic success across all subject areas, including reading comprehension. If we think of reading comprehension as composed of a combination of language instruction, vocabulary, word reading (decoding, encoding), background knowledge, fluency and automaticity, we recognize that students who can automatically read words and retrieve their meaning have a huge advantage in reaching comprehension over students whose word reading and meaning acquisition are weak. Thus, we can begin to see the heavily laden cognitive load inherent in this process. Some explanation for reading comprehension failure include:      

Poor instruction, minimal exposure, lack of learning trials Deficits in phonemic awareness or word reading skills Deficits in short- and long-term memory Underdeveloped attention, motivation, and self-evaluative strategies Lack of concept of print, text structures, and task demands Quality, difficulty, and density of text

Bearing in mind the intensive cognitive processing skills required for reading comprehension, it becomes clear how easy it is for difficulties in this area to emerge. Reading comprehension requires a synthesis of decoding



and fluency integrated with knowledge of vocabulary. A deficit with the integration of these skills leaves students with reading difficulties vulnerable to the development of difficulties with comprehension. While research on reading comprehension in the early elementary grades is sparse the literature tells us that interventions on reading comprehension commonly include some combination of:     

Self-monitoring Utilization of graphic organizers, mnemonics, and semantic organizers Question development and answering of questions Knowledge of story or text structure (concept of print) Summarization of what was read

The rationale for the use of these instructional strategies is grounded in theory that when students are explicitly taught to use specific cognitive mechanisms that assist with strategic reasoning it assists them in better deriving meaning from what they read. While some readers acquire these skills naturally in the process of their education, many do not. These struggling readers benefit from explicit and well-crafted instruction to be able to utilize the cognitive processing skills required for the task of reading comprehension. Generally speaking, research indicates that effective instruction for struggling readers utilizes a combination of approaches (Gersten, Fuchs, Williams, & Baker, 2001). However, commonly, during the early elementary years an approach that addresses comprehension practices before reading, during reading, and after reading have been proven to be effective. A few of those practices are noted below. 1. Before Reading:  Set a purpose for reading. Struggling readers often have difficulties understanding the purpose of reading unless it is explicitly, and directly, stated for them. Setting a purpose for reading, prior to actually doing so, allows struggling readers to regard the given text within a predetermined framework or guide. This allows for fewer misunderstandings and thus aims to increase comprehension (Pressley, 2000).  Access background knowledge on the subject area. According to Pohlman (2008), when students are able to connect their background knowledge of a topic to a text they are reading (sometimes called a text-to-self connection), they are more likely to understand the content of their reading. Background knowledge can be activated in many

Reading Instruction and Students with Learning Disabilities


ways, but a few instructional strategies for this activity include creating concept (semantic) maps or story maps and KWL charts. In these activities, students identify what they know about a topic and discuss what they don’t know or what they wish to know about that topic.  Separate text into meaningful chunks, or checkpoints, before beginning to read and encourage students to begin self-monitoring their comprehension as they read. 2. During Reading:  Evaluate and guide students in using metacognitive strategies as they read. Encourage students to begin self-monitoring to identify if, and when, they have read something they don’t understand and how to proceed once they get to that point. Students should be encouraged to reread parts of the text, investigate the text for clues, analyze the information they have read and compare it to what they already know, or seek support from others.  Stop reading at preset checkpoints and monitor for comprehension. Use question generation or development strategies, think alouds, or think-pair-share activities to assist with brief, informal assessments of comprehension. When students generate questions about what they read they become more involved with the text and demonstrate processing of the information in greater depth and with better understanding. 3. After Reading:  Assist students in summarizing the most important parts of the text. Because of the heavy cognitive load summarization requires, readers may have difficulty with identification of relevant ideas and salient details and will need teacher assistance in doing so. Semantic mapping is one type of instructional strategy that may support this process.  Foster student’s development of inferential, literal, or evaluative questions about the text.

SECONDARY READERS WITH READING DISABILITIES Vocabulary and Secondary Readers As students approach the middle grades, the vocabulary they encounter increasingly reflects words not heard in everyday oral language (Baumann,



Kameenui, & Ash, 2003), as discipline-specific word knowledge becomes the foundation for conceptual understanding of content. High-quality vocabulary instruction can contribute to improvements in comprehension and a higher level of content acquisition (Kamil, Borman, Dole, Kral, Salinger, & Torgesen, 2008). Despite the importance of vocabulary instruction, there is a discrepancy between how vocabulary is acquired and how secondary teachers typically teach words (Rupley & Nichols, 2005). Essentially, vocabulary instruction can be categorized into two approaches: non-generative and generative (Harris, Schumaker, & Deshler, 2011; Nagy, 2005). Non-generative instructional approaches aim at teaching students a particular word in isolation, typically using a strategy or instructional device such as a graphic organizer or mnemonic. Students may learn the meaning of a targeted word, but knowledge of that word may not assist them in solving the meaning of new words. Frequently, discipline-specific words such as those found in secondary social studies, science, and math curricula are taught through non-generative approaches. Some words, less frequently encountered but essential to content-area learning (i.e., revolution, onomatopoeia), are best taught through direct instruction, which can enhance student comprehension of related content-area texts. Extended vocabulary instruction is characterized by explicit teaching that includes frequent exposure to and interaction with a word, using a combination of instructional techniques (Coyne, McCoach, & Kapp, 2007; Coyne et al., 2010; Silverman, 2007). Non-generative techniques to directly teach specialized vocabulary may include using student-friendly definitions and visual representations of words; providing graphic organizers to display words; utilizing mnemonic devices to help students memorize word meanings and associated concepts; employing examples and non-examples of word meanings; and promoting student discussion using targeted words. Essentially, teachers should directly teach specialized vocabulary critical to key concepts through multiple interactions with each word and varied activities that encourage in-depth processing. In particular, students with learning disabilities need to be directly taught words that represent larger concepts (Ebbers & Denton, 2008). Extended instruction of these specialized ‘‘big concept’’ words can be a useful practice. For example, the word gilded is a word that is not commonly used in everyday conversation, yet it is essential to a conceptual understanding of the time period (Gilded Age) taught in United States history classes. To provide extended instruction for this conceptual word, a history teacher might provide a picture that illustrates the meaning of the word gilded, such as a gold-plated piece of costume jewelry, and explain how something that is

Reading Instruction and Students with Learning Disabilities


gilded looks valuable but the gold is a thinly veiled surface covering an underlying artificiality. The teacher can also provide non-examples of the word, such as a 14-carat gold ring. Finally, the teacher can provide students opportunities to discuss or use the word. Opportunities for discourse might include a ‘‘turn and talk’’ question posed by the teacher, such as students being asked to briefly turn to a partner and discuss whether current day events represent a new gilded age. On the other hand, generative instructional approaches are characterized by teaching students an identified word, and then teaching them to use their knowledge of that word to solve the meanings of other words. For example, if students have been taught the meaning of the word urban, when they encounter the unfamiliar word urbanization, they can draw on their prior learning to infer meaning for this variation of the word. In this way, students can use their word knowledge to efficiently unlock meanings of related words. Another generative approach to word learning is morphological analysis. The relative importance of phonological to morphological skills begins to shift close to the fourth grade (Carlisle, 2000; Green, McCutchen, Schwiebert, Quinlan, Eva-Wood, & Juelis, 2003), suggesting that morphological analysis increasingly contributes to word reading and understanding as students approach the upper elementary and secondary years. Learning to decompose words into their constituent parts and recognize the relatedness of those parts to other words contributes both indirectly and directly to reading comprehension in older readers (Nagy, Berninger, & Abbott, 2006). Furthermore, because 20 prefixes account for 97% of all prefixed words (White, Sowell, & Yanagihara, 1989), and four prefixes account for 58% of all prefixed words (Graves, 2006), teaching these highfrequency prefixes can be particularly effective in helping students learn the meaning of single words, as well as how to use word parts to unlock the meaning of future related words. Approximately half of the words in English are morphologically complex (Nagy & Anderson, 1984), which means that morphological strategies will assist students in decoding and comprehending about half of the new words they encounter. Knowledge of Greek and Latin base words can also help students figure out the meaning of many complex words found in expository textbooks. For example, a teacher might tell her students the meaning of the prefix trans- (across), the roots –scrib- or –script- (to write), -port- (to carry), and the suffix –able, and then show them how putting these word pieces together creates multiple words (i.e., transport, portable, transcribe, transcript). Teachers can have students make flashcards with prefixes, roots, and



suffixes, and practice piecing them together to construct different words and to infer their meanings. As students grasp the concept of word parts creating new words and word meanings, they can better understand how their knowledge of prefixes, roots, and suffixes can be used to unlock unfamiliar words or remember complex vocabulary, thus growing their word knowledge exponentially. Consider the science term hydrophobic, which can be broken down morphologically into hydro- (water) and phobia (fear). In this case, knowing the meaning of individual word parts can help students remember that substances that are hydrophobic do not dissolve in water. Baker, Simmons, and Kameenui (1998) suggest that in grappling with the challenge of vocabulary instruction for diverse learners, a teacher might best adopt a comprehensive approach that combines both non-generative and generative techniques. Ebbers and Denton (2008) describe a strategy they called the Outside-In strategy, which combines non-generative and generative approaches to solving words. Students are taught to first look outside a word, at context clues in neighboring words and sentences; next they look inside the word, noting word parts such as prefixes, roots, and suffixes. Finally students reread the section containing the unfamiliar word, and make an inference as to what the word might mean. This strategy supports Wysocki and Jenkins’ finding that students who are taught morphemic analysis and context clues separately do not necessarily combine the two when faced with an unfamiliar word. Students need to be explicitly taught to utilize all available strategies in tandem (1987). Selection of Words to Teach A legitimate question for teachers to ask is, ‘‘Which words should I teach?’’ Content-area texts often present material using specialized words, idiomatic jargon, and conceptual terminology infrequently encountered outside of that content area. With little instructional time to spare, teachers must decide which words will likely yield the most efficacious result. Not all words are equally important to learn nor do they carry the same impact for associating and learning other words. Whether a word is high frequency, content-specific, or simple, teachers must prioritize their choice of vocabulary. Researchers provide some guidance on how best to select words to teach: words whose understanding is needed to better comprehend text, academic words that appear across the curriculum, and words that come from the same morphological families such as equal, equality, and equivalent. In essence, the best words to teach are unfamiliar to students, will likely be encountered in multiple morphological forms, and will better facilitate

Reading Instruction and Students with Learning Disabilities


reading, writing, and thinking across content areas (Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2002; Hiebert, 2005; Nagy & Hiebert, 2011). Use of Dictionaries and Definitions A common practice is to ask students to copy word definitions out of a dictionary or glossary. A major challenge of dictionary use is that students often do not understand dictionary definitions (McKeown, 1993; Miller & Gildea, 1985). There is little empirical support for learning the meanings of new words by asking students to look up words in a dictionary. There are better alternatives to this traditional, ineffective use of dictionaries. Teacher-provided definitions can be a good starting place, because such definitions can provide ‘‘explicit, general meaning, not tied to specific context’’ (McKeown & Beck, 2011, p. 152). ‘‘Learner’’ dictionaries, originally designed for students whose first language is not English, can also be useful for English speakers as well, particularly struggling readers. For example, in the Longman Advanced American Dictionary (Delacroix, 2007), definitions, referred to as explanations, are offered in full sentences using common language. Similarly, the use of student-friendly definitions can provide word meaning without copying from a dictionary (McKeown & Beck, 2011). A student-friendly definition provides word meaning through every day, connected language in a way that is readily understood by the student. For example, a dictionary or typical textbook glossary might define mercantilism as commercialism, which many students would find frustrating, because not only do they not know the meaning of mercantilism, they do not know the meaning of commercialism, either. A student-friendly definition of mercantilism could be ‘‘An economic approach based on the idea that if you export more than you import, you will become rich.’’ Defining words in plain language can make the learning of even difficult words more accessible to students.

Fluency and Secondary Readers Defining what it means to be a fluent reader has been the topic of much discussion over the past two decades. Fluency is often referred to as the accurate reading of connected text at a conversational rate, with appropriate expression and prosody (e.g., Hudson, Pullen, Lane, & Torgesen, 2009; Rasinski, Reutzel, Chard, & Linan-Thompson, 2010). Teachers can recognize dysfluent students by their slow, laborious, word-by-word reading



efforts. In practical terms, fluency may be measured in terms of rate and accuracy, such as the number of words correctly read aloud in one minute. Perfetti’s verbal efficiency model (1985) suggests that focusing extensively on the processes of decoding consumes memory capacity, and that when these processes are sufficiently automatized, the reader’s cognitive load is lightened. This means that fluent readers have more available cognitive space for increasingly complex comprehension processes. For older students who are required to consume large amounts of complex text on a daily basis in their content classes, problems with fluency can turn reading into a painstaking, daunting process. To improve reading rate and accuracy, instructional time can be dedicated to oral reading practice, as opposed to silent reading or independent practice. Some practices that have been associated with improved fluency are choral reading and partner reading. With choral reading, the teacher reads with students in a voice louder than theirs, thus modeling appropriate pacing and expression (Heckelman, 1969). Partner reading pairs students with a peer to practice oral reading, and has been shown to be effective with secondary students who have a learning disability (Bryant et al., 2000). An alternative approach to fluency instruction that is associated with increases in reading rate is repeated reading. In repeated reading, the student reads the same connected text multiple times. While some researchers suggest that a student read a text a set number of times regardless of the rate achieved (Homan, Klesius, & Hite, 1993), other studies have suggested that it is more effective to have the student continue reading until a predetermined rate has been achieved (Herman, 1985). In any case, it is critical that repeated readings be led by a proficient reader who can provide corrective feedback and modeling. Secondary students are required to read large quantities of difficult text daily, and the extensive use of a repeated reading approach could limit their overall exposure to text. Students might find the exhaustive use of repeated reading boring as well, and the importance of motivation is not to be underestimated in secondary students. Therefore it would be wise to couple the repeated reading approach with the reading of an equivalent amount of text non-repetitively. Most of the approaches to improving rate of reading have been investigated with younger students with lesser gains with older students (Wexler, Vaughn, Roberts, & Denton, 2010). There is considerable evidence suggesting that fluency and comprehension share a reciprocal relationship, though the precise nature of this relationship is less clear. Reading quickly and accurately promotes comprehension, while comprehension facilitates the quick and accurate reading of text (Berninger,

Reading Instruction and Students with Learning Disabilities


Abbott, Vermeulen, & Fulton, 2006; Chard et al., 2002). When students are not fluent readers, they tend to focus their attention at the word recognition level, making comprehension elusive (Samuels, 1979). Conversely, students who are able to read fluently tend to be better readers overall (Shinn, Good, Knutson, Tilly, & Collins, 1992). Scores on brief measures of oral reading fluency are highly predictive of scores on standardized tests of reading comprehension (Fuchs, Fuchs, Hosp, & Jenkins, 2001). Studies suggest that gains in fluency are associated with improved comprehension even when the primary intent was not to improve comprehension (Chard et al., 2002). Taken together, this research suggests that fluency goes hand in hand with comprehension and is therefore an essential component of reading instruction. An important consideration, however, is that intervention studies examining efficacy of fluency interventions have been conducted primarily in elementary settings with younger students. Less is known about how these interventions translate to the secondary level. It is important to note that trends in research at the secondary level suggest that improving reading rate alone does not necessarily translate to improved reading comprehension of complex text (e.g., Rashotte & Torgesen, 1985), and that in fact, there may be a diminishing relationship between fluency and comprehension as students get older. What this means for educators is that, while improving reading rate certainly benefits older students with reading difficulties, interventions designed to improve fluency are best coupled with evidence-based comprehension instruction.

Comprehension and Secondary Readers Competent readers fluidly weave their knowledge of language, word reading, vocabulary, and background knowledge to make meaning of written text. While reading, they monitor their understanding and possess an arsenal of coping mechanisms so that when comprehension breaks down, they are able to get back on track and resume understanding text. Much has been learned over the past three decades about the factors that affect comprehension, interventions that increase it, and reasons why some secondary students, particularly those with learning disabilities, continue to struggle with it (Edmonds et al., 2009; Gersten et al., 2001; Scammacca et al., 2007; Solis et al., 2012; Wanzek, Wexler, Vaughn, & Ciullo, 2010). Research indicates that older students with reading difficulties can improve their reading comprehension when provided targeted, explicit instruction (Edmonds et al., 2009).



In a synthesis examining 29 reading interventions and their effects on reading comprehension for older struggling readers, Edmonds and her colleagues (2009) found that some instructional practices in reading shown to be effective with younger children have, in fact, produced mixed results when used with older students. Effective early reading instructional practices such as reciprocal teaching were found to be less effective with improving secondary students’ overall comprehension of text, with the largest effect sizes associated with interventions that developed students’ use of comprehension strategies (Edmonds et al., 2009). Several teaching practices have consistently been shown to be associated with improved comprehension in older struggling readers.

Strategy Instruction Many older struggling readers, particularly those with a learning disability, are unaware of when their comprehension of text has broken down. Comprehension-monitoring strategies provide these students a way to ‘‘check in’’ as they read, recognize when their comprehension is faltering, and remediate in time to salvage their understanding. It is important that students with learning disabilities have adequate opportunity for practice and corrective feedback, so that they understand which strategies to use, and when. Proper scaffolding is essential for strategy instruction, having students build up from practice using shorter, simpler passages to longer, more complex pieces (Klingner & Vaughn, 1996). Evidence suggests that multicomponent strategy training can result in better comprehension than the use of a single strategy (Edmonds et al., 2009; Kamil et al., 2008). There are variations of multicomponent approaches, such as Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR), that combine several reading comprehension strategies into organization of strategies. Teachers can introduce strategies independently, model the strategies, and provide ample support and opportunities to practice each strategy; once students have a grasp of these individual skills, they can be used in unison and collectively (Klingner & Vaughn, 1999). For example, teachers can spend instructional time teaching students how to identify the main idea in a passage until they feel students are competent at this skill; next, they can focus on how to solve the meaning of unfamiliar words encountered in a reading selection. Teachers can liken this approach to assembling a jigsaw puzzle; they first focus on particular strategies independent of one another, and then they explicitly teach students how to assemble the strategies to form a cohesive approach to tackling challenging text.

Reading Instruction and Students with Learning Disabilities


Prior to reading, it is helpful for students to preview what they are about to read, noting textual features such as headings, subheadings, and captions and connecting this information to what they already know. At this point, teachers may discover that their students lack previous knowledge about the topic, making it necessary to build background knowledge before beginning to read. Teachers can also assist students in making predictions about the upcoming text, and then teach them to confirm or disconfirm these predictions as they read. A useful strategy that assists with comprehension monitoring while reading is pausing at stopping points to identify key information from what was just read, or write a brief summary statement that highlights the main points. It is common for students to have difficulty distinguishing key information from less relevant information or supporting details in text. They will benefit from explicit instruction of this skill. Teachers can break down the thinking process by asking students periodically to identify the main ‘‘who’’ or ‘‘what,’’ and then the most important information related to who or what (Klingner & Vaughn, 1999). Students are accustomed being asked questions by the teacher, but they can benefit from generating their own questions as well. Questions can be literal (i.e., What color was Mary’s dress?) and found directly in the text, or inferential (i.e., Why did Mary need her umbrella?). Inferential questions require students to access what they know and integrate this information with clues referenced in the text to draw a logical conclusion. In addition to helping students understand what they read better, generating questions can be a valuable teacher tool to assess how well students have gleaned key information from what they read and how deeply they have understood the material. Graphic Organizers Graphic organizers provide students with a visual representation to assist them with identifying, organizing, and remembering information presented in written text. Graphic organizers can be valuable tools to use in conjunction with before-reading strategies such as previewing text or making predictions. Students can also utilize them while reading to organize key ideas, record important information, illustrate connections, or review predictions. Finally, graphic organizers can be used to record summaries, review overall information, and recognize how key ideas connect (DiCecco & Gleason, 2002). A teacher should take care to choose the most suitable graphic organizer for the text being read. For example, an expository passage about the causes leading up to the American Revolution would best be served



through the use of a cause–effect graphic organizer, while a comparison of two short stories might most appropriately be illustrated through a compare– contrast or Venn diagram. Collaboration Cooperative grouping, often referred to as cooperative learning (CL) or collaborative learning provides a means of providing instruction in a heterogeneous general education classroom, where mixed-ability groups can provide support for students with learning disabilities. A number of studies (Johnson, Maruyama, Johnson, Nelson, & Skon, 1981; Sharan, 1980; Slavin, 1980; Stevens & Slavin, 1995) suggest that cooperative grouping of students is associated with improved learning outcomes. Others studies have suggested that participating in oral discourse that promotes peer interaction helps scaffold the reading process (Lawrence & Snow, 2011). When forming cooperative learning groups, a teacher should consider the academic strengths, weaknesses, and communication skills of each student to form teacher-selected, mixed-ability groups. Group learning tasks and goals should be expressed clearly (i.e., read the passage aloud together; pause at the indicated place to practice your main idea strategy together; record the main idea in your learning log). Individual as well as group accountability is essential to the productivity of groups, and the teacher needs to actively monitor groups to troubleshoot and provide appropriate feedback to groups as they work. Having structures in place such as specific group roles or cue cards can also provide accountability and give purpose to the learning task.

CONCLUSION In recent years, student achievement has been the focus of increased public and professional attention. Of particular interest is the mastery of reading skills, as the ability to read is fundamental to competency in all future endeavors. Most puzzling are the challenges of teaching mastery to students who continue to manifest basic reading deficits, even after appropriate instruction. Research suggests that intensive interventions are the most agreed upon practice. Educators must design intervention strategies based on students’ cognitive processing challenges and need for feedback, as well as concern

Reading Instruction and Students with Learning Disabilities


for the appropriate uses of the learning environment (i.e., one-on-one and small group instruction). Clearly, there are differences between elementary and secondary students with reading difficulties, especially with respect to age, maturity, and interest levels. However, the targeted skills are the same. Educators at all levels must be aware of fundamental skills such as phonemic awareness instruction as well as the more cognitively complex elements of reading such as fluency, vocabulary knowledge, and comprehension. At the elementary level, phonemic awareness and the alphabetic principle are best presented through direct and explicit instruction. Vocabulary, especially word recognition, is often taught directly in the early years, with a shift toward targeted vocabulary relative to content and context in the middle years. Fluency problems are often evidenced in the early years, especially in students with a learning disability, which has a measurably negative effect on reading comprehension. Intervention strategies include small group instruction and opportunity for practice through activities such as repeated and/or timed readings. Comprehension is based on the incremental acquisition of reading tools throughout the elementary school experience. At the secondary level, vocabulary demands become increasingly related to content acquisition. Approaches to vocabulary instruction can be nongenerative or generative, and secondary teachers should utilize a combination of these approaches to increase their students’ vocabulary. Many secondary students exhibit laborious, word-by-word reading, burdening their cognitive load and making comprehension problematic. These fluency difficulties can be remediated through repeated readings or choral reading, but are best coupled with comprehension skills training. In the middle and high school years, reading comprehension becomes increasingly integral to the content learning of other disciplines. Students can be taught strategy instruction that will arm them with a toolkit of skills to use when comprehension breaks down. Also, providing students opportunities for purposeful collaboration can aid in reading comprehension as well, with careful guidance and feedback from the teacher. There are no fast or easy solutions to the challenges of serving the learning needs of students who persistently struggle. Children of all ages with learning disabilities need more than typical instruction to address their underachievement. For these students, appropriate, differentiated, and intensive interventions can increase the likelihood that they will make gains in their learning.



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Klingner, J. K., & Vaughn, S. (1999). Promoting reading comprehension, content learning, and English acquisition though Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR). The Reading Teacher, 52(7), 738–747. LaBerge, D., & Samuels, S. (1974). Toward a theory of automatic information processing in reading. Cognitive Psychology, 6(2), 293–323. Lawrence, J. F., & Snow, C. E. (2011). Oral discourse and reading. In M. L. Kamil, P. D. Pearson, E. B. Moje & P. P. Afflerbach (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. IV, pp. 320–337). New York, NY: Routledge. Lyon, G. R. (1995). Toward a definition of dyslexia. Annals of Dyslexia, 45, 3–27. McKeown, M. G. (1993). Creating effective definitions for young word learners. Reading Research Quarterly, 28(1), 16–31. McKeown, M. G., & Beck, I. L. (2011). Making vocabulary interventions engaging and effective. In R. E. O’Connor & P. F. Vadasy (Eds.), Handbook of reading interventions (pp. 138–168). New York, NY: The Guilford Press. Miller, G. A., & Gildea, P. M. (1985). How to misread a dictionary. AILA Bulletin. Pisa: AILA. (International Association for applied Linguistics). Nagy, W. (2005). Why vocabulary instruction needs to be long-term and comprehensive. In E. H. Hiebert & M. L. Kamil (Eds.), Teaching and learning vocabulary: Bringing research to practice (pp. 27–44). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Nagy, W. E., & Anderson, R. C. (1984). How many words are there in printed school English? Reading Research Quarterly, 19(3), 304–330. Nagy, W. E., Berninger, V. W., & Abbott, R. D. (2006). Contributions of morphology beyond phonology to literacy outcomes of upper elementary and middle-school students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(1), 134–147. Nagy, W. E., & Hiebert, E. H. (2011). Toward a theory of word selection. In M. L. Kamil, P. D. Pearson, E. B. Moje & P. P. Afflerbach (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. IV, pp. 388–404). New York, NY: Routledge. Perfetti, C. A. (1985). Reading ability. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Pohlman, C. (2008). Revealing minds: Assessing to understand and support struggling learners. San Francisco, CA: Wiley. Pressley, M. (2000). What should comprehension instruction be the instruction of? In M. Kamil, P. D. Pearson, E. Moje & P. Afflerbach (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. IV, pp. 545–561). London: Routledge. Rashotte, C. A., & Torgesen, J. K. (1985). Repeated reading and reading fluency in learning disabled children. Reading Research Quarterly, 20(2), 180–188. Rasinski, T. V., Reutzel, D. R., Chard, D., & Linan-Thompson, S. (2010). Reading fluency. In M. L. Kamil, P. D. Pearson, E. B. Moje & P. P. Afflerbach (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. IV, pp. 286–338). Madison, NY: Routledge. Roberts, T. A., Christo, C., & Shefelbine, J. A. (2010). Word recognition. In M. Kamil, P. D. Pearson, E. Moje & P. Afflerbach (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. IV, pp. 229–258). London: Routledge. Rupley, W. H., & Nichols, W. D. (2005). Vocabulary instruction for the struggling reader. Reading & Writing Quarterly: Overcoming Learning Difficulties, 21(3), 239–260. Samuels, S. J. (1979). The method of repeated readings. The Reading Teacher, 32(4), 403–408. Scammacca, N., Roberts, G., Vaughn, S., Edmonds, M., Wexler, J., Reutebuch, C. K., & Torgesen, J. K. (2007). Interventions for adolescent struggling readers: A meta-analysis

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with implications for practice. Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction. Sharan, S. (1980). Cooperative learning in small groups: Recent models and effects on achievement, attitudes, and ethnic relations. Review of Educational Research, 50(2), 241–271. Shinn, M. R., Good, R. H., Knutson, N., Tilly, W., & Collins, V. (1992). Curriculum-based reading fluency: A confirmatory analysis of its relationship to reading. School Psychology Review, 21, 458–478. Silverman, R. (2007). A comparison of three methods of vocabulary instruction during readlouds in kindergarten. The Elementary School Journal, 108(2), 97–113. Simmons, D. C., & Kameenui, E. J. (1998). What reading research tells us about children with diverse learning needs: Bases and basics. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Slavin, R. (1980). Cooperative learning. Review of Educational Research, 50(2), 315–342. Solis, M., Ciullo, S., Vaughn, S., Pyle, N., Hassaram, B., & Leroux, A. (2012). Reading comprehension interventions for middle school students with learning disabilities: A synthesis of 30 years of research. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 45(4), 327–340. Stahl, S. A., & Shiel, T. R. (1999). Teaching meaning vocabulary: Productive approaches for poor readers. In Read all about it! Readings to inform the profession (pp. 291–321). Sacramento, CA: California State Board of Education Stevens, R. J., & Slavin, R. E. (1995). The cooperative elementary school: Effects on students’ achievement, attitudes, and social relations. American Educational Research Journal, 32(2), 321–351. Torgerson, J. K., & Hudson, R. (2006). Reading fluency: Critical issues for struggling readers. In S. J. Samuels & A. Farstrup (Eds.), Reading fluency: The forgotten dimension of reading success (pp. 130–158). Newark, DE: International Reading Association. Vaughn, S., Wanzek, J., Murray, C. S., & Roberts, G. (2012). Intensive interventions for students struggling in reading and mathematics: A practice guide. Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction. Wanzek, J., Wexler, J., Vaughn, S., & Ciullo, S. (2010). Reading interventions for struggling readers in the upper elementary grades: A synthesis of 20 years of research. Reading and Writing, 23(8), 889–912. Wexler, J., Vaughn, S., Roberts, G., & Denton, C. (2010). The efficacy of repeated reading and wide reading practice for high school students with severe reading disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 25(1), 2–10. White, T. G., Sowell, J., & Yanagihara, A. (1989). Teaching elementary students to use wordpart clues. The Reading Teacher, 42(2), 302–308. Wysocki, K., & Jenkins, J. R. (1987). Deriving word meanings through morphological generalization. Reading Research Quarterly, 22(1), 66–81. Yeh, S. S., & Connell, D. B. (2008). Effects of rhyming, vocabulary, and phoneme awareness instruction on phoneme awareness. Journal of Research in Reading, 31(2), 243–256.

BEST PRACTICES AND CURRENT TRENDS IN WRITTEN INSTRUCTION FOR STUDENTS WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES Linda H. Mason ABSTRACT Writing, as a critical academic skill, is receiving national attention – joining the ranks of reading, mathematics, and science. The focus on increased writing performance standards for all students has implications for students with learning disabilities (LD), as these students are most likely to struggle with basic writing skills, and with expressing their ideas and demonstrating knowledge through written expression. Fortunately, research-based practices have been established for teaching students with LD across writing dimensions. In this chapter, instructional approaches for writing instruction, and current and future trends for addressing standards, are described.

Writing as an academic outcome is receiving more prominence than in recent years when No Child Left Behind (2001) initiatives for reading, mathematics, and science were at the forefront of instruction and assessment.

Learning Disabilities: Practice Concerns and Students with LD Advances in Special Education, Volume 25, 45–63 Copyright r 2013 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited All rights of reproduction in any form reserved ISSN: 0270-4013/doi:10.1108/S0270-4013(2013)0000025006




The Common Core State Standards (CCSS, 2010) initiative for writing, for example, asserts that students in kindergarten through fifth grade should ‘‘demonstrate increasing sophistication in all aspects of language use, from vocabulary and syntax to the development and organization of ideas, and they should address increasingly demanding content and sources’’ (http://www.CoreStandards.org). For students in middle and high school years, CCSS initiatives become much more specific. Students should be able to (a) write arguments, informative/explanatory, and narrative text; (b) use clarity and cohesion to meet task, purpose, and audience; (c) improve writing by planning, revising, editing, or rewriting; (d) use technology for production, publication, and collaboration; (e) write both short and longer responses to demonstrate understanding of subject matter; (f) use and integrate multiple sources while avoiding plagiarism; (g) gather evidence from text to support writing; and (h) write in both short and extended time frames. Unfortunately, many students with LD have difficulty writing (Graham & Harris, 2003; Mason & Graham, 2008) and without intervention will not meet standards at the elementary and secondary levels. Students with LD, for example, are often expected to plan and write compositions prior to gaining and mastering skills in handwriting, spelling, and sentence construction; therefore, these students tend to focus on these skills, ignoring critical writing processes (Graham, 2006). Many students with LD lack the metacognitive skills required for effective writing and as a result fail to engage in the strategic behaviors needed for the writing processes of planning, composing, revision, and editing (Mason, Harris, & Graham, 2011). In addition, students with LD often have difficulties in generating ideas for writing, organizing thoughts, setting goals for effective writing, and self-monitoring performance (Graham & Harris, 2003). In this chapter, best instructional practices (i.e., practices supported by significant, large effects) for improving writing skills for students with LD across the CCSS initiatives, and the effect of initiatives in directing current trends, are presented.

WRITING SKILLS Students with LD generally have difficulty both with spelling and handwriting (Graham, 1999) and with sentence composing (Saddler, Behforooz, & Asaro, 2008). These difficulties can interrupt composition processes, limit writing development, and mark a student as a poor writer. Although explicit

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instruction for writing skills has been devalued in past years (e.g., Krashen, 1989), formal approaches for handwriting, spelling, and sentence composing have been established as effective for students with LD. See Graham (1999) for a thorough discussion of natural approaches to teaching writing and the lessons learned.

Handwriting and Spelling Is handwriting relevant in a society focused on typewritten skills? Interestingly, the importance of handwriting instruction has been discussed publicly with mixed reviews (e.g., CBS Sunday Morning’s A Farewell to Handwriting, Smith, 2011). In a recent national survey, however, teachers’ practices and perceptions regarding handwriting instruction were more consistent in favoring handwriting instruction (Graham, Harris, Mason, Fink, Moran, & Saddler, 2008). Ninety-seven percent of the elementary teachers surveyed believed that handwriting instruction was important. Unfortunately, 12% of these same teachers indicated that they were not prepared to teach handwriting. Since research indicates that handwriting is causally related to written expression performance, handwriting instruction for students with LD, especially beginning writers, should not be discounted (Graham, Harris, & Fink, 2000). Recommended best practices for handwriting for students with LD include: (a) provide distributed practice for handwriting; (b) model letter writing; (c) provide practice in tracing letters, writing letters from a copy, and writing letters from memory; (d) provide praise for correct handwriting; (e) teach students to correct poorly formed letters and to identify their best well-formed letter; and (f) use self-monitoring and graphing procedures so that students can see their progress (Graham, 1999; Graham & Miller, 1980; Troia, 2006). Some may also ask, ‘‘Don’t computers make spelling instruction unnecessary?’’ (Moats, 2010). Although technologies, such as spell checkers, have proven beneficial in helping students locate spelling errors in writing, these tools have limitations, especially for students with significant spelling difficulties (MacArthur, Graham, Haynes, & De La Paz, 1996). Technology, to date, has not eliminated the need for teaching students how to spell correctly. Spelling instruction, in fact, provides time for teaching students about language structure (Moats, 2009). For students with LD, the most difficult skill to remediate is poor spelling (Darch, Eaves, Crowe, Simmons, & Conniff, 2006). Because of this, there



has been considerable research on this topic and research-based recommendations for spelling intervention for students with LD have remained relatively consistent over time (e.g., Berninger et al., 1998; Bradley, 1981; Fulk & Stormont-Spurgin, 1995; Wanzek et al., 2006). Researchers agree that for these students, spelling instruction should (a) focus on words frequently used in writing (Graham, Harris, & Loynachan, 1994); (b) emphasize multi-sensory techniques and language patterns (Moats, 2009); and (c) teach students to generate reasonable spellings for unknown words, check and correct spelling errors, and develop a desire to spell correctly (Mason, Harris, & Graham, 2013). Word study strategies such as the Five-Step Word study strategy (say the word; write and say the word, check the word; trace and say the word; write the word from memory and check; repeat the five steps) should be used for distributive practice within a test–study–test (test; provide word study for misspelled words; and retest) spelling approach (Graham, 1983, 1999). Continual review of previously learned words and integration of spelling words with students’ reading and writing is recommended to support maintenance and generalization. Recently, a program for teaching both handwriting and spelling, The CASL Handwriting/Spelling Program, was evaluated (Mason, Graham, & Harris, 2013). CASL instruction supports developing spellers’ skills in writing the letters of the alphabet, handwriting fluency, knowledge of sound/ letter combinations, spelling patterns involving long and short vowels, and words commonly used when writing. Misspelled words from a pretest of the most commonly used words (Graham, Harris, & Loynachan, 1994) and words misspelled during instruction are combined within a spelling phonics sequence and used for the handwriting/spelling lessons. CASL has been validated in three randomized control trial studies: (a) the full program with first-grade students with and without disabilities (Graham & Harris, 2006); (b) the handwriting portion of the program with first-grade students (Graham et al., 2000); (c) and the spelling portion with second-grade students (Graham, Harris, & Fink-Chorzempa, 2002). Results across the three studies indicated significant improvement in both handwriting and spelling; effect sizes (ES) ranged from .54 to 1.46.1

Sentence Writing ‘‘Is grammar dead?’’ (Tressler, 1938). The CCSS (2010) initiatives specifically note the importance of student development in syntax (i.e., grammar and sentence construction), which points to the need to develop this domain. It is important to disaggregate what should be taught for improving

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students’ syntactic skills. Grammar instruction (word choice, punctuation, and capitalization) has a negative effect on student performance, ES ¼ .32 (Graham & Perin, 2007). Sentence construction instruction, on the other hand, has a moderate positive effect, ES ¼ .50. Sentence development is a gradual process and is an important contributor to written text quality (Nippold, 2004). Instruction should be targeted and focused, and embedded through the study of students’ own writing (Eisenberg, 2006). Two instructional approaches, the Strategy Instruction Model (SIM) and Sentence Combining, have been established in research as effect methods for improving students’ sentence writing abilities. The effects of SIM instruction for simple, compound, complex, and compound–complex sentence writing were examined with seventh-, eighthand tenth-grade students with LD in three studies (Beals, 1983; Eads, 1991; Schmidt, Deshler, Schumaker, & Alley, 1988). In SIM sentence writing instruction, students learn to write the 4 sentence types by first selecting one of 14 different sentence formulas to apply to a sentence structure, and then explore and write words to fit the formula. After the sentence is written, students check their work to make sure a complete sentence has been written. A mnemonic, PENS (Picks, Explores, Noted, Subject), is used to help students remember the steps. After instruction, students’ complete sentence writing improved with percentage of non-overlapping data (PND) 78% to 100%.2 Six sentence types are taught in Sentence Combining instruction: multiple (compound) sentences; sentences with adjective or adverb modifiers; sentences connected with coordinating or subordinating conjunctions; sentences that contain a modifying clause; appositives (i.e., two phrases referring to the same noun); and sentences that contain possessive nouns (Saddler, 2012). The following multiple sentences – ‘‘The boy ran to the park,’’ and ‘‘The dog ran to the park,’’ for example – can be combined as ‘‘The boy and dog ran to the park.’’ Sentence Combining instruction should be explicit and include (a) establishing the purpose and benefits of sentence combining; (b) teacher modeling while talking out loud the procedures with several examples; (c) guided group, peer, and individual practice; and (d) application to student writing. Saddler et al. (2008) evaluated the effects of sentence combining with fourth-grade students with LD. After instruction students’ sentence writing improved, PND ¼ 100% for sentence combining skills and 91.6% for sentence complexity. Effect of instruction generalized to writing improved stories, PND ¼ 87.5%. The above research has indicated that explicit instruction for building skills in handwriting, spelling, and sentence writing is effective for improving students with LD writing performance. Further, research-based curriculum



(e.g., CASL; Graham & Harris, 2006) for handwriting, spelling, and sentence construction skills as multicomponent instruction has demonstrated promise for addressing CCSS (2010) initiatives for improving students’ performance in all aspects of written language use.

WRITTEN EXPRESSION CCSS (2010) initiatives for written expression require a high level of writing skill (e.g., clarity and cohesion to meet task, purpose, and audience) and an ability to apply reading and research skills to writing (e.g., use and integrate multiple sources while avoiding plagiarism). Few would question the need for written expression instruction, especially for students with LD. Fortunately, a number of instructional models for teaching written expression to students with LD have convincing researchbased support – Cognitive Strategy Instruction in Writing (e.g., Englert, Raphael, Fear, & Anderson, 1988), Interactive Dialogues (e.g., Wong et al., 1994), SIM Instruction (e.g., Schumaker & Deshler, 2003), and SelfRegulated Strategy Development (Graham & Harris, 2003) (see Table 1 for instructional overview for each approach). Other researchers have established effective instruction that targets specific aims; for example, computer use in writing (e.g., MacArthur, Schwartz, & Graham, 1991) and goal setting in writing (e.g., Graham, MacArthur, Schwartz, & Page-Voth, 1992). Each model and approach implements principles of explicit instruction and individualization, and focuses on strategy instruction, to support students’ learning throughout the writing process. Graham (2006) noted that strategy instruction is most effective in remediating writing deficits with an ES ¼ 1.15 for group comparison studies and a PND ¼ 95% for writing elements. Several seminal literature reviews and meta-analyses have documented the effectiveness of these writing interventions (Gertsen & Baker, 2001; Graham & Harris, 2003; Hillocks, 1984; Graham & Perin, 2007; Mason & Graham, 2008; Rogers & Graham, 2008). Students should be taught that there is a process for writing, one that all good writers follow; for example, all good writers plan and revise what they write. Good writers consider what is to be written, such as a story or informative essay; the format to be used, such as a paragraph, essay, or report; the audience, such as a letter to a friend, parent, or school principal; and any specific prompting guidelines, such as use evidence from text, reference at least three resources, or include a summarizing thesis. Good writers revise and edit when writing has not met task or personal

Written Instruction for Students with Learning Disabilities


Table 1. Research-based Instructional Models for Students with LD. Instructional Model

Overview of Procedures

Cognitive Strategy Instruction in Writing

 Think sheets for a set of strategic self-questions for basic writing processes plan, organize, write, edit/editor, and revise (POWER)  Dialogue and collaboration through peer conferencing and group activities  Text analysis  Modeling  Guided practice  Independent application

Interactive Dialogues


Explicit explanation and modeling Peer collaborative practice in planning Teacher evaluation of planning Individual writing on a computer Student–teacher conferencing Pair revision for content Individual error-monitoring

Strategy Instruction Model


Establish the purpose of the strategy Teach how, when, and why to use the strategy Teach different ways to remember the strategy Develop goals for learning the strategy Model the strategy Guided practice

Self-Regulated Strategy Development

Strategy Acquisition  Develop pre-skills needed for the writing tasks  Discuss the strategy & relate to writing improvement  Memorize the strategy steps  Model the strategy while thinking out loud  Provide teacher-supported guided practice  Independent practice Self-Regulation  Teach and support goal-setting, self-monitoring, selfinstruction, and self-reinforcement throughout the writing process

expectations. Students with LD, however, are generally unaware of what is required for producing a good written product. These students often write their thoughts, with little attention to planning or organization, and pay no attention to revising what has been written (Graham & Harris, 2003). The



highlighted interventions described next address these writing deficits and link closely with CCSS initiatives for (a) teaching narrative, informative, and persuasive writing; (b) supporting the writing processes of planning, revision, editing, and rewriting; (c) using technology for writing; (d) promoting both short and longer response writing, in short and extended time frames; and (e) reading text to support writing. .

Writing Paragraphs Two instructional approaches have been developed for teaching paragraph writing, or short constructed response writing, to students with LD, SIM for the paragraph writing strategy (Schumaker & Lyerla, 1991) and Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) for quick writing (Mason, Benedek-Wood, & Valasa, 2009). SIM instruction for paragraph writing was tested for students with LD in grades eight through twelve in two single-subject studies (Moran, Schumaker, & Vetter, 1981) with outcomes of 100% PND for structural elements in a paragraph. Students were taught to write paragraphs that list or describe, show sequence, compare/contrast, and demonstrate cause and effect. Memorization was facilitated with the mnemonic SLOW CaPS: (S) – show the type of paragraph in the first sentence; (L) – list the type of details you plan to write about; (O) – order the details; (W) – write the details in complete sentences and cap off the paragraph with a (C) concluding, (P) passing, or (S) summary sentence. The SRSD for quick writes instructional approach requires students to compose 10-minute short constructed responses (i.e., paragraphs) in response to a topic-specific question. Quick writes are often used in content classes before or after instruction as a method to stimulate or assess prior knowledge, to provide students with a method for summarizing what was learned, or to evaluate student learning (Mason, Reid, & Hagaman, 2012). SRSD for persuasive quick writing has been validated in two studies with middle school students with LD (Mason, Kubina, & Taft, 2009) and one study for high school students with LD (Hoover, Kubina, & Mason, 2012). In each study, students were first taught to use POW (Pick my idea, Organize my notes, Write and say more) and TREE (Topic sentence; Reasons three or more – include a counter reason and refute; Explain reasons; Ending sentence). After students learned to write a quick write with all TREE elements, they were given structured practice for writing the quick write in a 10 min time frame. After instruction, PND ranged from 84% to 100% parts across the three studies. Results of a recent quasi-experiment

Written Instruction for Students with Learning Disabilities


study indicated large effects (range of ES ¼ 1.04 to 1.33 across measures) for students in seventh and eighth grades, including students with LD, receiving instruction (Mason et al., 2012). Preliminary evidence indicates that SRSD quick writing for informative writing, in inclusive content classrooms, is also effective (Benedek-Wood, Mason, Wood, & Kubina, 2012). Given the use of quick writing in content classes (Fisher & Frey, 2004), exploring intervention for students with LD across genre and setting appears to be suitable.

Narrative Writing Students in elementary school generally start with a positive attitude toward story writing; this often deteriorates over the school years (Mason, Harris, & Graham, 2002). For students with LD, story writing often becomes descriptive (i.e., describes what is seen in a story prompt) or knowledge telling (i.e., writing all what is known about a topic). Fortunately, strategy instruction for story grammar has been noted to support students’ story and personal narrative writing. Story grammar is based on the concept that all narratives have certain elements that are required for high quality narratives (e.g., character, setting, plot). Two strategy approaches have been tested in SRSD for narrative writing instruction. The W-W-W, What ¼ 2, How ¼ 2 (Who is the main character, When does the story take place, Where does the story take place, What does the main character do or want to do, What happens next, How does the story end, How does the main character feel?) strategy, for example, has been effective in improving young students’ story writing. In two randomized control trials (Harris, Graham, & Mason, 2006; Graham, Harris, & Mason, 2005) students with and without disabilities wrote stories with significantly more story parts, ES ¼ 3.86 for the second-grade students and ES ¼ 1.76 for the third-grade students. SRSD for C-SPACE (Characters, Setting, Purpose, Action, Closing, and Emotions), developed for older students, includes explicit instruction for planning and self-regulation, and for peer-feedback (i.e., peers provide positive and constructive feedback for writing). In a quasi-experimental study with 26 seventh- and eighth-grade students with LD, students who participated in C-SPACE instruction had better quality papers (ES ¼ 1.09) than students in the comparison group (MacArthur et al., 1991). Extending strategies such as W-W-W-, What ¼ 2, How ¼ 2, and C-SPACE to more advanced writing tasks, such as biographical narrative essays, has yet to be tested.



Informative Writing SRSD instruction and Collaborative Strategic Instruction for Writing (CSIW) plus technology have both been effective in improving informative writing. In 2001, De La Paz evaluated the effects of SRSD instruction for the PLAN (Pay attention to the prompt, set goals; List main ideas to develop your essay; Add supporting ideas; Number major points in the order you will use them) and WRITE (Work from your plan to develop a thesis statement; Remember your goals; Include transition words for each paragraph; Try to use different kinds of sentences; Exciting, interesting $1,000,000 words) informative essay strategy. Lessons for sentence structure, better word choice, and peer revision were included in PLAN and WRITE instruction. Results of a study for middle school students with attention deficit disorders and specific language impairments indicated strong effects for the number of essay elements written with PND ¼ 100%. Recently, Englert and colleagues extended CSIW by including a webbased organizational tool, the TELE-Web (Technology-Enhanced Learning Environments on the Web) instructional model (Englert, Zhao, Dunsmore, Collings, & Wolbers, 2007). TELE-Web scaffolds students’ practice in writing essays by supporting anticipation, prediction, and composition for chunks of information during the composing process. TELE-Web prompts students to develop text structure framing with supporting evidence and detail in sentences and paragraphs in introductory and concluding passages. In a group experimental study, instruction resulted in a strong effect (ES ¼ 1.04) for the quality of essays written by young adolescents with LD (mean age 10.6). While the above findings are positive, researchers have clearly noted cautions for using technology for students with LD. First, technology alone is not sufficient for changing students’ writing performance; teacher-guided instruction is critical (Graham et al., 2002). Next, technology-based prompts must be designed to meet the developmental and language needs of students with LD (Englert et al.). These implications are important considerations for future intervention development.

Persuasive Writing Students’ persuasive writing skills develop slowly compared to writing skills related to other genre structures (Mason & Cramer, 2008). Given this, instruction for students with LD should be explicit and begin early.

Written Instruction for Students with Learning Disabilities


With this in mind, two studies (Graham et al., 2005; Harris et al., 2006) with second- and third-grade children (some had LD) used SRSD instruction for the persuasive writing strategy POW (Pick my idea, Organize my notes, Write and say more)+TREE (Topic sentences, Reasons: 3 or more, Ending, Examine) to improve the students writing argumentation in opinion writing. ES differences across writing measures for students’ receiving instruction when compared to students in no-treatment control ranged from 1.07 to 4.64. SRSD for the PLANS (Pick goals, List goals, And, write Notes, Sequence notes) goal setting strategy provides students steps for developing personal product goals as well as a method for evaluating writing performance (Graham et al., 1992). Goal setting is an important component for the writing process (Flower, Hayes, Carey, Schriver, & Stratman, 1986). Goals that are specific, proximal, and appropriately challenging help writers understand the specific task to be completed (Harris, Graham, MacArthur, Reid, & Mason, 2011). In a multiple probe design across subjects study, PLANS was evaluated with four fifth-grade students with LD (Graham et al.). Following instruction, students increased the number of words written and the number of essay parts as well as writing essays of better quality. PND were 100% for persuasive essay parts at posttest and maintenance, and 88% for story writing generalization.

Revision Graham (1997) noted that less than 20% of revisions made by students with disabilities result in substantive differences. These students, therefore, need to be taught to apply skills and strategies for correcting diagnosed problems. SIM instruction, Interactive Dialogues, and SRSD have been validated as effective for teaching revision skills to students with LD. In early revision research for students with LD, SIM instruction for the COPS(Capitalization, Organization, Punctuation, Spelling) error monitoring was examined (e.g., Schumaker et al., 1982). High school students were taught to independently ask themselves a series of questions: (a) Have I Capitalized the first word in sentences and proper nouns? (b) Organization – have I made any handwriting, margin, messy, or spacing errors? (c) Have I used end Punctuation, commas, and semicolons correctly? (d) Do the words look like they are Spelled right, can I sound them out, or should I use the dictionary? PND for errors detected and corrected was 100%.



An important feature of the COPS strategy is its versatility. In a recent study for adult GED preparation (Berry & Mason, 2012), COPS was combined with SRSD for the POW+TREE strategy, and modified to focus the student’s attention on sentence structure and word use (e.g., Capitalization; Organization – Did your essay contain all the parts of TREE? Punctuation and Sense – ‘‘Does this sentence make sense?’’). PND after instruction was 75% post-instruction and 100% at maintenance for the number of text elements. Interactive Dialogues for revising was tested in a component analysis study. Wong et al. (1994) taught eighth- and ninth-grade students with LD and low achievers to write an essay in four phases: (a) training in keyboard skills; (b) planning by thinking out loud; (c) writing and revising with teacher interactive dialogue; and (d) revising with student– student interactive dialogues. Dialoguing included asking for clarification and elaboration at the sentence, phrase, and essay levels. Students in the comparison intervention learned and practiced writing essays and conducted teacher interactive dialogues, but, did not complete student– student interactive dialoguing. Both the experimental and comparison conditions had a strong effect on writing quality (ES ¼ 1.52), indicating that interactive dialogue, whether it involved teacher–student or student–student interactions, benefited the composing and revision process. In studies for fifth- and sixth-grade students with LD the effectiveness of SRSD for revising resulted in large effects, PND ¼ 100% (Graham & MacArthur, 1988; Stoddard & MacArthur, 1993). Instruction included teaching persuasive essay components as well as a six-step strategy for revising: (1) read your essay; (2) find the sentence that tells what you believe – is it clear; (3) add two reasons why you believe it; (4) SCAN each sentence (Does it make sense? Is it connected to my belief? Can I add more? Note errors); (5) make changes on the computer; and (6) reread the essay and make final changes. Authors noted that it was necessary to provide brief booster sessions to review strategy steps in order to support performance at maintenance. In 1991, MacArthur, Schwartz, and Graham investigated the effects of SRSD for personal narratives written and revised on the computer with fourth- through sixth-grade students with LD. Two strategy steps were taught: (a) students read aloud and discussed narratives, reread their partners’ paper, made revision notes, and discussed recommendations; and (b) in the second step of the strategy, students focused on discussing and recommending changes for mechanical errors. Students who participated in

Written Instruction for Students with Learning Disabilities


peer revision performed better than students who did not have the peer support for revising, ES ¼ 1.09. The above studies indicate that teaching students with LD revising skills is effective. The trend combining revision strategies with strategies for planning and composing (e.g., Berry & Mason, 2012; De La Paz, 2001) is most promising.

Test Taking Writing assessment is used not only in the classroom to monitor student growth and to inform instruction, but also at national, state, and district levels to evaluate students’ performance toward meeting standards (Graham, Harris, & Hebert, 2011). Therrien, Hughes, Kapelski, and Mokhtari (2009) recently evaluated the effects of SIM instruction for improving essay test writing performance. Forty-two seventh- and eighth-grade students with LD were taught a six-step writing strategy, ANSWER (Analyze the action words in the question, Notice the requirements of the question, Set up an outline, Work in detail, Engineer your answer, Review your answer), in a two-week instructional period. Results of the two-level (treatment or control) single factor pre/post experimental design study indicated that students in the SIM instructional group, compared to treatment group, had large effect gains following instruction on post-test essays as measured by a strategy-specific rubric (ES ¼ 1.69) and medium gains as measured by a general analytic rubric (ES ¼ .51 to .68). Given the emphasis on writing assessment, evaluating approaches such as SIM for the ANSWER strategy are timely.

Reading and Writing Writing about information promotes learning; time students spend writing positively impacts reading fluency and comprehension (Graham & Hebert, 2010). The effects of SRSD for the reading comprehension strategy TWA (Think before reading, think While reading, think After reading) plus the PLANS writing strategy for low-achieving students, including students with LD, was evaluated in two studies (Mason, Hickey Snyder, Sukhram, & Kedem, 2006; Mason, Dunn Davison, Hammer, Miller, & Glutting, 2012). TWA has nine strategy steps, three for each reading phase: (Phase 1) think about the author’s purpose, think about what you know, think about what



you want to learn; (Phase 2) think about linking knowledge, think about reading speed, think about rereading; and (Phase 3) think about the main ideas, think about summarizing, think about what you learned. In both studies (Mason et al., 2006, 2012), TWA was taught first, followed by instruction in writing notes on a TWA graphic organizer, and ending with informative writing instruction for PLANS, the goal setting strategy described previously. In the first study (Mason et al., 2006), students’ reading comprehension and writing improved to criterion after instruction, PND ¼ 94% for the number of main ideas and details written. In the second study, a randomized control trial study with 72 fourth-grade students (Mason et al., 2012), findings indicated that students in treatment, compared to control, had positive large effect differences in the number of main ideas and details in oral narrative retell measures (Posttest ES ¼ .61.93, Maintenance ES ¼ .93–1.17), and main ideas, details and quality of the written informative essay (Posttest ES ¼ .73–1.37, Maintenance ES ¼ .93– 1.55). Given the importance and emphasis for reading and writing across the curriculum, additional research for supporting students with LD in content classrooms is warranted.

SUMMARY As highlighted in this chapter, evidence-based practices for teaching writing to students with LD have been established. It is important, however, to contextualize the positive findings with reported views regarding the status of writing in the United States. The National Commission on Writing (2004), for example, noted that American businesses were spending 3.1 billion dollars annually on writing remediation for employees. Reports, such as this one, have led to increased accountability for all student performance. Recent intervention research for students with LD, in fact, mirrors policy trends such as more access to general education curricular (Individual with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, 2004), inclusion in CCSS initiatives (2010), and evaluation in local, state, and national testing data (Thurlow, Rogers, & Christenson, 2010). As the trend for accountability increases, it is critical that intervention research for students with LD continues to trend upward, strengthening lower level skills and developing instruction for multi-component complex skills, so that these students have the opportunity to develop the writing skills required for school and work success.

Written Instruction for Students with Learning Disabilities


NOTES 1. Effect sizes for group studies are considered to be small (.20), medium (.50), or large (.80) as suggest by Cohen (1988). 2. A PND of 90% and above is considered a large effect, 70–90%t a medium effect, and below 70% indicates a small effect (Scruggs, Mastropieri, & Casto, 1987).

REFERENCES Beals, V. L. (1983). The effects of large group instruction on the acquisition of specific learning strategies by learning disabled adolescents. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS. Benedek-Wood, E., Mason, L.H., Wood, P., & Kubina, R.M. (2012). Effects of SRSD for quick writing instruction in four inclusive science classrooms. The Pennsylvania State University. Manuscript in preparation. Berninger, V., Vaughn, K., Abbott, R., Brooks, A., Abbott, S., Rogan, L., y Graham, S. (1998). A multiple connections approach to early intervention for spelling problems: Integrating instructional, learner, and stimulus variables. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, 587–605. Berry, A., & Mason, L. H. (2012). The effects of self-regulated strategy development on the writing of expository essays for adults with written expression difficulties: Preparing for the GED. Remedial and Special Education, 33, 124–136. Bradley, L. (1981). The organization of motor patterns for spelling: An effective remedial strategy for backward readers. Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology, 23, 83–91. Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Darch, C., Eaves, R. C., Crowe, D. A., Simmons, K., & Conniff, A. (2006). Teaching spelling to students with learning disabilities: A comparison of rule-based strategies versus traditional instruction. Journal of Direct Instruction, 6, 1–16. De La Paz, S. (2001). Teaching writing to students with attention deficit disorders and specific language impairments. The Journal of Educational Research, 9, 37–47. Eads, J. R. (1991). Classroom teacher mediated generalization of a sentence writing strategy to the regular classroom by nine middle school students with learning disabilities. Unpublished educational specialist thesis, Northeast Missouri State University, Kirksville, MO. Eisenberg, S. L. (2006). Grammar: How can I say it better? In T. A. Ukrainetz (Ed.), Contextualized language intervention: Scaffolding PreK-12 literacy achievement (pp. 145–194). Eau Claire, WI: Thinking Publications. Englert, C. S., Raphael, T. E., Fear, K. L., & Anderson, L. M. (1988). Students’ metacognitive knowledge about how to write informational texts. Learning Disabilities Quarterly, 11, 18–46. Englert, C. S., Zhao, Y., Dunsmore, K., Collings, N., & Wolbers, K. (2007). Scaffolding the writing of students with disabilities through procedural facilitation: Using an internetbased technology to improve performance. Learning Disability Quarterly, 30, 9–29. Fisher, D., & Frey, N. (2004). Improving adolescent literacy. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.



Flower, L., Hayes, J., Carey, L., Schriver, K., & Stratman, J. (1986). Detection, diagnosis, and the strategies of revision. College Composition and Communication, 37, 16–55. Fulk, B., & Stormont-Spurgin, M. (1995). Spelling interventions for students with disabilities: A review. Journal of Special Education, 28, 488–513. Gertsen, R., & Baker, S. (2001). Teaching expressive writing to students with learning disabilities. Elementary School Journal, 97, 475–500. Graham, S. (1983). Effective spelling instruction. Elementary School Journal, 83, 560–567. Graham, S. (1997). Executive control in the revising of students’ learning and writing difficulties. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89, 223–234. Graham, S. (1999). Handwriting and spelling instruction for students with learning disabilities: A review. Learning Disability Quarterly, 22, 78–98. Graham, S. (2006). Strategy instruction and the teaching of writing: A meta-analysis. In C. MacArthur, S. Graham & J. Fitzgerald (Eds.), Handbook of Writing Research (pp. 187–207). New York, NY: Guilford. Graham, S., & Harris, K. R. (2003). Students with learning disabilities and the process of writing: A meta-analysis of SRSD studies. In L. Swanson, K. R. Harris & S. Graham (Eds.), Handbook of research on learning disabilities (pp. 383–402). New York, NY: Guilford. Graham, S., & Harris, K. R. (2006). Preventing writing difficulties: Providing additional handwriting and spelling instruction to at-risk children in first grade. Teaching Exceptional Children, 39, 64–66. Graham, S., Harris, K. R., & Fink, B. (2000). Is handwriting causally related to learning to write? Treatment of handwriting problems in beginning writers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92, 620–633. Graham, S., Harris, K. R., & Fink-Chorzempa, B. (2002). Contributions of spelling instruction to the spelling, writing, and reading of poor spellers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 94, 669–686. Graham, S., Harris, K. R., & Hebert, M. (2011). Assessing writing. Report prepared for the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Graham, S., Harris, K. R., & Loynachan, C. (1994). The spelling for writing list. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 27, 210–214. Graham, S., Harris, K. R., & Mason, L. H. (2005). Improving the writing performance, knowledge, and self-efficacy of struggling young writers: The effects of self-regulated strategy development. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 30, 207–241. Graham, S., Harris, K. R., Mason, L. H., Fink, B., Moran, S., & Saddler, B. (2008). Teaching handwriting in the primary grades: A national survey. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 21, 49–69. Graham, S., & Hebert, M. A. (2010). Writing to read: Evidence for how writing can improve reading. A Carnegie Corporation time to act report. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education. Graham, S., & MacArthur, C. (1988). Improving learning disabled students’ skills at revising essays produced on a word processor: Self-instructional strategy training. The Journal of Special Education, 22, 133–152. Graham, S., MacArthur, C., Schwartz, S., & Page-Voth, V. (1992). Improving the compositions of students with learning disabilities using a strategy involving product and process goal setting. Exceptional Children, 58, 322–334. Graham, S., & Miller, L. (1980). Handwriting research and practice: A unified approach. Focus on Exceptional Children, 13, 1–16.

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Graham, S., & Perin, D. (2007). A meta-analysis of writing instruction. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99, 445–476. Harris, K. R., Graham, S., MacArthur, C., Reid, R., & Mason, L. H. (2011). Self-regulated learning processes and children’s writing. In B. Zimmerman & D. Schunk (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation of learning and performance (pp. 187–2010). Danvers, MA: Routledge. Harris, K. R., Graham, S., & Mason, L. H. (2006). Self-regulated strategy development for 2nd grade students who struggle with writing. American Educational Research Journal, 43, 295–340. Hillocks, G. (1984). Research of written composition: New directions for teaching. Urbana: IL ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading and Communication Skills. Hoover, T., Kubina, R., & Mason, L. H. (2012). Effects of self-regulated strategy development for POW+TREE with high school students with learning disabilities. Exceptionality, 20, 20–38. Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004. Pub. L. No. 180–446, 118 Stat. 2647 (2004). Krashen, S. (1989). We acquire vocabulary and spelling by reading: Additional evidence for the input hypothesis. Modern Language Journal, 73, 440–464. MacArthur, C., Graham, S., Haynes, J., & De La Paz, S. (1996). Spelling checkers and students with learning disabilities: Performance comparisons and impact on spelling. Journal of Special Education, 30, 35–57. MacArthur, C., Schwartz, S., & Graham, S. (1991). Effects of a reciprocal peer revision strategy in special education classrooms. Learning Disability Research and Practice, 6, 201–210. Mason, L. H., Benedek-Wood, E., & Valasa, L. (2009). Quick writing for students who struggle with writing. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 53, 313–322. Mason, L. H., & Cramer, A. M. (2008). Rarely had the words poured: Teaching persuasive writing. Learning Disabilities Worldwide, 5, 25–39. Mason, L. H., Dunn Davison, M., Hammer, C. S., Miller, C. A., & Glutting, J. (2012). Knowledge, writing, and language outcomes for a reading comprehension and writing intervention. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal. Published on-line first, July 28, 2012. doi:10.1007/s11145-012-9409-0 Mason, L. H., & Graham, S. (2008). Writing instruction for adolescents with learning disabilities: Programs of intervention research. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 23, 103–112. Mason, L. H., Harris, K. R., & Graham, S. (2002). Every child has a story to tell: Self-regulated strategy development for story writing. Education and Treatment of Children, 25, 496–506. Mason, L. H., Harris, K. R., & Graham, S. (2011). Self-regulated strategy development for students with writing difficulties. Theory in Practice, 50, 20–27. Mason, L. H., Harris, K. R., & Graham, S. (2013). Strategies for improving student outcomes in written expression. In M. Tankersley & B. Cook (Eds.), Effective practices in special education (pp. 86–97). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. Mason, L. H., Hickey, A., Snyder, K., Sukhram, D. P., & Kedem, Y. (2006). Self-regulated strategy development for expository reading comprehension and informative writing: Effects for nine 4th-grade students who struggle with learning. Exceptional Children, 73, 69–89.



Mason, L. H., Kubina, R. M., Kostewicz, D., Mong Cramer, A., & Datchuk, S. (2012). Improving quick writing performance of middle school struggling learners. The Pennsylvania State University. Manuscript submitted for publication. Mason, L. H., Kubina, R. M., & Taft, R. (2009). Developing quick writing skills of middle school students with disabilities. Journal of Special Education. (OnlineFirst, published on October 21, 2009 as 10.1177/0022466909350780). Mason, L. H., Reid, R., & Hagaman, J. (2012). Building comprehension in adolescents: Powerful strategies for improving reading and writing in content areas. Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing Co. Inc. Moats, L. (2009). Teaching spelling to students with language and learning disabilities. In G. A. Troia (Ed.), Instruction and assessment for struggling writers (pp. 269–289). New York, NY: Guilford. Moats, L. (2010). Don’t computers make spelling instruction unnecessary? Retrieved from http:// louisamoats.wordpress.com/ Moran, M. R., Schumaker, J. B., & Vetter, A. F. (1981). Teaching a paragraph organization strategy to learning disabled adolescents. Research Report no. 54. Lawrence, KS: Institute for Research in Learning Disabilities. National Commission on Writing. (2004). Writing: A ticket to work y or a ticket out: A survey of business leaders. Retrieved from http://www.collegeboard.com National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers. (2010). Common Core State Standards. Washington DC: National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Council of Chief State School Officers. Nippold, M. (2004). Research on later language development: International perspectives. In R. Berman (Ed.), Language development across childhood and adolescence (pp. 1–8). Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins Publishing Co. No Child Left Behind Act. Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Pub. L. 107-110 Sec. 1111(b)(3)(I)(A) (2001). Rogers, L., & Graham, S. (2008). A meta-analysis of single-subject design writing research. Journal of Educational Psychology, 4, 879–906. Saddler, B. (2012). Teachers guide to effective sentence writing. New York, NY: Guilford. Saddler, B., Behforooz, B., & Asaro, K. (2008). The effects of sentence-combining instruction on the writing of fourth-grade students with writing difficulties. Journal of Special Education, 42, 79–90. Schmidt, J. L., Deshler, D. D., Schumaker, J. B., & Alley, G. R. (1988). Effects of generalization instruction on the written language performance of adolescents with learning disabilities in the mainstream classroom. Reading, Writing, and Learning Disabilities, 4, 291–309. Schumaker, J. B., & Deshler, D. D. (2003). Can students with LD become competent writers? Learning Disabilities Quarterly, 26, 129–141. Schumaker, J. B., Deshler, D. D., Alley, G. R., Warner, M. M., Clark, F. L., & Nolan, S. (1982). Error monitoring: A learning strategy for improving adolescent academic performance. In W. M. Cruickshank & J. W. Lerner (Eds.), Coming of age: Vol. 3. The best of ACLD (pp. 170–183). Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press. Schumaker, J. B., & Lyerla, K. D. (1991). The paragraph writing strategy: Instructor’s manual. Lawrence, KS: The University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning.

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Scruggs, T. E., Mastropieri, M. A., & Casto, G. (1987). The quantitative synthesis of single subject research: Methodology and validation. Remedial and Special Education, 8, 24–33. Smith, T. (Reporter). (2011). A farewell to handwriting [Television series episode]. In R. Orvedahl (Executive Producer), Sunday Morning. New York, NY: CBS News. Stoddard, B., & MacArthur, C. A. (Eds.). (1993). A peer editor strategy: Guinding learningdisabled students in response and revision. In Research in the Teaching of English (Vol. 27, pp. 76–103). Therrien, W. J., Hughes, C., Kapelski, C., & Mokhtari, K. (2009). Effectiveness of a test taking strategy on students’ with learning disabilities achievement on essay tests. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42, 14–23. Thurlow, M., Rogers, C., & Christenson, L. (2010). Science assessment for students with disabilities in school year 2006–2007: What we know about participation, performance, and accommodations. Synthesis Report 77. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, National Center for Educational Outcomes. Tressler, J. C. (1938). Is grammar dead? The English Journal, 27, 396–401. Troia, G. A. (2006). Writing instruction for students with learning disabilities. In S. Graham, C. A. MacArthur & J. Fitzgerald (Eds.), Best practices in writing instruction (pp. 324–336). New York, NY: Guilford. Wanzek, J., Vaughn, S., Wexler, J., Swanson, E. A., Edmonds, M., & Kim, A. (2006). A synthesis of spelling and reading interventions and their effects on the spelling outcomes of students with LD. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39, 528–543. Wong, B. Y. L., Butler, D. L., Ficzere, S. A., Kuperis, S., Corden, M., & Zelmer, J. (1994). Teaching problem learners revision skills and sensitivity to audience through two instructional modes: Student-teacher versus student-student interactive dialogues. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 9, 78–90.

COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS FOR MATHEMATICAL PRACTICE: IMPLICATIONS FROM A COMPREHENSIVE REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE FOR TEACHING SECONDARY STUDENTS WITH LD Paula Maccini, Jason A. Miller and Allyson P. Toronto ABSTRACT We conducted a comprehensive review of the literature on mathematical interventions for secondary students with learning disabilities (LD) and the identified studies were analyzed in light of the mathematical practices as outlined by the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI, 2010). Results indicated that Standard 2, reason abstractly and quantitatively, was the most common practice addressed. Furthermore, the studies that examined the effects of Enhanced Anchored Instruction (EAI) contained the most practice standards of the studies reviewed. Learning Disabilities: Practice Concerns and Students with LD Advances in Special Education, Volume 25, 65–86 Copyright r 2013 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited All rights of reproduction in any form reserved ISSN: 0270-4013/doi:10.1108/S0270-4013(2013)0000025007




However, the majority of studies provided evidence of addressing only one practice standard. It is recommended that future studies need to address these standards and/or be more explicit in the inclusion of the standards.

The Common Core State Standards were established to provide educators and parents with a consistent instructional focus and clear expectations for preparing students for postsecondary educational and occupational opportunities. The standards were established through a state-led initiative with the coordination of the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to provide a common set of knowledge and practice expectations in mathematics and English/ Language Arts in grades K-12 (CCSSI, 2010). The Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI), coordinated through the NGA and CCSSO, included teachers, content experts, parents, administrators, and other stakeholders during the creation of the standards. The CCSS in mathematics are divided into Standards for Mathematical Content and Standards for Mathematical Practice, which describe the knowledge and processes that all students should develop in grades K-12. The Standards for Mathematical Content define what mathematical knowledge should be addressed across the grade levels K-8 and high school and emphasize student understanding and application. The elementary K-5 content standards target student understanding of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, algebraic thinking, number and operations in base 10, fractions, measurement, data representation and interpretation, and geometry. The content standards identified in the middle grades 6–8 connect and extend student understanding of number systems and relationships to rational and irrational numbers and also include: ratio and proportions, expressions and equations, geometry, statistics, probability, and functions. The content focus within the high school curriculum addresses number and quantity, algebra, functions, modeling, geometry, as well as statistics and probability, with an emphasis on real-world application and mathematical modeling for both college and career preparation. The Standards for Mathematical Practice describe the processes and proficiencies that all students should know as they develop their mathematics content knowledge. The standards were derived from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) Principles and Standards for School Mathematics process standards (2000) and mathematics proficiency strands identified in Adding It Up by the National Research Council

Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice


(2001). These eight standards include the ability to: (1) make sense of problems and persevere in solving them, (2) reason abstractly and quantitatively, (3) construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others, (4) model with mathematics, (5) use appropriate tools strategically, (6) attend to precision, (7) look for and make use of structure, and (8) look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning (CCSSI, 2010). As of July 2012, 45 states and the District of Columbia had adopted the standards and will align state curriculum and assessments to these standards (CCSSI, 2012). Overall, the CCSS builds on recent state mathematics standards derived from empirical support from college and workforce preparation research and an evaluation of standards from high-performing countries in order to provide a clear and consistent focus across states for all learners, including students with learning disabilities (LD). Students with LD comprise almost 40% of students classified in need of special education services and more than half of these students are educated within the general education classroom (NCES, 2011) with access to an age-appropriate mathematics curriculum. Certain learner characteristics may impede the performance of learners with LD and hinder their ability to successfully access the mathematics curriculum, as many experience difficulties with mathematical procedures, memory and retrieval, and visuospatial deficits (Geary, 2004). For students with disabilities, ‘‘the Common Core State Standards provide an opportunity to have access to the knowledge and skills necessary for a successful future’’ (McNulty & Gloeckler, 2011, p. 5). To help students with LD successfully access the standards, it is critical to provide the teachers that serve them with current information of research-supported strategies to help inform their practice. It is also important to identify areas of future research and the most effective strategies and supports to help learners with LD access a grade-appropriate and rigorous mathematics curriculum. As such, the focus of this current review is to provide the results of a comprehensive review of mathematical interventions for secondary students with LD relative to the Standards for Mathematical Practice and related learner characteristics of students with LD in mathematics. Specifically, the purpose of this review is to: (a) describe the Standards for Mathematical Practice and how they were interpreted for use in analyzing the studies in the present review relative to certain learner characteristics, (b) identify studies and interventions that provide exemplary evidence of students engaged in activities that promote the Standards for Mathematical Practice, and (c) provide suggestions for both practice and future research. In the sections that follow, we first provide an overview of the methods and



criteria used for identifying the included studies, followed by a description of the studies organized across the Standards for Mathematical Practice.

METHODOLOGY Criteria for Inclusion To be considered for inclusion in this review, studies needed to meet the following criteria: (1) published in a refereed journal between January 2000 and February 2012 reflecting studies published after the publication of NCTM’s (2000) Principles and Standards, (2) included secondary school students with LD in the population (grades 6–12), and (3) focused on content from grades 7–121 that was no more than 1-year below ageappropriate content as described in the CCSS (CCSSI, 2010). Search Procedures A systematic search of the literature was conducted using Research Port through multiple databases including: PsycInfo, Eric, and EBSCO. Combinations of the following descriptors were used: equations, equal sign, algebra, geometry, functions, integers, math, mathematics, elementary, secondary, middle, learning disabilities, disabilities, intervention, struggle, and at-risk. An ancestral search was also conducted through the articles obtained in the database search. A total of 10 studies (Bottge, Heinrichs, Chan, & Serlin, 2001; Bottge, Rueda, LaRoque, Serlin, & Kwon, 2007; Bottge, Rueda, Serlin, Hung, & Kwon, 2007; Ives, 2007; Jitendra et al., 2009; Maccini & Ruhl, 2000; Mayfield & Glenn, 2008; Scheuermann, Deshler, & Schumaker, 2009; Witzel, Mercer, & Miller, 2003; Xin, Jitendra, & Deatline-Buchman, 2005) were identified and included in this review (see Table 1). Identified articles were initially analyzed independently by each author for content and mathematical practices. Discrepancies were discussed to ensure consistency of analysis across all studies resulting in 100% reliability across the authors.

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION This section includes a description of the Standards for Mathematical Practice, how each was interpreted for use in analyzing the studies, a review


N=75 LD=8 Grade: 8 Age: NS

N=100 LD=100 Grades: 6–12 Age: NS

N=128 LD=8 Grade: 7 Age: NS


Bottge et al. (2001)

Bottge, Rueda, LaRoque, Serlin, and Kwon (2007a)

Bottge et al. (2007b)

Table 1.

8.EE.5 – Slope 8.F.2 – Representing 8.F.4 – Modeling 8.F.5 – Analyzing

8.EE.5 – Slope 8.F.2 – Representing 8.F.4 – Modeling 8.F.5 – Analyzing

8.EE.5 – Slope 8.F.2 – Representing 8.F.4 – Modeling 8.F.5 – Analyzing

CCSS for Content 2 a



1 a


















CCSS for Mathematical Practice 8

This quasi-experimental study tested the effects of EAI on mathematics achievements of adolescent students with LD compared to their nondisabled peers.

Results: Problem-solving skills: EAIWTPI Computation skills: Mixed results

This mixed-method study assessed the effects of EAI on problem-solving and computation skills of adolescent students with LD.

This quasi-experimental study compared the effects of Enhanced Anchored Instruction (EAI) using the video anchor Kim’s Komet to more traditional instruction (TPI) with teacher lead instruction and a small group project. Results: EAIWTPI

Overview & Results

Review of the Literature and the Standards for Mathematical Practice.

Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice 69

Jitendra, Star, Starosta, Leh, Sood,

Study 1: N=29 LD=21 Grades: 7–12 Age: 13–19

Ives (2007)

N=148 LD=15 Grade: 7

Study 2: N=10 LD=8 Grades: 11–12 Age: 16–19



6. PR.1 – Describe ratios

8.EE.8b and A.REI.6 – Systems of linear equations

CCSS for Content













CCSS for Mathematical Practice

Table 1. (Continued )


This quasi-experimental study compared schema-based instruction (SBI) on ratio and

Results: Study 1 GOWCG on posttests and maintenance for concepts but GO=CG for systems posttest, maintenance, and generalization Study 2 GOWCG on concepts and systems on posttest (no maintenance assessed)

These two quasi-experimental studies compared the effects of a strategy instruction and direct instruction with a graphic organizer (GO) to direct instruction and strategy instruction only (CG) on solving systems of two (Study 1) and three (Study 2) linear equations.

Results: Learning trajectory LD= Non-LD Pretest to maintenance LDWNon-LD

Overview & Results


Age: 11–14

N=3 LD=3 Grade: 8 Age: 14–15

N=3 LD=1 Grades: 4, 7, 8 Age: 9, 13, 14

Caskie, Hughes, and Mack (2009)

Maccini and Ruhl (2000)

Mayfield and Glenn (2008)

7.EE.1 – Linear expressions 8.EE.1 – Integer exponents

7.NS.2&3 – Integers

7.RP.1 – Compute unit rates 7.RP.2 – Represent proportional relationships 7.RP.3 – Solve multistep problems 7.G – Compute length and area using scale factors a


This single-subject multiple baseline across skills design targeted 6 algebra skills and examined the effect of 5 instructional interventions on problem-solving tasks that

Results: Participants increased their percent strategy use of the STAR and the mean percent correct solving integer problems involving subtraction from baseline to treatment and maintenance.

The single-subject multiple baseline design examined the effects of a general problemsolving strategy, STAR, through three levels of instruction (CSA sequence).

Results: SBIWCG on immediate, generalization, short- and long-term maintenance. However, for lower achievers SBI=CG.

proportion problems to traditional direct instruction with worked examples (CG).

Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice 71


N=14 LD=14 Grades: 6–8 Age: 11–14


Scheuermann et al. (2009)

7.EE.1 – Linear expressions

CCSS for Content 1








CCSS for Mathematical Practice

Table 1. (Continued )


This single-subject multiplebaseline-across-students study determined the effects that an explicit inquiry routine teaching method had on students with MLD’s understanding of one-variable equations. Results: Performance increased after start of intervention; students were able to generalize skills to more complex problems and transfer skills to variety of situations.

Results: Cumulative practice and feedback with solution sequence instruction=limited performance increases Transfer training=consistent improvement in student performance

required students to apply the target skills in novel combinations.

Overview & Results


N=22 LD=18 Grades: 6–8 Age (m)=13

Xin et al. (2005)

6. PR.1-3 – Describe and solve ratio problems 7.RP.1 – Compute unit rates 7.RP.2 – Represent proportional relationships 7.RP.3 – Solve multistep problems

A.EE.7 – Linear equations












This pre-post-test comparison group design with random assign of participants (and instructors with instructor switching groups midway) study compared schema-based instruction (SBI) on ratio and proportion problem solving to general strategy instruction (GSI). Results: SBIWGSI on immediate, maintenance and generalization.

The pre-post-follow-up design study compared the treatment group (CRA instruction) to traditional instruction (TI) involving solving linear algebra equations. Results: CRAWTI on posttest and follow-up measures.

Note: N, total number of participants; LD, number of participants identified with learning disability; AR, at-risk; m, mean; A-REI, algebrareasoning with equations and inequalities (high school); 8.EE.5, 8th grade, expressions and equations, Standard 1; F, functions; RP, ratios and proportional relationships; NS, the number system. a Evidence of practice standard included in intervention. b Practice standard potentially included but more information needed to be certain.

Total number of standards included

N=358 LD/AR=34 Grades: 6, 7 Age (m)=12.3

Witzel et al. (2003)

Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice 73



of related learner characteristics of students with LD in mathematics, and a description of the studies that provided exemplary evidence of students engaged in each standard. Suggestions for implications for practice and research are also provided.

Standard 1: Make Sense of Problems and Persevere in Solving Them A primary goal in the study of mathematics is for students to develop problem-solving skills that can be applied, not only in mathematics, but also across disciplines (Wilson, Fernandez, & Hadaway, 1993). Problem solving is considered a dynamic, cyclical process involving forward and backward steps with many correct solution paths (Polya, 1957); however, many individuals view problem solving as procedural exercises that can be solved with a linear or step-by-step approach (Wilson et al., 1993). Mathematical Practice Standard 1, making sense of problems and persevering in solving them, addresses the need to develop students’ problem-solving abilities. Standard 1 states that mathematically proficient students approach a problem by explaining the meaning of the problem, looking for possible entry points, planning a solution pathway, analyzing the givens, constraints, relationships, and goals, considering analogous or simpler forms of the problem to gain insight, and frequently evaluating the reasonableness of their choices throughout the problem-solving process (CCSSI, 2010). Examples of students demonstrating this standard include modifying the viewing window on a calculator to gain more insight into a function, explaining how representations such as graphs, tables, and equations are related, or using models and manipulatives to represent and make concrete an abstract topic or idea to help understand a situation (CCSSI, 2010). Many students with LD may struggle with this practice, and in particular, having the perseverance and confidence to succeed on a challenging task without giving up or seeking assistance (Ayres, Cooley, & Dunn, 1990). For the purposes of this review, interventions had to involve students in authentic problem-solving situations that included open-ended problems and activities that had multiple solution pathways. Students had to be given the freedom to explore and find their solution pathways that were not explicitly prescribed by the instructor. Of the studies included in this review, four studies (Bottge et al., 2001; Bottge, Rueda, LaRouche et al., 2007; Bottge, Ruede, Serlin et al., 2007; Jitendra et al., 2009) included evidence of this standard in their interventions. For example, the three articles by Bottge et al. (2001), Bottge, Rueda, LaRouche et al. (2007), and Bottge, Ruede,

Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice


Serlin et al. (2007) examined the effects of Enhanced Anchored Instruction (EAI) on the mathematics performance of adolescent students with LD compared to their nondisabled peers. EAI involves students working in small groups on authentic problems with the instructor asking probing questions and providing in-depth instruction on skills and concepts, as needed by the students. In each of the studies, students participating in EAI watched a video on a videodisc format, which allowed them to search for relevant information to solve problems where the procedures were not explicit. Additionally, students constructed car ramps in a technology class that were similar to those shown in the video in order to graph the data and make predictions about speed, velocity, and distance in an authentic problem-solving situation. Jitendra et al. (2009) also included evidence of this standard in their study using schema-based instruction for solving ratio and proportion word problems by encouraging students to use ‘‘thinkalouds’’ while problem solving asking such questions as: ‘‘Did I read and retell the problem to understand what is given and what must be solved?’’ and ‘‘How is this problem similar to or different from the one I already solved?’’

Standard 2: Reason Abstractly and Quantitatively All students need access to high-quality mathematics instruction and curriculum that helps to develop their reasoning skills in mathematics (Dieker, Maccini, Strickland, & Hunt, 2011). Standard 2 addresses the need to develop students’ reasoning skills and ability to understand quantities and relationships in problem situations in order to obtain an accurate representation of the task. The standard also states that students should be able to make sense of quantities and their relationships in problem situations and be able to decontextualize and contextualize during problem solving (CCSSI, 2010). Quantitative reasoning involves the ability to: (a) symbolically represent problem situations, (b) describe the connections and meanings of the quantities within problems, (c) create representations that accurately reflect the situation, and (d) flexibly choose and apply appropriate number operations and related properties (Van De Walle, Karpe, & Bay-Williams, 2011). Students who employ quantitative reasoning demonstrate the ability to decontextualize a problem situation by translating all of the elements within the problem to a number sentence and contextualize or understand or understanding the connection of these elements of the number sentence to the problem situation (CCSSI, 2010). Though important, many students with LD experience difficulty translating between



concrete representations and abstract concepts (Steele & Steele, 2003), which hinders their ability to translate words into equations. Students with LD have difficulty with understanding the information or facts embedded within the problem and subsequently being able to solve for the solution. For the purposes of this review, Standard 2 was interpreted as moving between symbols and the real world by decontextualizing a problem and contextualizing within a real-world context. Six studies in the present review (Bottge et al., 2001; Bottge, Rueda, LaRouche et al., 2007; Bottge, Ruede, Serlin et al., 2007; Maccini & Ruhl, 2000; Scheuermann et al., 2009; Witzel et al., 2003) included evidence of Standard 2 in their interventions and one additional study (Jitendra et al., 2009) partially addressed the standard. Three of the six exemplary studies are described (Maccini & Ruhl, 2000; Scheuremann et al., 2009; Witzel et al., 2003) as the remaining studies (Bottge et al., 2001; Bottge, Rueda, LaRouche et al., 2007; Bottge, Ruede, Serlin et al., 2007) were described in the previous section and in subsequent sections regarding the use of contextualized problems via video-based technology. First, Witzel et al. (2003) examined the use of the concrete-semiconcrete-abstract (CSA) sequence. During the concrete phase, manipulatives were incorporated into instruction to assist students developing representations with all of the features of the problem situation (i.e., operation, numbers, coefficients, and equals sign), followed by pictures of the objects at the semi-concrete phase, and numbers/symbols at the abstract phase. Additionally, Scheuermann et al. (2009) examined the use of the Explicit Inquiry Routine (EIR), which included the CSA sequence, explicit sequencing of content (i.e., from simple to more complex problems), and scaffolded inquiry. EIR assisted students with representing problems and discussing their ideas with their peers, teacher, and themselves. Students decontextualized the problem into referents (i.e., concrete manipulatives or graphic representations) that could be used for manipulation throughout the problem-solving process and routinely paused to interpret the referents in terms of the original context of the problem. Further, Maccini and Ruhl (2000) examined the effects of a first letter mnemonic general problem-solving strategy on students’ problem-solving skills involving integer numbers. The intervention involved the use of the CSA sequence, which involved first representing the problem using algebra lab gear (concrete phase), then using pictures of the tiles to represent the word problems (semi-concrete phase), and finally transitioning to using only numbers and symbols (abstract phase). Contextualizing or understanding the connection of the features of the number sentences to the problem situation was evident with the representation of integers using the algebra

Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice


tiles and representing quantities (e.g., tiles representing quantities 1, 5, 25). The authors could have addressed the standard more explicitly, however, by having specific examples of student work.

Standard 3: Construct Viable Arguments and Critique the Reasoning of Others All students need access to high-quality mathematics instruction and curriculum that helps to develop their reasoning skills in mathematics (Dieker et al., 2011). Also crucial is the need for creating opportunities for classroom discourse and explicitly establishing contexts for arguments within the mathematics classroom to promote student conceptual understanding via sharing and justifying ideas and listening to the arguments of others (Wood, 1999). Standard 3 addresses the need to have students construct viable arguments based on known facts, compare and analyze arguments for both reasonableness and accuracy, and communicate and justify ideas (CCSSI, 2010). Further, students need to understand and use stated assumptions, definitions, and previously established results in constructing arguments (CCSSI, 2010). However, students with LD may experience learner characteristics that may hinder their ability to master this practice standard, such as difficulties with executive functioning, the cognitive processes required to focus attention during classroom discussions, and the ability to verbally express their ideas as well as understand the ideas of others (NCLD, 2012). For the purposes of this review Standard 3 was interpreted as students explicitly justifying their reasoning and sense-making with others (e.g., ‘‘I did this because y’’; Discuss how to solve’’). Two studies (Bottge et al., 2001; Bottge, Rueda, LaRouche et al., 2007) included evidence of addressing Standard 3, and two additional studies partially addressed the standard (Bottge, Ruede, Serlin et al., 2007; Xin et al., 2005). For example, in the study by Bottge et al. (2001), students in the EAI treatment condition solved a contextualized problem via video-based technology, Kim’s Komet, and applied concepts such as linear functions, slope, acceleration, line of best fit, and measurement to help Kim and her friend predict from a graph the most appropriate location a car should be released to successfully complete different stunts in a soapbox derby. During the EAI treatment condition, the mathematics teacher facilitated discourse with the following prompting questions to generate discussion: ‘‘Can you figure out who has fastest car just by looking at results? Why or why not? Who has the fastest car? Further,



Bottge, Rueda, LaRouche et al. (2007) provided students in the EAI treatment time in groups to discuss ideas on how to best solve each problem such as predicting the speeds of cars from various release points. In two other studies (Bottge, Rueda, Serlin et al., 2007b; Xin et al., 2005), the researchers could have addressed Standard 3 more explicitly by providing more evidence if student participants responded to the arguments of others and/or if the teacher followed up with individual students with justifying their answers.

Standard 4: Model with Mathematics Developing adequate mathematical modeling skills is a core mathematical and scientific process in which a representation or model (i.e., flow-chart, diagram, or formula) of a given situation is created through a cyclical process of inquiry and reasoning (Confrey & Maloney, 2007). In many secondary mathematics classes, however, concepts are often presented with an inadequate focus on inquiry and reasoning, thus limiting students’ abilities to develop and internalize their own models (Butler, Beckingham, & Lauscher, 2005; Hudson & Miller, 2006). Standard 4 addresses the need for mathematical modeling and the ability of students to: (a) identify important quantities in a practical situation, (b) map their relationships to an appropriate model, (c) analyze the relationships to draw conclusions, (d) routinely interpret their mathematical results in the context of the situation, and (e) reflect on whether the results make sense, possibly improving the model if it did not serve its intended purpose (CCSSI, 2010). Students with LD have difficulty making connections between prior knowledge and new situations and may also struggle with self-regulation or metacognition making it challenging to participate in the cycle of inquiry and reasoning needed to independently create a model (Hudson & Miller, 2006). For the purposes of this review, Standard 4 was interpreted as students developing and revising a model to fit contexts through student-centered exploration and creation of models. Evidence of the standard was not displayed if the instructor simply provided the model for student use. Three studies (Bottge et al., 2001; Bottge, Rueda, LaRouche et al., 2007; Bottge, Rueda, Serlin et al., 2007) in the present review included evidence of Standard 4, and two additional studies (Jitendra et al., 2009; Xin et al., 2005) partially addressed the standard. Bottge et al. (2001) and Bottge, Rueda, LaRouche et al. (2007) involved students solving contextualized

Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice


problems via video-based technology, Kim’s Komet, where they discovered their own formulas, methods, and graphical representations to determine the most appropriate location a car should be released to successfully complete various stunts on a soapbox derby car. Similarly, in a third study (Bottge, Rueda, Serlin et al., 2007), students utilized three-dimensional schematic plans to build the most cost-effective skateboard ramp using A Fraction of the Cost video anchor as well as Kim’s Komet as in prior studies. Researchers in two other studies (Jitendra et al., 2009; Xin et al., 2005) could have addressed Standard 4 more explicitly either by providing more evidence to illustrate if students developed their own models through student exploration through appropriate teacher facilitation.

Standard 5: Use Appropriate Tools Strategically The study of mathematics involves the use of a range of tools including: paper and pencil, rulers and compasses, manipulatives, and technology. Research supports the use of manipulatives in the CSA sequence to improve students’ conceptual understanding of topics (Maccini & Gagnon, 2000) and use of technological tools (i.e., graphing calculators) to facilitate understanding of graphs and promote higher order thinking (Reid-Griffin & Carter, 2004). The CCSSI (2010) suggests that supports for students receiving special education services include assistive technology and accommodations to allow them to access the general education curriculum and standards. While tools have been shown to be effective, Standard 5 addresses the need for students to have access to the tools and use them in a strategic manner during problem solving. Standard 5 states that mathematically proficient students are aware of, and strategically consider, the benefits and limits of using tools when solving mathematical problems and using them to explore and deepen their understanding of a concept (CCSSI, 2010). Students who demonstrate this standard may use a graphing calculator to explore and analyze the graph of a function, technology to visualize mathematical models, and/or identify relevant mathematical resources such as web sites and other digital content to aide in the problem-solving process (CCSSI, 2010). Although many tools have been shown to be beneficial to students with LD, students need to learn to use them generally and in appropriate situations. For instance, students with LD may have below average skills with regard to abstract reasoning, generalizing, and conceptualizing (Mercer & Mercer, 2005), which can lead to difficulty applying skills and knowledge learned in class about graphing



calculator use to problems they are expected to complete independently (Steele, 2006). For purposes of this review, students demonstrating this standard had to independently use a known tool (i.e., not being required to use the tool but choosing an appropriate tool for the problem situation) to help during the problem-solving process. Two studies in the current review (Bottge et al., 2001; Bottge, Rueda, Serlin et al., 2007) included evidence of this standard in their interventions. Students in the EAI condition solved problems in the video anchor related to a car’s speed on a ramp and then built their own cars in a technology class to test on a ramp. Students used the ramp, cars, and infrared detection tools to measure the time it took the cars to travel the straight portion of the track and made graphs based on the speed of the cars for each release position on the ramp. One additional study (Ives, 2007) used graphic organizers as a way to teach systems of equations and had the potential to demonstrate Standard 5. Although graphic organizers are a type of tool, the students were required to use the graphic organizers to solve the problems; therefore, it is unknown if students would strategically choose to use the tool outside of the intervention. More research should be conducted that includes opportunities for students to strategically use tools in problem solving considering that only two of the studies in the present review explicitly had evidence of students demonstrating this mathematical practice standard.

Standard 6: Attend to Precision Mathematical precision is critical for computational accuracy, fluency, logic and reasoning, and for communicating mathematical ideas to others (Ball et al., 2005). Mathematical precision also includes specifying units, stating the meaning of symbols, and using appropriate vocabulary and accurate mathematical definitions to investigate claims, and clearly communicating reasoning (CCSSI, 2010). Students with LD typically have difficulty computing accurately (Geary, 2004) and/or using mathematical units, symbols, and definitions (Montis, 2000). In the present review Standard 6 was interpreted as students checking computational methods for accuracy, as well as using units, symbols, and definitions accurately and appropriately during the problem-solving process and while communicating findings. The evidence had to be explicitly provided in the articles via excerpts of student discussion and explanation and examples of student work. Two studies (Bottge et al., 2001; Bottge,

Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice


Rueda, Serlin et al., 2007) in the present review included evidence of addressing Standard 6. Bottge et al. (2001) had students in the EAI treatment group precisely calculate the position on a ramp from which to release a car in order to successfully complete a number of stunts on the track. Further, in the Bottge, Rueda, Serlin et al. (2007) study, students measured to the nearest one-eighth of an inch and engaged in discussion on the importance of measuring precisely. Such precision is crucial for building and constructing physical structures; however, it is also critical for building and developing accurate proofs, an area absent from the current review.

Standard 7: Look for and Make Use of Structure Most mathematical topics are sequential and interrelated requiring the use of prior knowledge to connect concepts and see relationships (National Research Council, 2001; NCTM, 2000). The flexibility to see these connections helps students to view mathematics as an interconnected discipline and not simply made up of disjoint parts (i.e., algebra, geometry, trigonometry, etc.) (National Research Council, 2001; NCTM, 2000). Looking for and making use of structure, applies not only in mathematics, but in many disciplines as a critical life skill. Standard 7 states that mathematically proficient students have the ability to observe patterns and structures in mathematical objects and use those observations to assist in problem solving (CCSSI, 2010). For example, students who demonstrate this practice in algebra may recognize that in the expression x2+9x+14, the 14 is 2  7 and the 9 is 2+7 and use this to assist with factoring; in geometry, students may look for simple shapes in a composite figure to assist in solving (CCSSI, 2010). As some learners with LD have difficulty with spatially representing mathematical relationships (Geary, 2004), students may struggle to identify and make use of structure. For purposes of this review, interventions had to be designed to allow students to apply foundational skills and concepts to more complex ideas without explicit instruction (e.g., far transfer, generalization or novel items). Two studies (Ives, 2007; Mayfield & Glenn, 2008) included evidence of this standard in their interventions. Mayfield and Glenn (2008) examined the effects of five interventions on problem-solving tasks that required participants to combine basic rules for working with exponents and equations in novel ways. To solve the complex tasks, students needed to observe the structure, break it down into recognizable tasks from the explicit instruction,



and apply those procedures in novel ways. For example for the related task ð6m2  9m5 Þ=3m2 , students had to first recognize that the fraction bar implies grouping, apply the target skill of multiplying variables with exponents (6m2  9m5 ¼ 54m7 ), and then apply the target skill of dividing exponents to the simplified problem to determine the solution (54m7 =3m2 ¼ 18m5 ). Ives (2007) also demonstrated use of Standard 7 by asking students to determine the number of solutions to systems of equations by recognizing their underlying structures rather than simply computing to determine the solutions. Although the study included a description of a system that has a unique solution (e.g., 5x=35; 3x  y=16), more evidence is needed that shows if students were exposed to systems with an infinite number of solutions (e.g., x  2y=2; 2x+4y=4) or no solution (e.g., 3x+2y=6; 3x+2y=12).

Standard 8: Look for and Express Regularity in Repeated Reasoning Mathematical topics are often interrelated and build upon prior topics or operations (National Research Council, 2001; NCTM, 2000). Similar to Standard 7, making use of structure, Standard 8 involves looking for patterns and connections, particularly in relation to student’s prior learning. Standard 8 states that mathematically proficient students notice if calculations are repeated and look both for general methods and for shortcuts. For example, students may notice that when dividing 25 by 11 they are repeating the same calculations and realize they have a repeating decimal or may notice the way terms cancel when expanding (x  1)(x  1), (x  1)(x2+x+1) and (x  1)(x3+x2+x+1) might lead them to the general formula for a geometric series (CCSSI, 2010). This recognition of patterns is a skill in which students with LD struggle given difficulties with working memory and metacognition that impact their ability to check their strategies and answers for accuracy (Mazzocco, 2007; Montague, Bos, & Doucette, 1991). For the purposes of this review, students needed to be actively engaged in making connections between prior concepts and discovering the patterns, generalizing methods or shortcuts, as well as checking the reasonableness of their work, without being directed by the instructor. None of the studies in the present review provided evidence that this standard was included. Maccini and Ruhl (2000), however, could have included examples of student work to show that they addressed Standard 8. For example, rather than being explicitly taught a rule and using the algebra lab gear to represent integer subtraction, students could have discovered the rule for integer

Common Core State Standards for Mathematical Practice


subtraction (i.e., adding the opposite) with the lab gear by exploring patterns and developing their own generalizations (Van de Walle et al., 2011).

IMPLICATIONS Given the importance of the Standards for Mathematical Practice, there is a need for research to address the standards for helping secondary students with LD in mathematics access the general education curriculum. Although the articles included in the present review were published prior to the CCSS publication in 2010, the Standards for Mathematical Practice were derived from the process and proficiencies identified more than a decade ago within the NCTM Principles and Standards for School Mathematics process standards (NCTM, 2000) and NRC strands of mathematics proficiency (National Research Council, 2001) and are not entirely new. It is promising that the current review of the literature determined practice Standard 2, reason abstractly and quantitatively, was evident in more than half of the studies reviewed. It is also promising that studies that examined the effects of EAI, which involved the use of videobased technology and authentic problem-solving situations, reflected the majority of the practice standards. Considering the results of this review, future research should address the following areas within the Standards for Mathematical Practice (CCSS, 2010) that were included in fewer than three of the identified studies:  Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others – Although two studies included evidence of this standard, future research is needed to assist teachers in creating opportunities for students with LD to meaningfully engage in classroom discourse.  Use tools strategically – While many interventions and teaching strategies include the use of tools, no studies in the current review addressed how to teach students to use those tools strategically in situations outside of the intervention.  Attend to precision – Two studies required the physical application of mathematical precision (i.e., building structures); however, additional research is needed to extend the application to theoretical practices in mathematics, such as proof and logic.  Look for and make use of structure – Research is needed to addresses approaches that assist learners with LD to look for and observe patterns



and structures in mathematics to assist in problem solving and development of conceptual understanding.  Look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning – No studies in the current review included evidence of this standard. Addressing these identified areas will hopefully help to advance research in the field of LD and mathematics, and ultimately instructional focus and student performance.

CONCLUSIONS Students with disabilities in mathematics have a myriad of learner characteristics that may negatively impact their performance in mathematics (Geary, 2004). As the majority of students with LD are educated in the general education mathematics classroom and are exposed to the same curriculum as their nondisabled peers, teacher use of research-supported practices is critical for supporting these learners in mathematics to level the playing field.

NOTE 1. Of the articles that included students in grade 6, the standards addressed were at the seventh-grade content level or higher. Studies needed to include participants within the sample who matched age-appropriate content requirement.

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Bottge, B. A., Rueda, E., Serlin, R. C., Hung, Y., & Kwon, J. M. (2007b). Shrinking achievement differences with anchored math problems: Challenges and possibilities. The Journal of Special Education, 41(1), 31–49. Butler, D. L., Beckingham, B., & Lauscher, H. (2005). Promoting strategic learning by eighthgrade students struggling in mathematics: A report of three case studies. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 20(3), 156–174. Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2010). The standards. Retrieved from http:// www.corestandards.org/. Accessed on January 19, 2011. Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2012). In The states. Retrieved from http:// www.corestandards.org/in-the-states. Accessed on June 20, 2012. Confrey, J., & Maloney, A. (2007). A theory of mathematical modeling in technological settings. In W. Blum, P. Galbraith, H. Henn & M. Niss (Eds.), Modeling and applications in mathematics education: The 14th ICMI study (pp. 57–68). New York, NY: Springer. Dieker, L., Maccini, P., Strickland, T., & Hunt, J. (2011). Minimizing weakness and maximizing strengths of students with disabilities. In M. Strutchens & J. Quander (Eds.), Focus in high school mathematics: Fostering reasoning and sense making for all students (pp. 37–63). Reston, VA: NCTM. Geary, D. C. (2004). Mathematics and learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 37(1), 4–15. Hudson, P., & Miller, S. P. (2006). Designing and implementing mathematics instruction for students with diverse learning needs. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, an imprint of Pearson Education. Ives, B. (2007). Graphic organizers applied to secondary algebra instruction for students with learning disorders. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 22(2), 110–118. Jitendra, A. K, Star, J. R., Starosta, K., Leh, J. M., Sood, S., Caskis, G., y Mack, T. R. (2009). Improving seventh grade students learning of ratio and proportion: The role of schemabased instruction. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 34, 250–284. Maccini, P., & Gagnon, J. C. (2000). Best practices for teaching mathematics to secondary students with special needs. Focus on Exceptional Children, 32, 1–21. Maccini, P., & Ruhl, K. L. (2000). Effects of a graduated instructional sequence on the algebraic subtraction of integers by secondary students with learning disabilities. Education and Treatment of Children, 23(4), 465–489. Mayfield, K. H., & Glenn, I. M. (2008). An evaluation of interventions to facilitate algebra problem solving. Journal of Behavioral Education, 17, 278–302. Mazzocco, M. M. M. (2007). Issues in defining mathematical learning disabilities and difficulties. In D. Berch & M. M. M. Mazzocco (Eds.), Why is math so hard for some children: The nature and origins of mathematics learning difficulties and disabilities (pp. 29–47). Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishers. McNulty, R. J., & Gloeckler, L. (2011). Fewer, clearer, higher common core state standards: Implications for students receiving special education services. International Center for Leadership in Education. Retrieved from http://www.leadered.com/pdf/Special% 20Ed%20&%20CCSS%20white%20paper.pdf. Accessed on June 2012. Mercer, C. D., & Mercer, A. R. (2005). Teaching students with learning problems (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Montague, M., Bos, C. S., & Doucette, M. (1991). Affective, cognitive, and metacognitive attributes of eight-grade mathematical problem solvers. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 6, 145–151.



Montis, K. K. (2000). Language development and concept flexibility in dyscalculia: A case study. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 31(5), 541–556. National Center for Education Statistics (2011). Digest of education statistics, 2010 (NCES 2011-015). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education (Tables 45 and 46). National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD). (2012). Executive functioning and learning disabilities. Retrieved from http://www.ncld.org/ld-basics/ld-aamp-executive-functioning/basic-ef-facts/executive-functioning-and-learning-disabilities. Accessed on June 21, 2012. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. (2000). Principles and standards for school mathematics. Reston, VA: Author. National Research Council. (2001). Adding it up: Helping children learn mathematics. In J. Kilpatrick, J. Swafford & B. Findell (Eds.), Mathematics Learning Study Committee, Center for Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (p. 116). Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Polya, G. (1957). How to solve it (2nd ed.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Reid-Griffin, A., & Carter, G. (2004). Technology as a tool: Applying an instructional model to teacher middle school students to use technology as a mediator of learning. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 13(4), 495–504. Scheuermann, A. M., Deshler, D. D., & Schumaker, J. B. (2009). The effects of the explicit inquiry routine on the performance of students with learning disabilities on one-variable equations. Learning Disabilities Quarterly, 32(2), 103–120. Steele, M. (2006). Graphing calculators: Teaching suggestions for students with learning problems. Tech Trends, 50(6), 32–35. Steele, M., & Steele, J. (2003). Teaching algebra to students with learning disabilities. Mathematics Teacher, 96(9), 622–624. Van De Walle, J., Karpe, K. S., & Bay-Williams, J. M. (2011). Elementary and middle school mathematics: Teaching developmentally (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson. Wilson, P. S., Fernandez, M. L., & Hadaway, N. (1993). Mathematical problem solving. In P. S. Wilson (Ed.), Research ideas for the classroom: High school mathematics (pp. 57–58). New York, NY: MacMillan. Witzel, B. S., Mercer, C. D., & Miller, M. D. (2003). Teaching algebra to students with learning difficulties: An investigation of an explicit instruction model. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 18(2), 121–131. Wood, T. (1999). Creating a context for argument in mathematics class. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 30(2), 171–191. Xin, Y. P., Jitendra, A. K., & Deatline-Buchman, A. (2005). Effects of mathematical word problem solving instruction on middle school students with learning problems. The Journal of Special Education, 39(3), 181–192.

SOCIAL SKILLS TRAINING AND STUDENTS WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES Mark P. Mostert ABSTRACT Social skills training (SST) is increasingly used as an adjunct to academic interventions for children and youth with learning disabilities (LD). A brief context and an overview of SST are provided and the issue related to the establishment of SST efficacy via extant meta-analyses is described. Generally, outcomes for SST efficacy are mixed, at best, with very little evidence of strong efficacy effects across the literature.

INTRODUCTION There is little doubt that social maturation is an integrally important part of child and adolescent development and that failure to develop social skills for human interaction is often a predictor of future academic and interrelational problems. For many of those with learning disabilities (LD), there appears to be a relationship between their disability and inadequate social

Learning Disabilities: Practice Concerns and Students with LD Advances in Special Education, Volume 25, 87–111 Copyright r 2013 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited All rights of reproduction in any form reserved ISSN: 0270-4013/doi:10.1108/S0270-4013(2013)0000025008




interactions with peers and also in relation to academic achievement (Walker & Nabuzoka, 2007). In addition, teachers generally perceive that their students with LD are often distinguished from their non-disabled peers by both academic and social deficits. Also, in terms of peer interactions with students with LD, social skills problems usually take the form of rejection (Vaughn, Elbaum, & Boardman, 2001). Thus, social skills training is rationalized as an important aspect of teaching students with LD because of its apparent connection to bettering social, vocational, and academic performance (Kavale & Mostert, 2004). The history of special education shows a long-standing and persistent attention to how special education has sought to influence and address social and affective states of children, youth, and adults with LD despite the traditional emphasis of attending to academic deficits as the primary problem of this population (Schumaker & Hazel, 1982). For example, by the 1950s and 1960s several research strands within special education began to attend to the problems of social and interpersonal relations (Gresham, 1981) work that was reinforced by Bandura’s efforts in psychology related to modeling and the skill deficit approach (Maag, 2005). These developments were partly responsible for Johnson and Myklebust’s (1967) attention to the connection between social skills and LD when they described children who appeared unable to appropriately perceive and effectively use the elements of social interaction (Cartledge, 2005). This social focus has persisted into the twenty-first century. Generally this research recognizes that social skills deficits must be addressed and remediated given the evidence that a lack of amelioration will likely have far reaching negative consequences on social, psychological, and academic well-being (Evans, Axelrod, & Sapia, 2000). This is equally important given that there is evidence that the general student population contains approximately 20% of students with social skills and emotional deficits severe enough to require formal intervention. Within the LD category, approximately 75% of all students with LD possess social skills deficits (Elksnin & Elksnin, 2004).

DEFINITIONAL ASPECTS OF SOCIAL EMPHASES AND LD Initially, the concept of LD was largely focused on issues around processes believed to impact academic learning. This emphasis, and the exclusion of

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social aspects, is still prominent in the 2004 reauthorization of the 1997 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, Amendments of 1997, Sec. 602(26), p. 13): GENERAL – The term ‘‘specific learning disability’’ means a disorder in one of more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which disorder may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. DISORDERS INCLUDED – Such term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. DISORDERS NOT INCLUDED – Such term does not include a learning problem that is primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural or economic disadvantage.

More recently, however, dissatisfaction with the 1997/2004 federal definition has emerged – specifically in observations by the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD) which noted that ongoing research has exposed several problem areas within the Federal definition both with what is included (psychological process aspects unsupported by current research; inclusion of terms difficult to define; problems with the exemption clause) and excluded (intrinsic nature of LD; adults with LD; self-regulation and social interaction). To ameliorate federal definitional problems, the NJCLD proposed a new definition including a vector related to social manifestations: Learning disabilities is a general term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning or mathematical abilities. These disorders are intrinsic to the individual, presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction, and may occur across the lifespan. Problems in self-regulatory behaviors, social perception and social interaction may exist with learning disabilities but do not by themselves constitute a learning disability. Although learning disabilities may occur concomitantly with other handicapping conditions (for example, sensory impairment, mental retardation, serious emotional disturbance) or with extrinsic influences (such as cultural differences, insufficient or inappropriate instruction) they are not the result of those conditions or influences (NJCLD, 1989, p. 1).

The addition of a social component to the NJCLD definition is also predicated on the acknowledgement of the importance of peer relationships in child development, the notion that teaching and learning are primarily



social events, parents’ press for the recognition of social problems in need of amelioration, and that problems in thinking and communicating are likely to affect all aspects of development (Bryan, 1991). Two other national definitions have included social aspects of LD: that of the Association for Children with Learning Disabilities (ACLD): Specific Learning Disabilities is a chronic condition of presumed neurological origin, which selectively interferes with the development, integration, and/or demonstration of verbal and/or nonverbal abilities. Specific learning disabilities exist as a distinct handicapping condition and varies in its manifestations and in degree of severity. Throughout life, the condition can affect self-esteem, education, vocation, socialization and/or daily living activities (ACLD, 1985, p. 166).

and that of the Interagency Committee on Learning Disabilities (ICLD): Learning disabilities is a generic term that refers to a heterogeneous group of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading writing, reasoning, or mathematical ability, or of social skills. These disorders are intrinsic to the individual and presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction. Even though a learning disability may occur concomitantly with other handicapping conditions (e.g., sensory impairment, mental retardation, social and emotional disturbance) the socioenvironmental influences (e.g., cultural differences, insufficient or inappropriate instruction, psychogenic factors, and especially attention deficit disorders, all of which may cause learning problems), a learning disability is not the direct result of those conditions or influences (ICLD, 1987, p. 222).

While these amended definitions carry the weight of advocacy organizations and their membership, it is still the federal definition that continues to be primarily influential in terms of legal implementation of the LD category.

SOCIAL SKILLS Social skills refer to explicit actions that individuals take to respond to social tasks (McFall, 1982), or, as noted by Maag (2005), social skills refer to the specific behaviors targeted for social skills training (see also Gresham, 1981). Effective social skills are exercised by the ability to perceive, initiate, and respond appropriately to others; they are pro-social and responding skills that are demonstrated across settings and persons (Vaughn et al., 2001).

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SOCIAL COMPETENCE Several definitions of social competence have been offered over the last several decades but generally refer to the evaluation of how well social skills are performed as judged by the child with LD or other social agents such as peers, teachers, parents, or by reference to normative samples (McFall, 1982). Children and youth with LD who lack adequate social competence are at risk for a host of negative aspects such as aggression, peer rejection, academic failure, loneliness, difficulty in maintaining social relationships and for contact with the justice system (Maag, 2005). For others (e.g., Bryan, 1991), social competence comprises the efficacy of a set of social behaviors in relating to others where the individual perceives and understands social cues, selects an appropriate response skill set, and is then able to communicate the selected response or set of responses for successful social interaction. Schumaker and Hazel (1982) provide a slightly different emphasis, defining social competence as involving ‘‘an individual’s general use of a variety of cognitive and overt social skills that leads to positive consequences for him/her and those interacting with him/her’’ (p. 422). More practically, social competence comprises the following domains: (a) social cognition (the ability to understand the perspectives of others), (b) comprehending nonverbal communication (e.g., facial expression or body language), (c) moral development (understanding of moral principles), (d) comprehending social mores (e.g., understandings of mores such as altruism), (e) social problem-solving (the ability to solve social problems in a constructive and appropriate manner), (f) positive relations with others, (g) absence of maladaptive behaviors, and (h) effective social behaviors (Bryan, 1991; Elksnin & Elksnin, 2004; Kavale & Mostert, 2004; Maag, 2005). Further, Gresham and MacMillan (1997) noted that these various domains could be explained in an overarching framework related to the crucial social behavior demands made of students with LD in school by teachers, namely, the model behavioral profile and the concept of teachability. In relation to social behavior, teachers rely on the model behavioral profile, a set of teacher expectations delineating acceptable levels of social interaction. Teachability refers to the level of consonance between the model behavioral profile and actual student behavior. Thus, those having problems fitting the model behavior profile are seen as those having problems with teachability. Furthermore, higher levels of teachability



translate into higher levels of teacher attention than for those with fewer social skills. In addition, the domains of social competence can be further divided into acquisition versus performance deficits and the so-called self-control deficit set. Acquisition deficits refer to the student’s lack of knowledge about how to navigate social situations successfully; that is, they have not learned the cognitive and overt social skills that they need to navigate social situations successfully (Schumaker & Hazel, 1982). Performance deficits refer to inadequate implementation of a known social skill or set of skills (Gresham & MacMillan, 1997); that is, the skills are present in the individual’s repertoire but he or she fails to perform them (Schumaker & Hazel, 1982). Self-control deficits refer to the persistence of high levels of inappropriate behaviors over time (Schumaker & Hazel, 1984).

SOCIAL SKILLS TRAINING Social skills training (or instruction) was devised as a way to teach social skills to students with LD based on the understanding that social and emotional skills are an integral part of successful academic and interpersonal performance. That is, children who are socially skilled are more likely to succeed in school academically and socially while those that are not are more likely to be rejected, isolated, and unengaged (Elksnin & Elksnin, 2004). In this regard, students with LD are often, but not always, prone to lower academic and social self-concept scores than their non-disabled peers (Vaughn et al., 2001) Lane, Miller, and Wehby (2005) provide a useful definition of social skills training, noting that ‘‘Social skills instruction is the act of teaching specific social behaviors (e.g., greeting, a nod during a conversation, a handshake) that facilitate interpersonal interaction’’ (p. 28). While this seems a straightforward definition, issues related to the theoretical construction of social skills and social skills training (see below) may complicate the picture. In a more nuanced explication, Elliot, Malecki, and Demaray (2001) have noted that there are four major goals for social skills training: (a) promoting the acquisition of social skills, (b) enhancing the performance of effective social skills already acquired, (c) reducing or removing competing problem behaviors, and (d) facilitating generalization and maintenance of social skills. These goals are generally met by a basic set of fundamental training variables underlying all social skills interventions including, but not limited to, direct instruction, setting and antecedent/consequence manipulation,

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modeling, shaping, prompting, rehearsal and feedback, cognitive approaches, reinforcement and fading, peer mediated interventions, collaborative teaching, social stories, and role-playing (Uysal & Ergenekon, 2010).

EVALUATING SST TRAINING Many structured social skills training programs exist as a means of developing effective social skills patterns and usually consist of an assortment of skill areas related to social problem-solving, peer relations and relationships, and communication skills and their concomitant emotional contexts. Social skills training research reflects several caveats that impinge on the establishment of efficacy. First, descriptions of study interventions under evaluation can differ among studies both in detail and focus, meaning that it is often difficult to determine exactly what procedures were employed (Schumaker & Hazel, 1984). Second, many studies tend not to explicate individual performance differences but rather tend to be in aggregate form, failing to take cognizance of the fact that not all students with LD require social skills training. Third, many of these studies confound results by not attending to differential influences within the LD population (e.g., age, sex, race) and how they interact with social competence. Fourth, in most studies, outcomes are based on contrived rather than natural contexts with little to no evidence of generalizability into real-world social settings. Fifth, the use of pre-packaged social skills training interventions is problematic because not all programs possess exact matches to targeted behaviors and many included interventions may be unnecessary for the current implementation. Thus, when student social needs and interventions are mismatched, skills taught as part of classroom instruction are unlikely to generalize to other settings (Bryan, Burstein, & Ergul, 2004). Sixth, there are often challenges in establishing which procedures are most effective for different types of social skills. Seventh, and growing from the previously mentioned problems, is the widespread problem of many programs not having adequate measurement procedures (Schumaker & Hazel, 1984). Many different ways of evaluating social skills training and training programs appear in the literature. For example, one way of evaluating SST programs is by using a set of criteria developed by Schumaker, Pederson, Hazel, and Meyen (1983): Does the program (a) promote social competence,



(b) accommodate the learning characteristics of students with LD, (c) target the social skills deficits of students with LD, (d) teach the skills in situational contexts, and (e) incorporate instructional methodologies found to be effective for students with LD? These criteria are especially necessary because the nature of many social skills training programs is to use a combination of different techniques and procedures encompassing an assortment of skills related to social problem-solving, friendship, and communication skills. They are often also presented and implemented with little rationale or pilot testing, resulting in outcomes that are often nonspecific and diluted (Mostert & Kavale, 2004). Furthermore, social skills training efficacy may be influenced by a number of other vectors. First, the very content of the program can be problematic because it may be poorly matched to individual student needs and desired outcomes. Second, training intensity is a major challenge given that training times in most programs are relatively short and that there is evidence that longer durations appear to show stronger social skills effects. Third, this area is beset by conceptual problems around social skills training in general. For example, there are different definitions of what social skills encompass and that social skills themselves are somehow representative of the larger theoretical construct of social competence. Fourth, another challenge is the matter of how social competence garners construct validity – the extent to which that which is measured is actually being measured. Social competence as a theoretical concept implies that all components have been satisfactorily defined, validated, and connected. In terms of social skills training this is not the case. For example, the terms social competence and social skills, while sometimes used interchangeably, are separate and different concepts. For each of these, there are different definitions that emphasize different aspects of social competence and social skills. For example, social competence may be defined as ‘‘an individual’s overall interpersonal functioning’’ (Mostert & Kavale, 2004, p. 39), but is defined by Hops (1983) as ‘‘social competence is a summary term which reflects social judgment about the general quality of and individual’s performance in a given situation’’ (p. 4). Similar problems arise in defining social skills, seen by Mostert and Kavale (2004) as ‘‘situation-specific behaviors that enhance effective participation in social situations’’ (p. 39). Social skills are also defined as moving along three dimensions of peer acceptance (how well the student with LD is accepted by non-disabled peers), behavioral skills (as taught after a functional behavioral assessment), and social validity (the acceptance of the behavior of the students with LD as it conforms to classroom or cultural norms) (Gresham & MacMillan, 1997).

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Fifth, there are significant problems around generalization of social skills from teaching contexts to real-life settings. Maag (2005) notes that the vast number of studies addressing social skills training fail to provide or measure generalization and maintenance of skills taught. Sixth, the issue of treatment fidelity is paramount because to be successful programs and interventions for teaching social skills must be carefully implemented as directed by the program or intervention protocols. Failure to do so is likely to produce unreliable results. Another problem relates to the issue of social validity – the magnitude of behavior change or socially useful behavior as judged by others in the setting, consisting of (a) social significance of behavioral intervention goals, (b) social appropriateness of the intervention used, and (c) the social importance of the behavioral effects. In sum, as noted by Gresham (1981) and largely still true of this area, there is still a need for a solid theoretical base for deciding how to target relevant social skills for training and how these outcomes impact interpersonal relationships. Furthermore, there is a need to more accurately establish which social skills in which settings generate the best outcomes for children and youth with LD, and to establish how social skills can be generalized and maintained over time. Finally, there has been scant attention to how non-disabled students should be trained in accepting and interacting with students with LD in inclusion settings and to establish a base of knowledge delineating critical differences in social skills training as related to specific disabilities. However, despite these challenging issues in terms of both research and practice, there is a growing body of work addressing how social skills and social skills training might be assessed.

ASSESSMENT OF SOCIAL SKILLS Social skills are most often assessed via naturalistic observation, sociometric measures, environmental manipulation, or behavior checklists and rating scales. Naturalistic Observations Naturalistic observations are direct assessments of behavior as they occur in natural (i.e., uncontrived or uncontrolled) environments and are useful in that (a) they are sensitive to the effects or non-effects related to the targeted behavior, (b) the observations are useful for repeated measures in



experimental designs, thereby allowing for close monitoring of behavioral changes, (c) they allow observation of behavioral antecedents and consequences around the target behavior, (d) individual behaviors targeted for change can be operationally defined, (e) they are reflective of typically occurring behaviors, (f) they are reliable when used with trained observation protocols, (g) they are sensitive to even minor behavior change, and (h) they can be used to assess actual behaviors and their consequences,. However, naturalistic observations are vulnerable on a number of levels, because (a) they can be influenced by the bias of the observer, (b) they may have poor predictive ability and (c) rates of positive social interaction do not necessarily correlate to social acceptance (Schumaker & Hazel, 1982; Spence 2003). Sociometric Measures Sociometric devices generally ask peers to nominate others in their class that they would favor on academic and social tasks. That is, sociometric instruments are generally divided into peer nomination and peer acceptance scales (Dudley-Martin & Edmiaston, 1985). For peer nominations, children are asked to select a few of their peers based on certain social criteria. The results indicate the level of social status for each child. In terms of peer ratings, peers are asked to rate peers on some scale (e.g., a five-point Likert scale) that is then averaged for each child as a measure of social status. Sociometric measures have a number of advantages. For example, sociometric measures (a) have good predictive validity, (b) have adequate reliability, and (c) possess a degree of concurrent validity. In addition, these measures have acceptable test/retest reliability and some concurrent validity with other behavioral measures (Schumaker & Hazel, 1982). Disadvantages include (a) becoming reactive if used too often, (b) providing limited data on antecedents and consequences of any behavior, (c) having nomination measures not as useful as peer rating data, and (d) being biased when used in opposite sex ratings (Gresham, 1981). Furthermore, sociometric measures are somewhat insensitive to behavior change when used among those 10 or older, provide no diagnostic information, and cannot be used too often as they tend to be reactive (Spence, 2003). Environment Manipulation Given that its antecedents and consequences may explain any occurring behavior, some success has been achieved in this regard in teaching effective

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social skills behaviors, reducing ineffective or negative behaviors, and in generalizing positive social behaviors to other environments. This manipulation occurs via primary reinforcement, group contingencies, home-based contingencies, differential reinforcement of other behaviors (DRO) and differential reinforcement of lower rates of behaviors (DRL), timeout/ negative attention, and modeling, and by cognitive behavioral techniques such as coaching and self-control techniques (Gresham & MacMillan, 1997).

Behavioral Checklists and Rating Scales Behavior checklists are used to measure overt social behaviors in various situations and comprise a list of specific behaviors that, when observed, allow the observer to record the behavior. Checklists have several strengths, including (a) being easy to use, (b) allowing the observer to record verbal and nonverbal behavior, (c) recording of the context of the behavior, (d) repeated use, and (e) being non-reactive. Their downside includes the likelihood of problems when used in role-play and contrived situations versus more applicability in naturalistic settings (Schumaker & Hazel, 1982). Behavior rating scales are used to rate a given behavior along a continuum of acceptability or effectiveness. They work well in that they are relatively quick to administer and an easy method to measure behavior. However, they are less useful because (a) item responses tend to be global rather than specific indicators of a person’s abilities and (b) correlations between behavior ratings and behavioral observations are not high (Schumaker & Hazel, 1982).

EFFICACY OF SOCIAL SKILLS TRAINING FOR STUDENTS WITH LD The most relevant underlying question around social skills training is: Is social skill training effective for most students most of the time? The answer to this question is at best equivocal, with most studies reporting small to medium effects which in turn are often suspect based on issues of definition, research quality, and conceptual focus. This literature is too voluminous to discuss in detail here. However, some of the most reliable findings come from meta-analyses around social skill training. However, it is important to note that excluded studies (e.g., not related specifically to LD) do provide a



wealth of background of information that contextualizes meta-analytic findings. The following examples suffice.

Social Skills Training Schneider (1992) accumulated 79 primary studies to establish the efficacy of social skills training. Overall, efficacy related to short-term effectiveness was moderate and diagnostic categories were predictive of social skills training success. Furthermore, withdrawn children responded better to social skills training than those showing aggressive behavior. In terms of training techniques, modeling and coaching appeared to show higher effect sizes than other interventions (e.g., social-cognitive or multi-treatment interventions) but did not result in improved behavioral outcomes. Furthermore, effect sizes were higher for individual competence (e.g., observed social interaction, peer/self-report, social-cognitive skills) than more distant variables (global self-concept, academic achievement). Finally, effectiveness at follow up, reported in only a few studies and none longer than 3 months, was marginal. Schneider further noted that results needed to be interpreted with caution because there was very little information provided relating to treatment fidelity.

Classroom-wide Interventions January, Casey, and Paulson (2011) examined 28 primary studies to assess the effectiveness of classroom-wide interventions aimed at increasing social skills in intact classrooms containing both socially skilled and socially less skilled individuals. Overall, they reported support for the contention that school-based, full-class social skills interventions were minimally effective and that intervention programs varied in their levels of low efficacy. Also, they noted that several moderator effects appeared related to social skills training programs: (a) Grade of intervention appeared to have a positive effect on social skills outcomes, that is, earlier intervention appeared more effective than intervention in later grades, (b) intervention programs of longer duration tended to be more effective than shorter interventions, (c) the effects of social skills training were mediated by the modality through which it was delivered, and (d) there was no relation between socioeconomic status (SES) and social skills intervention efficacy.

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Peer Status Weiner (1987) reviewed 25 primary studies related to the peer status of children and adolescents with LD. She reported that students with LD in regular classrooms had lower peer status ratings than non-LD peers. Also, children and adolescents received fewer positive and more negative nominations than their non-LD counterparts. Weiner also reported a significant positive correlation between teachers’ and peers’ status ratings of students with LD.

Interpersonal Cognitive Problem-Solving Denham and Almeida (1987) meta-analyzed five primary studies of the effectiveness of interpersonal cognitive problem-solving (ICPS) skill training related to social adjustment. Overall, they reported that the relationship between ICPS training and social adjustment appeared quite robust and that these interventions resulted in increased ICPS skills. However, effects on behavioral adjustment were less clear depending on the assessment instrument used.

Social Competence Training Beelman, Pfingsten, and Losel (1994) meta-analyzed 49 primary studies to establish the efficacy of social competence training (SCT) in the domains of (a) main effects (program type, client characteristics, outcome criteria), (b) differential effects, and (c) types of long-term effect. Overall, they reported that, at least for short-term results, SCT appeared to be an effective intervention, although effects were weaker than those found in previous literature. Further, they reported that SCT efficacy seemed to vary across a series of subvariables: (a) Multimodal programs appeared more effective because they tended to lead to training effect generalization and had a greater impact on social-cognitive and social interactive skills, (b) the strongest effects appeared to be short-term modifications in social adjustment and self-related cognitions via self-control interventions, (c) other programs tended to correspond only to their primary goals and had no longterm effects, (d) where SCT could be deemed somewhat effective, largest results were for at-risk groups, especially for socially deprived children, and (e) overall, generalization effects were weak, at best.



SST META-ANALYSES The initial pool of studies was garnered via computer searches of databases (Ebsco, Proquest, Academic Search Complete, Academic Onefile, OmniFile Full-Text Mega, ERIC, PsychInfo) using the following descriptors both individually and in combination: LD, meta-analysis, social skills training, social skills deficits, and behavior. In addition manual and ancestry searches of the literature yielded additional studies. Inclusion criteria included a meta-analysis, focus on aspects of social skills training, exclusively addressing students with LD, and studies published in peer-refereed journals. Excluded studies were those that (a) were not a meta-analysis (e.g., Dudley-Marling & Edmiaston, 1985; Vaughn, Zaragoza, Hogan, & Walker, 1993), (b) did not address social skills training exclusively (e.g., Goldstein, Schneider, & Thiemann, 2007), (c) had a combined subject pool of LD and other disabilities, even if closely related (Beelmann et al., 1994; Vaughn et al., 2003), (d) addressed social skills training in other non-LD contexts (e.g., Elliot et al., 2001; January et al., 2011), (e) book chapters (e.g., Haring, 1992), and (f) dissertations (e.g., O’Keefe, 2004). Nine meta-analyses related to social skills training and LD were uncovered (Bear, Minke, & Manning, 2002; Chapman, 1988; Elbaum, 2002; Elbaum & Vaughn, 2001; Forness & Kavale, 1996; Kavale & Forness, 1996; Nowicki, 2003; Ochoa & Olivarez, 1995; Swanson & Malone, 1992). Four mega-analyses of the social skills literature are discussed separately because they add another layer of analysis regarding social skills training generally but not exclusively among LD subjects.

Self-Concept Bear et al. (2002) meta-analyzed 61 studies to investigate whether the selfconcept of children with LD differed from the self-concept of non-LD subjects. Overall, differences between students with LD and non-LD students were quite small with differences not apparent in terms of social, behavioral, and global self-worth. However, students with LD did perceive themselves less positively than their non-LD peers in terms of academic performance. Other results indicated that (a) special education setting, (b) gender, and (c) grade level did not appear to influence self-perception of overall global self-concept or any of its subcomponents. In terms of overall

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self-worth, children with LD did not see themselves as different than their non-disabled peers.

Self-Concept and Settings Elbaum (2002) uncovered 38 primary studies that compared the self-concept of students with LD in more versus less restrictive settings. Generally, findings indicated that there was no association between self-concept and setting for four out of five comparisons (regular vs. resource class, regular vs. self-contained class, resource vs. self-contained class, and regular class vs. special schools). Overall, Elbaum concluded that there was no systematic association between the self-concept of students with LD and educational placement. Another finding was especially pertinent: that students with LD in regular classrooms did not demonstrate higher self-concepts than those placed in special education settings either full-time or part-time, thus questioning the ‘‘stigmatization’’ argument made by full inclusionists. Similarly, students with LD taught in resource settings part-time did not differ on self-concept measures than those placed full time in regular class settings.

School-Based Interventions and Self-Confidence Elbaum and Vaughn (2001) examined the effect of school-based interventions for students with LD on their self-confidence. Aggregating 64 primary studies, they reported overall weak effects. Closer analysis revealed that intervention effects were mediated by several factors: (a) grade level was a significant factor in that self-concept interventions appeared more effective for young adolescents than for elementary school age children and older adolescents, (b) the most effective type of intervention differed by grade level, with academic interventions more effective for elementary school children, but counseling interventions were more effective for idle and high school students with LD, (c) self-concept domains mediated intervention outcomes with academic self-concept interventions having greater effects than interventions addressing other areas of self-confidence. Furthermore, self-perceptions of elementary students with LD could be increased by a number of interventions, especially those focused on academic self-concept. For these academic interventions, length and intensity were important factors in bringing about desired changes – that is, the longer and more



intensive the intervention, the greater the likelihood of improved selfconcept. However, interventions applied to improve internal cognition (e.g., negative self-views) appeared to be less effective.

Self-Concept and LD Chapman (1988) accumulated 21 primary studies to examine differences between the self-concepts of students with and without LD. Overall, he reported that children with LD showed lower general self-concepts than their non-LD peers. Specifically, academic self-concept was lower than their already lower general self-concept. However, significant differences appeared depending on which groups the children with LD were compared to and which assessment tools were used. For example, studies using the Piers–Harris scale produced results showing that while children with LD showed lower scores than their non-disabled peers, these lower scores were still within the normal range of the scale. However, studies using the Student’s Perception of Ability Scale revealed substantially lower scores for those with LD in terms of lower academic self-concept. Further findings reported by Chapman were that age was not associated with self-concept issues although problems with self-concept appeared to peak by the third grade and remain fairly stable through high school. Placement settings, mainstreamed, or segregated settings did not appear to increase self-concept. This finding was moderated by the finding that children with LD not receiving remedial help had lower self-concepts than those that were.

Social Skills Training and Outcomes Forness and Kavale (1996) identified 53 studies related to social skills training and examined the outcome magnitude of these studies for children with LD. In terms of the perceived benefits of social skills training, they reported that different stakeholders had different although not statistically significant perceptions, with children with LD reporting the most benefit and their non-disabled peers perceiving less positive effects. That is, students with LD rated their improved performance highly while their peers rated their improved social skills status as least improved. Teachers’ impressions of social skills improvement after training were modest, at best, and they perceived virtually no concomitant academic improvement among the

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students with LD. Furthermore, all three groups (students with LD, without LD, and teachers) rated improved social interaction as the least improved social skills after training. Forness and Kavale (1996) reported that across studies social skills deficits appeared to be highly resistant to treatment given that positive effects were only approximately two-tenths of a standard deviation, that is, a modest 8% increase in measured social skills. They further reported that in more than 20% of the primary studies the control groups responded better than their peers with LD.

Social Skills Deficits Kavale and Forness (1996) identified 152 primary studies that they metaanalyzed to examine social skills deficits among students with LD. They reported that in approximately 75% of the primary studies it was possible to differentiate students with LD from their non-LD peers on social competence measures. These differences were consistent across different evaluators (teachers, peers, students with LD themselves) and across most major dimensions of social skills. In terms of both teacher and students’ perceptions, social functioning was mediated by academic problems. Furthermore, teachers consistently perceived that students with LD were less well-adjusted in social situations. Students with LD perceived themselves as having lower academic competence and also saw their social functioning to be influenced by a lack of competence in nonverbal communication tasks and in social problem-solving.

Social Competence Nowicki (2003) summarized then-current research that had compared the social competence of students with LD in inclusive classrooms to (a) students exhibiting low academic achievement and (b) those exhibiting average to high academic achievement across 32 primary studies. The analysis revealed that students with LD in inclusive classrooms appeared to be at greater social risk and have lower social status than the average to above average academic achievers. Teachers perceived students with LD to be less socially skilled than their average and above average peers because non-disabled peers much preferred classmates without LD. However, LD self-reporting measures revealed that students with LD seemed to be



somewhat unaware of their lower social status while being much more aware of their academic shortcomings. In contrast, Nowicki reported that students with LD did not seem to be at significant social risk when compared to low-achieving students, as low achieving students also exhibited significantly lower social competence scores than average and above average achieving students. Furthermore, those with LD and low academic achievers self-evaluated their social competence as on the same level as their average to high academic achieving counterparts while simultaneously being aware of their academic shortcomings.

Students with LD and Social Skills Swanson and Malone (1992) conducted a meta-analysis of the literature on students with LD and their social skills. Across 39 primary studies, they reported that (a) measures of social acceptance (instrument used, grade level, ethnicity) influenced outcomes, (b) overall, students with LD were more likely to suffer social rejection than their non-disabled peers, (c) perceived social status for those with LD appeared compatible to their nondisabled peers, and (d) children with LD fell below their peers on measurements of social problem-solving ability. Furthermore, they noted that in terms of verbal skills, students with LD showed weaker aural and verbal ability. In terms of behavioral characteristics, they reported that children with LD were more likely to participate in and be the recipient of hostile interactions than those without LD.

Students with LD and Peer Ratings Ochoa and Olivarez (1995) noted several discrepancies in the meta-analysis of Swanson and Malone (1992). Essentially, they contended that the results reported by Swanson and Malone were inaccurate because Swanson and Malone had conflated studies addressing two different concepts, namely peer ratings (which measure likeability and acceptance) and peer nominations (a measure of popularity). To clarify this issue, Ochoa and Olivarez (1995) reported findings on 17 primary studies that compared peer acceptance/status between subjects with and without LD using a peer rating sociometric technique. Their analysis showed that while overall effect sizes were different than that obtained by Swanson and Malone (1992), they

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were in the same direction and of the same magnitude. In terms of moderator variables, Ochoa and Olivarez (1995) reported that rater gender did moderate the effect size of sociometric peer ratings, but that there was no moderating influence for ratee gender, grade level, research design, and sociometric scale type on the effect size for peer ratings. Furthermore, they noted that peer ratings were significantly lower for students with LD when same-sex raters and both sex raters evaluated a ratee than when opposite-sex raters did, a finding not found in other research. In a rejoinder, Swanson (1996) addressed several of the issues raised by Ochoa and Olivarez (1995), specifically that the difference between the two meta-analyses could be attributed to inadequate reporting of coding reliability, failure to include similar articles in the analysis, and poor operationalization of the term LD as the basis for article selection. To this end Swanson (1996) provided a set of criteria to be used in judging the quality of future meta-analyses.

MEGA-ANALYSES OF SOCIAL SKILLS AND MILD DISABILITIES, INCLUDING LD There have been four mega-analyses of the social skills training literature: Gresham (1998), Gresham, Sugai, and Horner (2001), Gresham, Cook, Crews, and Kern (2004), and Cook et al. (2008). While these mega-analyses do not fit the purview of the inclusion criteria noted above, they do provide a level of analysis above each individual LD meta-analysis and merit mention here, especially seeing that some of the primary meta-analyses in the mega-analyses contain subjects with LD while primarily focusing on students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). That is, the general thrust of the mega-analyses is in reference to students with EBD with a number of primary studies that were populated, in part, by subjects with LD. Gresham (1998) conducted a summary of narrative and meta-analytic reviews of social skills and concluded that effect sizes were, at best, moderate and therefore that social skills training was a relatively weak intervention. Based on these findings, Gresham offered several recommendations for future research including (a) the need to improve assessment in terms of social validity and the sensitivity of outcome measures, (b) the need to match social skills interventions to specific social skills deficits, and (c) attending to functional rather than topographical generalization via a



contextual approach to teaching social behaviors within a competing behaviors approach. Gresham et al. (2001) used a similar approach to Gresham (1998) by reviewing both narrative and meta-analytical reviews of social skills training. Contrary to the prior review, Gresham et al. now concluded that social skills training could produce negligible or significant results depending on population characteristics, treatment to social skills deficit match, issues around treatment integrity and assessment, and generalization. Gresham et al. (2004), building on the work of the two previous reviews, mega-analyzed five meta-analyses around social skills training and concluded that ‘‘Overall, SST is an effective and beneficial intervention for students with and at risk for EBD’’ (p. 43). Cook et al. (2008) continued this line of research using some of the studies from previous mega-analyses (and adding others) to investigate social skills training effects on secondary students with EBD. They concluded that social skills training procedures produced improvements in two-thirds of secondary students with EBD to only one-third of controls and that ‘‘SST is an effective intervention’’ (p. 139). While there is a shift from Gresham (1998) to Gresham et al. (2004) and then to Cook et al. (2008) stating that the efficacy of social skills training was weak and then later effective, and then later mostly effective, a closer look at the four mega-analyses reveals significant problems in study selection that limit the possibility of concluding anything about SST for students with LD, or any other disability, for that matter. First, there is the basic matter of how studies were located, included, or excluded. Search criteria were inconsistent from one set of meta-analyses to the next, derailing a logical and cumulative progression in studies investigating SST efficacy. Second, the four mega-analyses, when viewed as progressive investigations around the same concept (social skills training), reflect very little conceptual consistency. For example, Gresham and colleagues shift from whether the concept of SST with children and youth with EBD actually exists, and, if so, how it should be improved (Gresham, 1998), to examining the effectiveness of social skills training with high incidence disabilities, including students with LD (Gresham et al., 2001), and then to the position that SST is effective with children and youth with EBD, and then that social skills training is effective for secondary students with EBD (Cook et al., 2008). Although the idea of SST effectiveness remains the constant, exactly how SST is defined and whether such a definition is the basis of the primary

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studies within the mega-analyses, and what is meant by effectiveness when the problems with sampling are considered, remain unanswered. Third, Gresham et al. (2004) claim that ‘‘These meta-analyses focused on children and youth with behavioral difficulties y [and] included more than 25,000 children between 3–18 years of age’’ (p. 36) is somewhat inaccurate. Although it is true that some subjects in the mega-analyses were probably subjects with EBD as generally understood in US special education, it cannot be claimed that all subjects could be properly termed EBD. Children with ‘‘behavioral difficulties,’’ for example, may or may not be EBD. Further, some primary studies in some meta-analyses included children as young as 3 years old, but it is difficult to imagine EBD or LD as defined in IDEA (2004) applying to this age group. It may be that this age range was used in order to include a meta-analysis with positive SST findings. Fourth, several studies that contained important information relating to SST efficacy were either ignored, omitted, or selectively used from one mega-analysis to the next. Given these significant methodological flaws, the four mega-analyses should be interpreted with caution.

EDUCATIONAL AND ETHICAL IMPLICATIONS Even though there are significant challenges related to the definition, implementation, and outcomes around social skills training, it is possible to note some general educational implications that may advance the teaching of social skills in classrooms to students with LD. All teachers, irrespective of specialty, should receive some training on how to address the social skills deficits of their students. This is perhaps especially true for general education classroom teachers who are most likely to be the first teachers that encounter children with social skills problems. Further, social skills instruction should be viewed as an important part of education apart from academic work and should be systematically executed in the classroom with targeted practice and copious feedback. It is also imperative that social skills training addresses very specific and well-defined social skills deficits that are then subsequently assessed (Cartledge, 2005). In terms of ethical concerns, perhaps the most significant issue relates to the fact that there is inadequate empirical evidence showing that social skills training has an extended positive impact on the lives of students with LD and the fact that not every student with LD needs social skills training (Kavale & Mostert, 2004; Schumaker & Hazel, 1984). Also, it is important



that parents, teachers, and students with LD themselves need to be fully informed of the difficulties and potential benefits related to social skills training as well as be informed of the social skills that is being targeted for change. In addition, social skills trainers must be well prepared to allow for the maximum intervention effects for the student with LD. Finally, social skills can sometimes be considered ‘‘value laden’’ because certain social behaviors may be emphasized more by some cultures than others (Schumaker & Hazel, 1984).

CONCLUSION In sum, there appears to be at least several islands of findings related to SST and children and youth with LD in the literature. However, the literature generally reflects that because of interconnected conceptual, definitional, and practical challenges, definitive judgments and strong positive effects for SST remain elusive.

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Kavale, K. A., & Forness, S. R. (1996). Social skills deficits and learning disabilities: A metaanalysis. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 29(3), 226–237. Kavale, K. A., & Mostert, M. P. (2004). Social skills interventions for individuals with learning disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 27(1), 31–43. Lane, K. L., Miller, M. J., & Wehby, J. (2005). Social skills instruction for students with highincidence disabilities: A school-based intervention to address acquisition deficits. Preventing School Failure, 49(2), 27–39. Maag, J. W. (2005). Social skills training for youth with emotional and behavioral disorders and learning disabilities: Problems, conclusions, and suggestions. Exceptionality, 13(3), 155–172. McFall, R. M. (1982). A review and reformulation of the concept of social skills. Behavioral Assessment, 4, 1–33. Mostert, M. P., & Kavale, K. A. (2004, November). Meta-analyses in EBD: An overview of findings and future directions. Paper presented at annual conference of Teacher Educators of Children with Behavior Disorders, Tempe, AZ, USA. National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities. (1989, September 18). Modifications to the NJCLD definition of learning disabilities. Letter from NJCLD to member organizations. Washington, DC: National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities. Nowicki, E. A. (2003). A meta-analysis of the social competence of children with learning disabilities compared to classmates of low and average to high achievement. Learning Disabilities Quarterly, 26(3), 171–188. Ochoa, S. H., & Olivarez, A., Jr. (1995). A meta-analysis of peer rating sociometric studies of pupils with learning disabilities. The Journal of Special Education, 29(1), 1–19. O’Keefe, E. M. (2004). Training middle school students with learning disabilities in self-advocacy/ self-determination skills. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA. Schneider, B. H. (1992). Didactic methods for enhancing children’s peer relations: A quantitative review. Clinical Psychology Review, 12(3), 363–382. Schumaker, J. B., & Hazel, J. S. (1982). Social skills assessment and training for the learning disabled: Who’s on first and what’s on second? Part I. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 17(7), 422–431. Schumaker, J. B., & Hazel, J. S. (1984). Social skills assessment and training for the learning disabled: Who’s on first and what’s on second? Part II. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 17(8), 492–499. Schumaker, J. B., Pederson, C. S., Hazel, J. S., & Meyen, E. L. (1983). Social skills curricula for mildly handicapped adolescents: A review. Focus on Exceptional Children, 16, 1–16. Spence, S. H. (2003). Social skills training with children and young people: Theory, evidence and practice. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 8(2), 84–96. Swanson, H. L. (1996). Meta-analysis, replication, social skills, and learning disabilities. The Journal of Special Education, 30(2), 213–221. Swanson, H. L., & Malone, S. (1992). Social skills and learning disabilities: A meta-analysis of the literature. School Psychology Review, 21(3), 427–443. Uysal, A., & Ergenekon, Y. (2010). Social skills instruction carried out by teachers working at private special education institutions in Turkey. Education & Training in Autism & Developmental Disabilities, 45(3), 459–466. Vaughn, S., Elbaum, B., & Boardman, A. G. (2001). The social functioning of students with learning disabilities: Implications for inclusion. Exceptionality, 9(1–2), 47–65.

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Vaughn, S., Kim, A., Sloan, C. V. M., Hughes, M. T., Elbaum, B., & Sridhar, D. (2003). Social skills interventions for young children with disabilities: A synthesis of group design studies. Remedial and Special Education, 24(1), 2–15. Vaughn, S., Zaragoza, N., Hogan, A., & Walker, J. (1993). A four-year longitudinal investigation of the social skills and behavior problems of students with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 26(6), 404–412. Walker, A., & Nabuzoka, D. (2007). Academic achievement and social functioning of children with and without learning difficulties. Educational Psychology, 27(5), 635–654. Wiener, J. (1987). Peer status of learning disabled children and adolescents: A review of the literature. Learning Disabilities Research, 2(2), 62–79.

RESPONSE TO INTERVENTION TECHNIQUES AND STUDENTS WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES Temple S. Lovelace, Lenwood Gibson Jr. and JoVonne Tabb ABSTRACT Response to Intervention (RtI) is a systematic approach that provides a framework for addressing student learning, allows for accountable decision-making based upon the individual skill level of each student, and gives schools a methodical way for special education determinations. RtI began as a framework for students suspected of having a learning disability and now has become a system of instruction and assessment that helps teachers and related service providers know what type and level of instruction a student needs. It is a system that promotes inclusion of students from all ability levels into the general educational setting. This system is characterized by the placement of students and instructional methods along a continuum from whole-class instruction to individualized, highly specialized instructional methods. In this chapter, the historical as well as current frameworks that define learning disabilities will be discussed. Next, the eligibility processes associated with acquiring special education services will be examined; paying special attention to RtI and its intersection with learning disabilities. Finally, academic and behavioral Learning Disabilities: Practice Concerns and Students with LD Advances in Special Education, Volume 25, 113–131 Copyright r 2013 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited All rights of reproduction in any form reserved ISSN: 0270-4013/doi:10.1108/S0270-4013(2013)0000025009




interventions will be discussed that have found to be beneficial in increasing the skills of students with learning disabilities.

INTRODUCTION The terms tiered learning, progress monitoring, and data-based decisionmaking are popular in educational discourse and work in concert to provide students with intervention and instruction that is effective and appropriate for their current level of learning. These terms are part of a system known as Response to Intervention (RtI) (see Kauffman, Bruce, & Lloyd, 2012). RtI is a systematic approach that provides a framework for addressing student learning, allows for accountable decision-making based upon the individual skill level of each student, and gives teacher and schools a methodical way for special education determinations (Hughes & Dexter, 2011). RtI has been around for some time (see Kauffman et al., 2012). It originally was an alternative to the IQ – Achievement (IQ-A) discrepancy model, which was a central part of the eligibility process for identifying students with disabilities (O’Donnell & Miller, 2011). RtI began as a framework for students suspected of having a learning disability and now has become a system of assessment that helps teachers and related service providers know what type and level of instruction a student needs (Fuchs & Fuchs, 2006). It is a system that promotes inclusion of students from all ability levels into the general educational setting (Fuchs, Fuchs, & Compton, 2010). This system is characterized by the placement of students and instructional methods along a continuum from whole-class instruction to individualized, highly specialized instructional methods. RtI has been instrumental in the support of students with learning disabilities as its primary focus has been on academic instruction and failure (Gresham, Reschly, & Shinn, 2010; Kauffman et al., 2012; Mellard, Stern, & Woods, 2011; O’Connor & Sanchez, 2011). Since the 2004 reauthorization of IDEA, the RtI model has served to bring a more effective and appropriate approach to the identification of students with learning disabilities (O’Donnell & Miller, 2011). As one of the most common disability categories, it is imperative that there is a clear understanding of the processes associated with eligibility and the effective interventions available for students that need specially designed instruction. Currently, students with specific learning disability (SLD) account for the largest proportion of all special education enrollments (Zirkel, 2010). For the

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2008–2009 school year, 38% of the 6.5 million of children and youth (ages 3–21 years) were eligible for specialized services under the classification of SLD (Aud et al., 2011). Since 1980, children categorized as having an SLD have outnumbered students from other disability categories. In this chapter, the historical as well as current frameworks that define learning disabilities will be discussed. Next, the eligibility processes associated with acquiring special education services will be examined, paying special attention to RtI and its intersection with learning disabilities. Finally, academic and behavioral interventions will be discussed that have found to be beneficial in increasing the skills of students with SLD.

DEFINING LEARNING DISABILITIES The definition of learning disabilities has been one of the most debated issues related to the support of students with learning differences and their eligibility for special education services (Bu¨ttner & Hasselhorn, 2011). In general, there are two definitions that are most widely accepted for learning disabilities, the federal definition as found in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (2004) and that proposed by the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD) (Heward, 2012). Formally, SLD as found in the United States Code, as a part of IDEA, is defined as follows: ‘‘The term ‘specific learning disability’ means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which disorder may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations. Such term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. Such term does not include a learning problem that is primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of mental retardation, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.’’ (P.L. 108-466, Sec. 602[30])

Alternatively, the definition of learning disabilities as proposed by the NJCLD can be summarized as a diverse group of disorders that is characterized by the significant difficulty of an individual to acquire and use listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities. NJCLD offers that these difficulties must be intrinsic to the individual and not the result of other handicapping conditions (e.g., serious emotional disturbance, intellectual disabilities) or extrinsic influences (e.g., cultural



influences, inappropriate and/or insufficient instruction). Additionally, any individual, school-age into adulthood, may be diagnosed with a learning disability, and social and behavioral disorders can also co-exist with this impairment in learning (Heward, 2012). Alternate definitions of SLD involves operationalization (Flanagan, Ortiz, Alfonso, & Dynda, 2006; Kavale, Spaulding, & Beam, 2009), classification or conceptualization (Bu¨ttner & Hasselhorn, 2011), a belief as to the etiology of the learning difference (Mather & Gregg, 2006), and the criteria for eligibility as it relates to special education (Dombrowski et al., 2006).

Eligibility Heward (2012) defines special education as ‘‘individually planned, specialized, intensive, outcome driven instruction’’ (p. 51). The need for individually planned, or specially designed, instructions arises out of the inability for students with exceptionalities to effectively learn with the traditional method used with typically developing students. For students with an SLD, specially designed instruction is critical to their success. The eligibility process for engaging special education services as a student with a learning disability has undergone a transformation in the last 10 years (see Courtad & Bakken, 2011; Hallahan, Kauffman, & Pullen, 2012). Historically, students with learning disabilities were found to be eligible through the use of an IQ-A discrepancy method. This method that measures a student’s general intelligence (IQ) is compared to their current achievement, or present levels of performance in school (Mather & Gregg, 2006). If a student presented with a severe discrepancy between the two scores, they were identified as having a learning disability. This discrepancy between fullscale intelligence scores and academic achievement became the hallmark method whereby students were identified as having a learning disability after the passage of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (1997) (Mather & Gregg, 2006). Much has been written about the problems associated with using a measure of IQ and its comparison with a student’s achievement (Deisinger, 2004; Fuchs, Mock, Morgan, & Young, 2003; Moores-Abdool, Unzueta, Vazquez, & Bijlsma, 2008). Many of the criticisms of the IQ-A discrepancy method center on an overreliance on a single method (Mather & Gregg, 2006); the use of general intelligence measures with culturally diverse students and English language learners (Elizalde-Utnick, 2008; Harry & Klingner, 2007);

Response to Intervention Techniques and Students with Learning Disabilities


and the reliability of the discrepancy between IQ and achievement as a valid measure of learning disabilities (Francis et al. 2005). With the reauthorization of the IDEA (2004), the eligibility criterion for learning disabilities was revised. The RtI approach was introduced as a choice in the eligibility measures under the learning disabilities categorization (Zirkel & Thomas, 2010). This amendment provided states with the mandate for a transition out of using the severe discrepancy approach for identification (Ahern, 2009). Under these revisions, states have three choices for their approach to SLD determination. States can (a) require or permit RtI; (b) permit or prohibit the severe discrepancy method; (c) omit, permit, or require an alternative evidence-based method (Zirkel & Thomas, 2010). This choice has allowed for continued variation in how students are granted eligibility, and has even allowed for local school district determination. Zirkel and Thomas (2010) found that approximately 24% of states use RtI as the required approach and the remaining permitting a combination of RtI and severe discrepancy approach to identification. Of those that are permitting both approaches, 40% of states have chosen the evidence-based method for identification as permissible. The inclusion of RtI provided states with the ability to lessen the negative impacts of the severe discrepancy requirement for eligibility under the learning disabilities category. The criticisms of the severe discrepancy approach are issues surrounding equity, accuracy, and consistency (Crepeau-Hobson & Bianco, 2011). As a result of the variety in the discrepancy models that states were allowed to employ under federal law, there have been inconsistencies as to eligibility for services. These inconsistencies have resulted in overrepresentation of English language learners, distortions in prevalence rates, and the length of time a student may wait without services waiting for a larger discrepancy to appear (Crepeau-Hobson & Bianco, 2011). RtI has provided states with the ability to use a systematic, data-driven decision-making process as a part of their eligibility criteria for special education services (NJCLD, 2011). This approach has provided a much more stable environment for reliable identification of students suspected as having a learning disability.

THE COMPONENTS OF RESPONSE TO INTERVENTION The RtI approach for identification of students with SLD has become one of the most frequent topics in special education literature since the 2004



amendments to IDEA (Zirkel, 2010). The RtI framework consists of a tiered system, which looks similar to a pyramid, and it divides a classroom or selection of students into groups based upon what their instructional or behavioral needs are and the supports that match these needs (see Fig. 1). These tiers, typically three but up to five, increase with intensity the farther up the tier the student is placed. Additionally, the higher the tier, the fewer students served at each level. Throughout the course of the school year, students can move throughout the tiered system of instruction. Each student’s progression through is derived from their achievement as evidenced by progress monitoring and benchmark assessment. Proponents of RtI approach applaud the frequent progress monitoring, data-driven decision-making, and its link to the core curricula that are being used in the general education environment (O’Donnell & Miller, 2011;

Fig. 1. Response to Intervention System for Academic Intervention. Retrieved from http://rti–response-to-intervention.pulaski.schoolfusion.us/modules/groups/ group_pages.phtml?gid=1554345&nid=127912&sessionid=1017e3f8053c1832f683 28820ed9caa7=9dffc976e01c4a1df0ef297456e46156

Response to Intervention Techniques and Students with Learning Disabilities


Richards, Pavri, Golez, Canges, & Murphy, 2007). Additionally, RtI is recommended because it provides support, more quickly to struggling learners (Fuchs et al., 2003). RtI provides educators with a systematic approach to identifying students in many disability categories, not only learning disabilities, for special education. This system is composed of assessment, instruction, and collaborative review. RtI provides students with an effective learning strategy in order to remediate learning and/or behavior difficulties in the general education environment, therefore minimizing the need to special education placement (Fuchs et al., 2003). Initiating RtI involves some basic non-negotiable components that are important for a smooth and successful implementation. The basics of a tiered intervention or instruction include the selection of universal screening measures, benchmark and progress monitoring measures, as well as several evidence-based curricula for use at each of the tiers. While each of these ‘‘basics’’ may seem like a daunting task, implementation will enrich the current classroom practices associated with instruction, intervention, and collection of data.

Tier Distribution Tier 1 is typically referred to as universal screening, but it is also synonymous with primary intervention, or level one. In tier 1, approximately 80–85% of students respond to the research-based, effective instruction known as the core curriculum of the school. For students who do not respond to the core curriculum, a more intensive approach may be needed (Richards et al., 2007). For approximately 5–10% of the population, a teacher or instructional aide may decide to pull them to the side for small group or one-on-one activities that provide enrichment and extra practice. At tier 2, instruction is evidence-based, or supported by research, and is supplemental to the core curriculum that is offered at the first tier. This targeted, secondary instruction can take many forms such as a direct instruction or other systematic and explicit instruction methods. Tier 3, or the tertiary or intensive tier, is for those students that are not responding to the type of instruction found in tier 2. For the 1–5% of students at this tier, the instruction is characterized as focused and often individually based. This instruction is typically delivered by a person with an expert level of knowledge or contracted through support services such as those defined as special education (Bakken, 2012).



Assessment Assessment is a central component of RtI (Petscher, Kim, & Foorman, 2011). It provides the basis for tier movement; educational decision-making; as well as the foundation for subsequent referrals for additional, more intensive services outside of the general education environment. There are a variety of variables that may affect the types of assessments that are used to evaluate student performance (e.g., type of core or intensive curriculum, forms of local and state assessments), yet the format of assessment for RtI is consistent. In order to employ RtI, schools must commit to a framework that consists of universal assessment, benchmark assessment, and progress monitoring.

Universal Screening The initial step in RtI is the universal screening of all students in the general education environment (Fuchs et al., 2003). Screening refers to data that is collected prior to implementing the specialized plan of instruction associated with RtI (Wixon & Valencia, 2011). Universal screening typically occurs at the beginning of the school year when curriculum-based measures are administered (Deno et al., 2009). Curriculum-based measures are a direct measurement of basic academic skills (e.g., phonological awareness, numeracy, oral reading fluency) and fluent performance in any of these areas has been linked to skill competence that is functional, generalized, and predictive of improved student outcomes (Elliott, Huai, & Roach, 2007; Wixon & Valencia, 2011). Many curriculum-based screening measures exist but some of the most common include AIMSweb, Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS), Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS), and STAR Reading. Common characteristics of universal screening measures are generalizability to many populations, efficiency of administration and scoring, and availability of norms and benchmarks for comparison (Glover & Albers, 2007; National Center on Response to Intervention, 2011; Petscher et al., 2011). Additionally, screening measures will meet the psychometric qualities of reliability and validity (Mellard, McKnight, & Woods, 2009). Traditionally, universal screening data will reveal whether a student is achieving at a level that is at, below, or above the level expected for a

Response to Intervention Techniques and Students with Learning Disabilities


particular age or grade (Wixon & Valencia, 2011). This determination helps educators plan for the appropriate instructional plan.

Progress Monitoring Ongoing monitoring of progress is another key element of the assessment associated with the RtI approach. Progress monitoring is a data collection practice used to inform educators of student achievement (Wixon & Valencia, 2011). It can occur in many different forms, depending upon the frequency of assessment (Ciullo, SoRelle, Kim, Seo, & Bryant, 2011). Student’s progress can be monitored during the learning process in order to modify the intervention or instruction plan (formative progress monitoring) or at a specific point in time in order to determine their present functioning in comparison to academic standards (benchmark progress monitoring) (Ciullo et al., 2011; Wixon & Valencia, 2011). Teachers use this information to inform each step of RtI in terms of what the next action of a teacher should be as well as evaluate the previous implementation of the intervention (Olinghouse, Lambert, & Compton, 2006). In the traditional approach to RtI, progress monitoring occurs in different intervals depending upon the tier placement of the student. For tier 1 placement, benchmark assessment serves as the main method of progress monitoring. Benchmark assessment occurs three times per year, generally during fall, winter, and spring. The benchmarks used can be state academic standards, developmentally appropriate targets that are derived from evidence-based curricula, or pre-determined scores from normreferenced tests (Mellard et al., 2009; Wixon & Valencia, 2011). In addition to benchmark assessment, students at tiers 2 and 3 undergo formative progress monitoring to determine their response to the instruction (Wixon & Valencia, 2011). For tier 2 or tier 3 placement, progress monitoring occurs biweekly or weekly, respectively. At each testing period, each student’s developmental progress must be monitored so that educational decisions can be data-based. Typically, tools developed for progress monitoring are based on the skills being taught. Most often, fluency in an academic skill area is the basis for the assessment. For example, a student working on oral reading fluency would have a progress monitoring check that focuses on their ability to read short passage while being timed for 1 minute (Olinghouse et al., 2006). The data taken from these formative and benchmark progress monitoring



sessions are used to make decisions as to next steps regarding intervention and instruction.

Collaborative Data-Based Decision-Making Data-based decision-making is the last foundational component of RtI. The special education eligibility process is one based upon a collaborative approach to data. At the evaluation stage, multidisciplinary teams come together to present a comprehensive assessment of a student’s current performance level and a similar approach to decision-making occurs in an RtI approach to instruction. The collaborative nature of working with teachers is crucial to the tiered intervention found in an RtI approach (Johnson, Pool, & Carter, 2012). Information collected from the progress monitoring measures would be summarized whether in graph, percentage of skills, or narrative form and presented to the team during the RtI team meetings. Each child’s progress would be discussed by the team and educational decisions made regarding changes in the intervention plan. Educational decisions range from continuing the intervention, discontinuing the intervention, and trying a new more intensive one, modifying the intervention or referring the child for special education services (Vanderheyden, 2011).

The Importance of Specialized Instruction Within the RtI Framework RtI has largely been characterized as a vehicle solely for eligibility determinations and prevention of learning and behavior-based disabilities. As evidence-based practices and data-based decision-making have become foundational principles in schools because of No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) (2002) and IDEA (2004), a culture of responding to instruction had begun. When states moved to a more integrated approach using instruction and intervention as vehicles for making educational decisions, the RtI approach aided general education teachers in the process of determining eligibility for students with SLD (Speece, Case, & Molloy, 2003). For general education teachers, knowing about the characteristics of students with SLD and how they learn is critical. Students with SLD have the second highest distribution in general education classes (Aud et al., 2011). For students with SLD educated in regular schools, 60.9% are educated in the general education environment at a regular school for more

Response to Intervention Techniques and Students with Learning Disabilities


than 80% of the day. Approximately, 28% of students are educated in the general education classroom for 79% – 40% of the day and 8.6% are educated for less than 40% of the day. Conversely, only 2.2% of students with SLD are educated in alternative environments (i.e., separate schools, private schools, residential/correctional facilities) (Aud et al., 2011). The path to an eligibility determination is one that should be supported by a framework of specialized, intensive instruction and rigorous evaluation (NJCLD, 2011). The instruction at each tier has characteristics that are unique to each tier, yet come together in lock-step fashion to create a comprehensive plan that either results in remediation or referral for special education. For students with SLD, their educational plan is similar to that of all students who are enrolled at a school that uses RtI instruction, yet may possess qualities that speak to the unique needs of their educational plan. These unique needs can span academic, social-emotional/behavioral, cultural, and cognitive domains (Goran & Gage, 2011; Jitendra, Burgess, & Gajria, 2011; Ritchey, 2011; Shumate, Campbell-Whatley, & Lo, 2012).

Academic Needs The IDEA (2004) provided educators with eight instructional areas that can be considered as a criterion for determining eligibility (NJCLD, 2011). In order for a student to become eligible for SLD services, they must have inadequate achievement in       

oral expression; listening comprehension; written expression; basic reading skill; reading comprehension; mathematics calculation; and mathematics reasoning.

This inadequate achievement must not be due to a lack of learning experiences or a result of inappropriate instruction (34 CFR 300.309 (a) (1); NJCLD, 2011). Instruction that has been successful for students with SLD has several common characteristics. Chiefly, instruction that is systematic and explicit, and links prior knowledge to new information, is critical for students. Additionally, teachers should differentiate how they teach and the processes they allow students to use in order to retain information. This will help



students with how they engage with text and respond teacher demands for information (Mason & Hedin, 2012). Teachers should make every attempt to enhance text and instruct students in strategies that are beneficial in helping them to organize and remember key information (Mason & Hedin, 2011). Additionally, differentiating class interaction from individual tasks to incorporating interactive small groups and peer-assisted learning can improve the ability of students with SLD to develop background knowledge and increase their comprehension (Fuchs, Fuchs, & Burish, 2000). This interactive grouping helps students to work together in order to support each other’s learning. Mason and Hedin (2012) present several strategies that can aid teachers in helping students with SLD engage key class information. One is organization which is a key component for successful academic acquisition for students with learning disabilities (Mason & Hedin, 2012). Also, methods that aid students with SLD in their ability to identify, comprehend, and recall key information such as advanced organizers (i.e., concept maps, assistive technology-hyperlinked class notes and enhanced text), and mnemonic devices are beneficial (Mason & Hedin, 2012). Other strategies include peer-assisted learning in which teachers provide students with structured activities that support frequent interaction, immediate corrective feedback, and dyad learning (see Fuchs et al., 2000); cognitive strategy instruction in which teachers incorporate a group of cognitive strategies (i.e., identifying main ideas, paraphrasing, self-questioning, reciprocal teaching) that supports the development of higher order thinking (see Jitendra et al., 2011); and cue cards that contain written steps, image-based prompts, processes, abbreviations, and/or mnemonics (see Conderman & Hedin, 2011). In an RtI classroom, all of the above strategies can fit into the current core curriculum. Differentiated instruction (DI) (see Borders, Bock, & Michalak, 2012), which takes into consideration a student’s readiness level, interests, and preferred modes of learning (Tomlinson 2000), can be used to respond to students with SLD diverse instructional needs so that a more appropriate educational experience can be initiated. Typically, DI is divided into four areas, namely, content, process, products, and the learning environment (Tomlinson, 2000). Borders et al. (2012) provide a detailed list of instructional components for teachers to consider for each of the above four areas. Teachers of SLD may also decide to use other modifications and adaptations to antecedents in the classroom. For example, Borders et al. (2012) delineated the following modifications and adaptations: (1) size – reduction in work that is expected; (2) time – alter amount of time to complete a task; (3) levels of support – closely matching the student’s needs to their current skill level; (4) input – adapt the way content is delivered; (5) output – provide a different way to respond; (6) difficulty – adapting the difficulty of the task while meeting

Response to Intervention Techniques and Students with Learning Disabilities


content evaluation; (7) participation – modify the extent and type of student participation; and (8) alternative curricular goals and substitute curriculum – alter content to meet specific academic deficits or embedding additional goals that are targeted by an individual education plan. In the RtI classroom, the core curriculum, which is given to all students in the general education environment, regardless of tier, is traditionally evidence-based and will include explicit instruction in many of the key areas that may be difficult for students with SLD (e.g., phonics, vocabulary, comprehension). Students that are participating in a tier 2 response to instruction group may be given more strategies to instruction group, they may be given more strategies that will aid them in understanding the core curriculum. Tier 3 students will be given targeted, explicit instruction in the areas in which they need additional, remedial help. For some skills, learners may need support outside of the classroom. Students who have displayed considerable delays in phonological awareness or other literacy skills may require one-on-one instruction by a reading specialist. Each of these interventions is very specific to the needs of the individual learner and requires far more one-on-one support than instruction provided in the other two tiers.

Behavioral Needs There has been much written regarding the link between behavior support and students with disabilities (see Bradshaw, Mitchell, & Leaf, 2010; Mooney, Ryan, Gunter, & Denny, 2012; Sugai & Horner, 2009). Behavior support specific to RtI tiers is as follows: Tier 1: This tier typically consists of a core curriculum that has been adopted by the school district. The core curriculum is one that is evidencebased and research-supported and can encompass all areas of development (i.e., cognitive, academic, social-emotional, and physical). This type of instruction may look like an adopted curriculum, such as a school-wide behavior management protocol like Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS). A more detailed discussion of PBIS regarding background, specific tier features, and examples of its effectiveness can be found in Cheney and Jewell (2012). Tier 2: When some learners do not possess knowledge or skills that are considered as benchmark, additional instruction or support in the classroom may be necessary to help them to make progress and catch up to their peers. For this reason, tier 2 is referred to as targeted or secondary instruction. This instruction can look different depending on the needs of the learners



and can include small group or one-on-one activities led by a teacher or instructional aide. These activities typically focus on an aspect of the general education curriculum that was addressed in tier 1. Tier 2 instruction provides additional support and extra practice in the area of need and allows the learners to respond to the general education curriculum. Tier 2 instruction should also be supported by research to ensure that only methods that have been proven to be effective are implemented. Educators can implement tier 2 instruction in a variety of ways. For example, in looking at a group of students who are struggling with developing numeracy skills, a teacher’s aide or other paraprofessional could lead several small group activities that supplement the general education curriculum, such as including the use of role-playing or modeling activities. These types of activities allow the learners to gain the knowledge and skills that they need in order to make appropriate progress in the general education curriculum. Tier 3: Learners who do not respond to tier 2 instruction require more individualized support in tier 3, also known as tertiary or intensive instruction. These learners may benefit from focused instruction in their area of need that is typically conducted by someone designated as a specialist, or another person in a similar position. For many school districts, tier 3 may serve as special education. Tier 3 is highly individualized and, although methods should be evidence-based, it is often difficult to find an intervention specific to the learner’s needs that have a wide base of research support. Although these interventions are individualized, they are not necessarily complex. For students with SLD and behavioral difficulties, they may have a hard time transitioning between activities. These students may require an individualized picture schedule to make transitions more successful. The picture schedule would be individualized to the learner’s specific needs but remains simple in its construction and implementation. Other behavioral concerns may require more complex interventions. An especially aggressive learner may require an individualized behavior plan that involves a behavior chart and reinforcement specific to his or her strengths and needs.

FUTURE TRENDS RtI will continue to be a significant part of how educators support the needs of all students, but especially students with SLD. As more school-wide approaches to instruction and intervention (e.g., PBIS, response to

Response to Intervention Techniques and Students with Learning Disabilities


instruction) emerge, the foundational tenets of RtI will continue to be a critical part of how students are educated. Individualized, research-based, intervention methods have been found to be key in improving the academic and behavior outcomes for all students. White, Polly, and Audette (2012) presented several implications for implementing RtI. In order to have the most successful RtI initiative, coordination and support need to be available for several stakeholders. District- and school-level collaboration is necessary in order to support the critical partnership between the academic and behavioral services that are offered by general and special education. Educators also must rely on open communication, data-based decision-making, and parental support of the initiative in order for any RtI initiative to be successful (White et al., 2012).

CONCLUSION When deciding to implement RtI, there are many questions that teachers and administrators at a center need to raise. Those questions might be, ‘‘How much support is currently available?’’ ‘‘Do we have the resources for students?’’ ‘‘How can we provide support for teachers?’’ or ‘‘How can I make sure progress monitoring and evaluation occur?’’ These questions are normal and honest answers must be given from all involved. It is our hope that this chapter has answered some of the typical questions related to utilizing and provides the groundwork for implementing RtI. Remember, RTI is not a concept that can be adopted overnight, but in can be implemented in a majority of environments using a variety of supports.

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Mellard, D. F., McKnight, M., & Woods, K. (2009). Response to intervention screening and progress-monitoring practices in 41 schools. Learning Disabilities Practice, 24(4), 186–195. Mellard, D. F., Stern, A., & Woods, K. (2011). RTI school-based practices and evidence-based models. Focus on Exceptional Children, 43(6), 1–15. Mooney, P., Ryan, J. B., Gunter, P. L., & Denny, R. K. (2012). Behavior modification/ traditional techniques for students with emotional and behavioral disorders. In J. P. Bakken, F. E. Obviator & A. F. Rotatori (Eds.), Behavioral disorders: Identification, assessment, and students with EBD (Vol. 22, pp. 173–202). Bingley, UK: Emerald. Moores-Abdool, W., Unzueta, C. H., Vazquez, D. D., & Bijlsma, E. (2008). Discrepancy dinosaurs and the evolution of specific learning disability assessment. Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 8(2), 75–83. National Center on Response to Intervention. (2011, November). Screening tools chart. Retrieved from http://www.rti4success.org/screeningTools National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD). (2011). Comprehensive assessment and evaluation of students with learning disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 34(1), 3–16. No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), P.L. 107-110 (2002). O’Connor, R. E., & Sanchez, V. (2011). Responsiveness to intervention models for reducing reading difficulties and identifying learning disability. In J. M. Kauffman, & D. P. Hallahan (Eds.), Handbook of special education (pp. 123–133). New York, NY: Routledge. O’Donnell, P. S., & Miller, D. N. (2011). Identifying students with specific learning disabilities: School psychologists’ acceptability of the discrepancy model versus response to intervention. Journal of Disability Policy Studies, 22(2), 83–94. Olinghouse, N. G., Lambert, W., & Compton, D. L. (2006). Monitoring children with reading disabilities’ response to phonics intervention: Are there differences between intervention aligned and general skill progress monitoring assessments? Exceptional Children, 73(1), 90–106. Petscher, Y., Kim, Y., & Foorman, B. R. (2011). The importance of predictive power in early screening assessments: Implications for placement in the response to intervention framework. Assessment for Effective Intervention, 36(3), 158–166. Richards, C., Pavri, S., Golez, F., Canges, R., & Murphy, J. (2007). Response to intervention: Building the capacity of teachers to serve students with learning difficulties. Issues in Teacher Education, 16(2), 55–64. Ritchey, K. D. (2011). The first ‘‘R’’: Evidence-based reading instruction for students with learning disabilities. Theory Into Practice, 50(1), 28–34. Shumate, L., Campbell-Whatley, G. D., & Lo, Y. (2012). Infusing culturally responsive instruction to improve mathematics performance of Latino students with specific learning disabilities. Exceptionality, 20(1), 39–57. Speece, D. L., Case, L. P., & Molloy, D. E. (2003). Responsiveness to general education instruction as the first gate to learning disabilities identification. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 18, 147–156. Sugai, G., & Horner, R. H. (2009). Positive behavior supports: Integration of multi-tiered system approaches. Exceptionality, 17, 223–237.

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TRANSITION FROM SCHOOL TO ADULT LIFE FOR STUDENTS WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES Nicole M. Uphold ABSTRACT Transitioning from school to adult life is a challenging time for students with learning disabilities. Students leave the only support system they have known and enter into a world where they need to be self-advocates. This chapter discusses the transitioning process, including the legal aspect and strategies to assist students to make a successful transition into adulthood.

HISTORY OF TRANSITION Transition is the movement from school to adult life. The concept of ‘‘transition’’ began in 1984 with the publishing of Madeline Will’s paper on transition. Will was the director of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. Her model became known as the bridges model of transition from school to employment (see Fig. 1). This model shows three ‘‘bridges’’ of services that could help a student move from school to adult

Learning Disabilities: Practice Concerns and Students with LD Advances in Special Education, Volume 25, 133–152 Copyright r 2013 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited All rights of reproduction in any form reserved ISSN: 0270-4013/doi:10.1108/S0270-4013(2013)0000025010



Fig. 1.


Bridge’s Model of Transition from School to Employment (Will, 1984).

life. The first bridge is ‘‘no special services’’ and referred to the generic services that are available to anyone living in a community (e.g., trade school). The second bridge is ‘‘time-limited services’’ and referred to timelimited, special services that a person with a disability can receive if they are eligible for the services (e.g., vocational rehabilitation services). The third bridge is ‘‘ongoing services’’ and referred to employment services available across the lifespan (e.g., services available to assist an individual with obtaining and maintaining community employment). Almost immediately, the transition community realized that transition from school was more than an employment outcome. Halpern (1985) created a new model of transition that had community adjustment as the postschool outcome students should achieve (see Fig. 2). The bridges from Will’s model were kept, but community adjustment rested on not only employment, but also residential environment and social and interpersonal networks. This more accurately reflected adult life and became the foundation for transitional legislation. In 1990, federal law (Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), 1990) for the first time required transition to be a component of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). Schools were now required to develop postschool goals for each student and provide a plan of activities to help the student reach these goals. Transition plans are required for all students with an IEP by the time the student turns 16, or earlier if state law requires this. IDEA defines transition as ‘‘a coordinated set of activities for a child with a disability that

Transition from School to Adult Life for Students with Learning Disabilities

Fig. 2.


A Model for Transition. Source: Halpern (1985).

 is designed to be within a results-oriented process that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child’s movement from school to postschool activities, including postsecondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment); continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation;  is based on the individual child’s needs, taking into account the child’s strengths, preferences, and interests; and  includes instruction, related services, community experiences, the development of employment and other postschool adult living objectives, and, if appropriate, acquisition of daily living skills and functional vocational evaluation (IDEA, 1990).

PLANNING FOR TRANSITION Federal law requires each student, who is 16 years old and has an IEP, to have a transition plan that is updated annually. This transition plan needs to



meet the measurement guidelines of Indicator 13 from the IDEA. Indicator 13 reads Percent of youth with IEPs aged 16 and above with an IEP that includes appropriate measurable postsecondary goals that are annually updated and based upon an age appropriate transition assessment, transition services, including courses of study, that will reasonably enable the student to meet those postsecondary goals, and annual IEP goals related to the student’s transition services needs. There also must be evidence that the student was invited to the IEP Team meeting where transition services are to be discussed and evidence that, if appropriate, a representative of any participating agency was invited to the IEP Team meeting with the prior consent of the parent or student who has reached the age of majority. (20 U.S.C. 1416(a) (3) (B))

The National Secondary Technical Assistance Center (2012) created a checklist (see Fig. 3) to assist school personnel with determining if each transition plan meets Indicator 13 requirements. It is important to remember that transition is more than a plan, it is a process. Long-term planning is the hallmark of transition. This planning should begin early in a student with learning disability (LD) education and continue throughout middle and high school. Quality transition planning is ongoing, comprehensive, and focuses on the student’s future for all aspects of life. The ultimate goal of transition planning is to prepare every student with LD so he or she can reach his or her goals upon graduation. See Table 1 for a delineation of the ultimate goals of transition for students with LD. In order to do this, students with LD need to gain knowledge and skills, and have a variety of experiences while still in school (Johnson, 2002). These experiences and knowledge should allow students to learn more about adult life and also about themselves.

Transition Planning Process The transition planning process consists of conducting age-appropriate assessments, determining a present level of performance, developing postsecondary outcomes, identifying a course of study, identifying services, and developing annual goals and objectives. Assessments All students need a variety of transition assessment to assist them with their transition from school. These assessments should include both formal and informal assessments and also comprehensive and targeted assessments. Formal assessments are those that have been normed against other students.

Transition from School to Adult Life for Students with Learning Disabilities

Fig. 3.


Indicator 13 Checklist. Source: NSTTAC (2012).

Typically, these include intelligence, aptitude, achievement, adaptive, and personality tests. Informal assessments are much more commonly used in transition planning. These are typically teacher made, although there are a variety of informal transition planning inventories that can be found for free



Table 1. Developing the knowledge and skills Developing a knowledge and understanding Acquiring experience Developing preferences and interests

Ultimate Goals of Transition Planning. that are required by most adults in most settings to be successful of adult roles and responsibilities in specific settings and activities with adult roles and responsibilities in specific settings and activities that with age and experience emerge as interests in and preferences for specific adult roles, responsibilities, activities, and settings

Source: Johnson (2002).

or purchased. Lastly, the assessment would involve data gathering procedures such as interviews, situational analysis observation, and school performance measures. Readers can examine Table 2 for examples of formal and informal transition assessment tests and inventories. A comprehensive assessment should be conducted at the start of transition planning. This assessment should be used to both plan transition services and activities and also to plan for further instruction. In addition, an assessment plan should be developed so a student with LD is assessed on progress at regular intervals. The goal of transition assessments is for students with LD to learn about themselves and their skill levels. As students with LD have new experiences, two different types of assessments should occur. First, students with LD should be asked about their interests to determine if the experience was liked or not. Second, students with LD should be assessed on their skills or knowledge to determine if the students learned something new as a result of the experience. In addition to directly assessing students, parents and teachers should provide feedback on their view of the student’s strengths and interests. Parents can complete surveys and often teachers find this to be easiest. However, an interview with a family member might result in more detailed information. Parents often have insights into their child with LD that a teacher does not know. Present Level of Performance The transition assessments should be used to develop a present level of performance for the student with LD. The present level of performance should focus on all life domains, academic, vocational, domestic, community, and recreation and leisure. This present level should include strengths, weaknesses, and skills that need to be developed.

Transition from School to Adult Life for Students with Learning Disabilities

Table 2.


Transition Assessments.

Formal Assessments Achievement tests

Basic Achievement Skills Inventory (BASI; Bardos, 2002) Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement – 2nd ed. (KTEA-2; Kaufman & Kaufman, 2004) Wide Range Achievement Test – 4th ed. (WRAT 4; Wilkinson & Robertson, 2006) Woodcock Johnson III (WJ III; Woodcock, McGrew, & Mather, 2001)

Adaptive behavior

Brigance Life Skills Inventory (Brigance, 1994) Independent Living Scales (ILS; Anderson-Loeb, 1996) Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales – 2nd ed. (Vineland II; Sparrow, Cicchetti, & Balla, 2005)

Aptitude tests

ONET Career Interest Inventory (U.S. Department of Labor, 2002) Picture Interest Career Survey (Brady, 2007) Self-Directed Search: Form R (Holland, 1994); Form E (Holland, 1996); and Career Explorer (Holland & Powell, 1994) Wide Range Interest-Opinion Test – Revised (WRIOT-R; Glutting & Wilkinson, 2006)

Intelligence tests

Kaufman Adolescent & Adult Intelligence Test (KAIT; Kaufman & Kaufman, 1993) Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test – 3rd ed. (PPVT-III; Dunn & Dunn, 1997) Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales – 5th ed. (SB-5; Roid, 2003) Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-IV (WISC-IV; Wechsler, 2004)

Personality tests

Myers–Briggs Type Indicators (MBTIs) Instrument – Form M (Myers & Briggs, 1988)

Informal Assessments Transition planning inventories

Enderle–Severson Transition Rating Scales – 3rd ed. (Enderle & Severson, 2003) Supports Intensity Scale (American Association on Mental Retardation, 2004) Transition Planning Inventory – Updated Version (Clark & Patton, 2009) Transition to Work Inventory (TWI) (Liptak, 2008)

Postsecondary Outcomes Federal law requires students have goals, or outcomes, developed related to employment, education or training, and independent living; it is also best practice to include an outcome statement related to community



Table 3. Employment

Sample Postschool Outcome Statements.



Community Participation

After earning her degree, Sarah will be a teacher.

Sarah will attend the state college and earn her bachelor’s degree in special education.

Sarah will live in the dorms while attending college and move to an apartment upon earning her degree.

While in college, Sarah will join a teacherrelated student organization.

After graduating from high school, Jack will work in construction.

Jack will attend a 6-week on-the-job training program with a construction company.

Six months after graduating from high school, Jack will live in an apartment with friends.

Jack will participate in a young adults group through his church.

Lucas will be a veterinary technician.

Lucas will earn an associate’s degree in veterinary technician.

Lucas will live at home with parents while attending the local community college and will move into an apartment within a year of earning his associate’s degree.

Lucas will become a member of the National Association of Veterinary Technicians. Lucas will also join a recreation softball league.

Zach will be an electrician.

Zach will attend a trade school to earn an electrician certificate. In addition, Zach will complete an apprenticeship with an electrician.

After graduating from high school, Zach will live with his aunt and uncle.

Zach will become a volunteer soccer coach.

participation. See Table 3 for sample postschool outcome statements employment, education/training, residential living, and community participation. Postsecondary outcomes need to relate to the students’ interests and abilities. Transition assessment data should be used to develop these statements. It is important to remember that these statements should be written as goals (e.g., I will be a teacher) rather than wishes (e.g., I hope to be a teacher).

Transition from School to Adult Life for Students with Learning Disabilities


Course of Study A course of study needs to be developed for each student with LD. This course of study should help the student meet basic requirements for his/her postschool goals. For example, if a student with LD wants to attend a university, the course of study should include all of the basic entrance requirements such as four years of math, science, and English. In addition, the course of study should allow the student with LD to pursue his/her interests. For example, if a student is interested in animals, this student should consider taking agriculture-related electives. Transition Services and Activities Transition services and activities are the heart of the transition plan. It is important to keep in mind all of the services, activities, and skills a student needs in order to be successful after leaving school. Services refer to the formal assistance a student would receive to help with a particular need. Examples include speech therapy, counseling through mental health agency, and obtaining new technology. Activities are the ‘‘to-do’’ items, such as visiting college campuses, applying for services, and job shadowing. What students perform or demonstrate are skills. Some examples of skills include communication, time management, driving, cooking, and money management.

PREPARING STUDENTS FOR TRANSITION While positive postschool outcomes for students with LD have been increasing, these students still lag behind their counterparts without disabilities in terms of attending college, earning a postsecondary certificate or degree, living independently, and holding employment (Newman et al., 2011). In addition, students with LD are less likely to have a savings and checking account, and earned significantly less than same age peers without disabilities (Newman et al., 2011). One predictor of postschool success is whether the student with LD received instruction on self-determination skills (National Secondary Transition technical Assistance Center, n.d.). Self-determination has been defined as ‘‘a combination of skills, knowledge, and beliefs that enable a person to engage in goal-directed, self-regulated, autonomous behavior. An understanding of one’s strengths and limitations together with a belief of oneself as capabley’’ (Field, Martin, Miller, Ward, & Wehmeyer, 1998). There are eight component skills of self-determination, including choice-



making, decision-making, problem-solving, goal setting and attainment, self-management, self-awareness, self-advocacy, and self-efficacy.

TEACHING SELF-DETERMINATION SKILLS There are two ways to teach self-determination skills, namely, involving students with LD in their IEP process and directly teaching these skills. The manner of instruction would depend on the student’s needs and scheduling.

Student Involvement in the IEP Process There are four stages to the IEP process, planning, drafting the plan, meeting to revise the plan, and implementing the plan (Konrad & Test, 2004). The first stage is planning and includes determining strengths and needs, establishing goals, and organizing materials for the meeting. During this stage, students assess their strengths and weaknesses and develop goals to work on their weaknesses. Students with LD should be learning about who they are, available postschool options, and what their strengths and weaknesses are in relation to postschool options. Teachers should use a variety of assessments with these students and their families. The second stage of the IEP process is composing the plan where students with LD learn to draft their own IEP. During this stage, students with LD learn about the components of an IEP and begin to draft IEP paperwork. For example, Konrad and Test (2004) evaluated the effects of IEP awareness instruction on the ability of students with LD to complete an IEP template. Using the template, these students were able to write drafts of their IEP in three sections, (a) vision statement/strengths, (b) needs/goals, and (c) services/least restrictive environment. Another option to help students with LD draft their IEPs is to use the GO FOR ITyNOW! Strategy (Konrad & Test, 2007). This mnemonic instructional strategy has been found to be helpful to assists students in the writing of paragraphs on their articulated IEP goals (see Konrad & Test, 2007; Konrad, Trela, & Test, 2006). The third stage of the IEP process is the meeting to revise the plan, where the IEP team members come together to finalize the IEP document, including present level of performance, postschool outcomes, transition services, and annual goals and objectives. There are a number of published

Transition from School to Adult Life for Students with Learning Disabilities


curricula to teach students with LD how to participate in their IEP meetings. Some of these include: Next S.T.E.P. (Halpern et al., 1997), SelfDirected IEP (Martin, Marshall, Maxson, & Jerman, 1996), Student-Led IEPs: A guide for student involvement (McGahee, Mason, Wallace, & Jones, 2001), TAKE CHARGE for the Future (Powers et al., 1998), Whose Future is it, Anyway? A Student-Directed Transition Planning Process (Wehmeyer & Kelchner, 1995). Participation in IEP meetings can take the form of students answering questions posed by IEP team members, students stating their interests and goals, and students taking the lead and directing their IEP meeting. Studies (Arndt, Konrad, & Test, 2006; Hammer, 2004; Lancaster, Schumaker, & Deshler, 2002; Martin, Van Dycke, Christensen, Greene, Gardner, & Lovett, 2006) have shown the effects of these published curricula on increasing students’ ability to participate in their IEP meetings. Finally, students with LD can be involved in implementing their IEP. These students can be taught to monitor their progress in reaching their IEP goals. The Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction (SDLMI) has been used to teach a problem-solving process to help students attain goals related to their IEP (Agran, Blanchard, & Wehmeyer, 2000). There are three phases to the SDLMI, setting a goal, taking action on that goal, and adjusting the goal or the plan. In each phase, students use self-instruction to move through a series of four questions. See Fig. 4 for the phases and questions of the SDLMI.

Directly Teaching Self-Determination Skills There are two ways to directly teach self-determination skills. The first way is to develop lesson plans to teach self-determination as a separate content area. You can also infuse the teaching of self-determination skills with the teaching academic skills. Given the time demand on teachers and the necessity to teach academic skills, a model to align these two types of skills has been developed (Konrad, Walker, Fowler, Test, & Wood, 2009). See Fig. 5 for the model and Fig. 6 for the planning worksheet. The first step to align academic content and self-determination skills is to determine the academic content standards, and the student’s areas of needs related to this content and self-determination. The second step is to identify instructional strategies to teach both the content and self-determination skills that the student needs. The teacher also needs to develop assessments to determine if the student is learning the content and self-determination skill. The final step of the model is to evaluate the effectiveness of the instructional strategies


Fig. 4.


Phases of the Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction. Source: Wehmeyer and Field (2007).

Transition from School to Adult Life for Students with Learning Disabilities

Fig. 4.





Fig. 4.


Transition from School to Adult Life for Students with Learning Disabilities

Fig. 5.


A Model for Infusing Self-Determination Skills and Academic Content. Source: Konrad et al. (2009).

and make adjustments if the student with LD did not make progress in either content knowledge or the self-determination skill.

CURRENT BEST PRACTICES AND FUTURE TRENDS Indicator 13 and evidence-based practices are shaping transition planning and service delivery (see Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), 2008). As previously described, Indicator 13 requires that IEPs include appropriate postsecondary goals and transition services. As a result, schools are


Fig. 6.


Planning Worksheet for Infusing Self-Determination Skills and Academic Content. Source: Konrad et al. (2009).

Transition from School to Adult Life for Students with Learning Disabilities


providing more training and support to teachers in order to provide more effective transition planning. Evidence-based practices have been defined as ‘‘a strategy or intervention designed for use by special educators and intended to support the education of individuals with exceptional learning needs’’ (CEC, 2008). Quality research has been conducted with these evidence-based practices to determine the effects on student skills or knowledge. The National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center (NSTTAC) has identified 33 evidence-based transition practices. See Table 4 for a list of these practices. Schools are also required to collect postschool outcome data on their graduates. Questions schools are asking include: 1. Are our students reaching their goals after leaving school? 2. How much support after leaving school did our students need to help them reach their goals? 3. What other supports or services could we have provided to help our students reach their goals? Table 4.

Evidence-Based Transition Practices.

Involving students in the IEP process Using the Self-Advocacy Strategy Teaching leisure skills Teaching banking skills Teaching grocery shopping skills Teaching home maintenance Teaching job-specific employment skills Teaching self-management for employment Teaching employment skills using community-based instruction Teaching functional life skills Teaching life skills using community-based instruction Teaching self-care skills Teaching self-determination skills Teaching self-management for life skills Teaching functional reading skills Teaching social skills Extending services beyond secondary school

Using the Self-Directed IEP Training parents about transition issues Teaching purchasing skills Teaching restaurant purchasing skills Teaching purchasing using the ‘‘one more than’’ strategy Teaching cooking and food preparation skills Teaching employment skills using computerassisted instruction Teaching completing a job application Teaching job-related social communication skills Teaching life skills using computer-assisted instruction Teaching safety skills Teaching personal health skills Teaching self-advocacy skills Using Check and Connect Teaching functional math skills Providing community-based instruction



In the future, we should expect to see school using their postschool outcome data to drive their transition planning process.

REFERENCES Agran, M., Blanchard, C., & Wehmeyer, M. L. (2000). Promoting transition goals and selfdetermination through student self-directed learning: The self-determined learning model of instruction. Education and Training in Mental Retardation and Development Disabilities, 35, 351–364. American Association on Mental Retardation. (2004). Supports intensity scale. Washington, DC: American Association on Mental Retardation. Anderson-Loeb, P. (1996). Independent living scales. San Antonio, TX: Pearson Publishing. Arndt, S. A., Konrad, M., & Test, D. W. (2006). Effects of the self-directed IEP on student participation in planning meetings. Remedial and Special Education, 27, 194–207. Bardos, A. N. (2002). Basic achievement skills inventory. San Antonio, TX: Pearson Publishing. Brady, R. P. (2007). Picture interest career survey. St. Paul, MN: JIST Works. Brigance, A. R. (1994). Brigance lifeSkills inventory. North Billerica, MA: Curriculum Associates, Inc. Clark, G. M., & Patton, J. R. (2009). Transition planning inventory: Updated version. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed. Council for Exceptional Children. (2008). Classifying the state of evidence for special education professional practice: CEC practice study guide manual. Retrieved from http:// www.cec.sped.org/Content/NavigationMenu/ProfessionalDevelopment/Professional Standards/Practice_Studies_Manual_1_25.pdf Dunn, L. M., & Dunn, L. M. (1997). Peabody picture vocabulary test ( 3rd ed.). Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Services. Enderle, J., & Severson, S. (2003). Enderle-Severson transition rating scales (3rd ed.). Moorhead, MN: ESTR Publications. Field, S., Martin, J. E., Miller, R., Ward, M., & Wehmeyer, M. (1998). A practical guide to teaching self-determination. Reston, VA: Council for Exceptional Children. Glutting, J. J., & Wilkinson, G. (2006). Wide range interest and opinion test–Revised. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed. Halpern, A. S. (1985). Transition: A look at the foundations. Exceptional Children, 51, 479– 486. Halpern, A. S., Herr, C. M., Wolf, N. K., Doren, B., Johnson, M. D., & Lawson, J. D. (1997). NEXT S.T.E.P.: Student transition and education planning. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed. Hammer, M. R. (2004). Using the self-advocacy strategy to increase student participation in IEP conferences. Intervention in School and Clinic, 39, 295–300. Holland, J. L. (1994). Self directed search: Form R (4th ed.). Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources. Holland, J. L. (1996). Self directed search: Form E (4th ed.). Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources. Holland, J. L., & Powell, A. B. (1994). Self directed search: Career explorer. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of (1990). P. L. No. 101-476, 20 U. S. C. yy 1400 et seq.

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Johnson, J. R. (2002). Strategies and resources for developing a student/family focused transition education plan. Retrieved from http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~jrjohnso/SFTEP/ module6_1.pdf Kaufman, A. S., & Kaufman, N. L. (1993). Kaufmann adolescent and adult intelligence test. Sydney, Australia: Psych Corp. Kaufman, A. S., & Kafman, N. L. (2004). Kaufman test of educational achievement (2nd ed.). San Antonio, TX: Pearson. Konrad, M., & Test, D. W. (2004). Teaching middle-school students with disabilities to use an IEP template. Career Development for Exceptional Individuals, 27, 101–124. Konrad, M., & Test, D. W. (2007). Effects of GO FOR ITyNOW! strategy instruction on the written IEP goal articulation and paragraph-writing skills of middle school students with disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 28, 277–291. Konrad, M., Trela, K., & Test, D. W. (2006). Using IEP goals and objectives to teach paragraph writing to high school students with physical and cognitive disabilities. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 41, 111–124. Konrad, M., Walker, A. R., Fowler, C. H., Test, D. W., & Wood, W. M. (2009). A model for aligning self-determination and general curriculum standards. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 40, 53–64. Lancaster, P. E., Schumaker, J. B., & Deshler, D. D. (2002). The development and validation of an interactive hypermedia program for teaching a self-advocacy strategy to students with disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 25, 277–302. Liptak, J. (2008). Transition to work Inventory. St. Paul, MN: JIST Works. Martin, J. E., Marshall, L. H., Maxson, L., & Jerman, P. (1996). Self-directed IEP. Longmont, CO: Sopris West. Martin, J. E., Van Dycke, J. L., Christensen, W. R., Greene, B. A., Gardner, J. E., & Lovett, D. L. (2006). Increasing student participation in IEP meetings: Establishing the self-directed IEP as an evidence-based practice. Exceptional Children, 72, 299–316. McGahee, M., Mason, C., Wallace, T., & Jones, B. (2001). Student-led IEPs: A guide for student involvement. Arlington, VA: Council for Exceptional Children. Myers, J. B., & Briggs, K. C. (1988). Meyers–Briggs type indicator Form M. Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press. National Secondary Transition Technical Assistance Center (NSTTAC). (2012). NSTTAC Indicator 13 Checklist: Form B (Enhanced for Professional Development). Retrieved from http://www.nsttac.org/content/nsttac-indicator-13-checklist-form-b-enhancedprofessional-development National Secondary Transition technical Assistance Center. (n.d.). In-school predictors of postschool success in secondary transition. Retrieved from http://www.nsttac.org/sites/ default/files/assets/pdf/InschoolPredictorsofPostSchoolSuccess.pdf Newman, L., Wagner, M., Knokey, A.M., Marder, C., Nagle, K., Shaver, D., Schwarting, M. (2011). The post-high school outcomes of young adults with disabilities up to 8 years after high school. Retrieved from http://www.nlts2.org/reports/2011_09_02/index.html Powers, L. E., Turner, A., Westwood, D., Loesch, C., Brown, A., & Rowland, C. (1998). TAKE CHARGE for the Future: A student directed approach to transition planning. Portland, OR: Oregon Health Sciences University Center on Self-Determination. Roid, G. H. (2003). The Stanford-Binet intelligence scales (5th ed.). Itasca, IL: Riverside. Sparrow, S. S., Cicchetti, D. V., & Balla, D. A. (2005). Vineland adaptive behavior scales (2nd ed.). Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Services.



U.S. Department of Labor. (2002). O’Net career interest inventory. St. Paul, MN: JIST Works. Wechsler, D. (2004). Wechsler intelligence scale for children–IV. San Antonio, TX: The Psychological Corporation. Wehmeyer, M. L., & Field, S. L. (2007). Self-determination: Instructional and assessment strategies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. Wehmeyer, M. L., & Kelchner, K. (1995). Whose future is it anyway? A student-directed transition planning process. Arlington, TX: The ARC. Wilkinson, G. S., & Robertson, G. J. (2006). The wide range achievement test (4th ed.). Wilmington, DE: Jastek Publishing. Will, M. (1984). OSERS programming for the transition of youth with disabilities: Bridges from school to working life. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. Woodcock, R. W., McGrew, K. S., & Mather, N. (2001). Woodcock–Johnson III tests of achievement. Itasca, IL: Riverside.

ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY FOR STUDENTS WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES Carrie Anna Courtad and Emily C. Bouck ABSTRACT Students with learning disabilities are ever-present in schools today and so is the technology to support these students. Assistive technology supports students with learning disabilities (LD) in terms of access and success in general education and special education settings. This chapter will discuss the challenges students with learning disabilities may face in school and the assistive technology educators can use to help address these challenges. Specifically, this chapter pays particular attention to assistive technology to support core content areas (e.g., literacy and mathematics) as well as organization and self-management.

ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY FOR STUDENTS WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES Assistive technology is an important consideration for all students with disabilities, but can be especially important for students with learning

Learning Disabilities: Practice Concerns and Students with LD Advances in Special Education, Volume 25, 153–173 Copyright r 2013 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited All rights of reproduction in any form reserved ISSN: 0270-4013/doi:10.1108/S0270-4013(2013)0000025011




disabilities (LD). Assistive technology for this population, however, has received less attention as compared to students with more significant or severe disabilities (Edyburn, 2000, 2006; Edyburn, Higgins, & Boone, 2005; Quinn et al. 2009). Assistive technology, as defined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, 2004), refers to ‘‘any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability’’ and is a related service to be considered for students with disabilities as part of their Individualized Education Program (IEP) (IDEA, 2004, Section 300.5). Assistive technology for students with high incidence disabilities – such as LD – may look different than students with low incidence or severe disabilities (Smith, 2010). For both groups, assistive technology improves the academic and life functioning of students with disabilities (Edyburn et al., 2005). However, greater controversy exists regarding assistive technology use for students with LD than for students with severe intellectual disabilities or visual impairments. Assistive technology is more likely to be devalued for students with LD as compared to students with more intense or severe needs (Rapp, 2005). The purpose of assistive technology is to act as a cognitive prosthesis for students with mild-tomoderate disabilities (Cavalier, Ferretti, & Okolo, 1994; Edyburn, 2006). This view of assistive technology as compensation for the disability (e.g., calculators for students with LD that interfere with processing) causes some individuals to express concern that students will use the assistive technology as a crutch rather than learning skills (Rapp, 2005), which results in a devaluing of assistive technology. The contents of this chapter will discuss assistive technology for students with LD. In particular, the chapter focuses on how the laws for considering assistive technology have changed with reauthorizations of IDEA, the categorization of assistive technology, and specific tools to support key academic areas. The chapter concludes with a discussion of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) and future trends for assistive technology.

HISTORY OF ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY Despite the long history of assistive technology (e.g., in 1879 Congress authorized funds for the production of Braille materials to the American Printing House for the Blind), assistive technology considerations for students with high incidence disabilities are relatively recent (Edyburn, 2000;

Assistive Technology for Students with Learning Disabilities


Lahm, 2003; Quinn et al., 2009). It was the 1997 reauthorization of the IDEA that mandated assistive technology consideration for students with high incidence disabilities during students’ IEP case conferences (Edyburn, 2000; Lahm, 2003; Quinn et al., 2009). In the 2004 reauthorization of IDEA, few changes from the 1997 reauthorization were made related to assistive technology. However, one important development was a mandate that accessible instructional materials be made available to students with disabilities (National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS), IDEA, 2004). Specifically, IDEA stated state education agencies or local education agencies ‘‘will provide instructional materials to blind persons or other persons with print disabilities in a timely manner’’ (Part B, Sec. 612(a)(23)(B) and Sec. 613(a)(6)(B)). This mandate – the NIMAS – required publishers to provide digital materials to students with disabilities (U.S. Department of Education, 2006). In other words, IDEA stipulated that assistive technology, in the form of digital text, be made accessible to students with print disabilities, commonly interpreted as students with visual impairments and students with LD in reading.

CATEGORIZATION OF ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY Within the broad and relatively ambiguous definition of assistive technology (e.g., ‘‘any items, product system, y’’) is some resemblance of clarity through categorization. In other words, there are different categories through which to understand assistive technology. The first type of categorization is by level of technology. Assistive technology categorization can include no tech, low tech, mid tech, and high tech (Blackhurst, 1997; Edyburn, 2005; Johnson, L., Beard, & Carpenter, 2007; Vanderheiden, 1984). No-tech assistive technology typically refers to a support or tool that requires no technology, such as a mnemonic device (HOMES for remembering the Great Lakes) or a strategy (Behrmann & Jerome, 2002). Low-tech assistive technology generally refers to lower cost, easier-to-use tools or devices that do not require a power source, such as pencil grips or highlighter strips (Behrmann & Schaff, 2001). Mid- or moderate-tech assistive technology are tools or devices that require a power source, such as a battery and increase in complexity, training, and cost. A classic example of a mid-tech assistive technology is a calculator. Finally, high-tech assistive technologies are typically computer-based devices or tools (e.g., text-to-speech, speech-to-text,



and word prediction software). High-tech assistive technology generally is more expensive and takes more training to learn (Edyburn, 2005; Johnson, L., et al., 2007; Vanderheiden, 1984). When making assistive technology decisions, practitioners are encouraged to start with low-tech and then move up to assure the best fit for a student (Gierach, 2009). Low-tech assistive technology is presumed to be less intrusive and therefore less stigmatizing (Behrmann & Jerome, 2002). Another means of assistive technology categorization is type or purpose, of which there are seven: positioning, mobility, augmentative and alternative communication, computer access, adaptive toys and games, adaptive environments, and instructional aids (Bryant & Bryant, 2003). Most relevant to students with LD is assistive technology that targets instruction or, in other words, learning (e.g., calculators, text-to-speech). Within the instructional type of assistive technology for students with LD, most technology addresses the key academic areas, such as reading, writing, and mathematics.

Reading Two-thirds of the students with LD read two to three grade levels below their peers without a learning disability, and a quarter of these students are reading more than five grade levels behind their peers (Wagner et al., 2003). Nearly 80% of students with a learning disability receive some type of service in the academic area of reading (Bryant, Young, & Dickson, 2001), and these students often struggle with trying to gain information through traditional print. As students progress through elementary school, the emphasis on the act of reading shifts from learning how to read to reading to learn (Mason & Hedin, 2011). In other words, as students get older classroom reading instruction changes from teaching basic reading skills to teaching subject content (e.g., social studies or science). Often teaching this content is done with textbooks and students are then expected to use basic reading skills to learn about the content area. When a student with a learning disability struggles with reading, the task of reading to learn becomes an insurmountable barrier to learning. In addition, textbooks often have a text structure that is ‘‘inconsiderate’’ or awkward (Chambliss & Calfee, 1989), are filled with factual information, lack predictability (Bakken, Mastropieri, & Scruggs, 1997; Gillam, Fargo, & Robertson, 2009), and are often poorly written, which makes comprehension difficult. Challenges with reading can also result in detrimental outcomes. Students with LD are more likely to drop out of high school compared to students


Assistive Technology for Students with Learning Disabilities

who do not have a learning disability (nearly 33% vs. 11%; U.S. Department of Education, 2003). The ability to read and read well affects students with LD beyond high school drop-out rates, such as being less likely to attend postsecondary schools, having higher attrition rate when they do attend postsecondary schools, and less likely to experience career success (Burgstahler, 2003). However, there are a variety of assistive technology options to decrease or remove barriers that traditional print creates for students with LD. Text-to-speech Text-to-speech is software that provides a computer-synthesized speech to read digital text (Courtad, 2011). The use of text-to-speech allows students to access text visually (i.e., reading as well as seeing the words highlighted) and hearing it read out aloud. Many text-to-speech programs allow for customization to meet students’ needs or desires (e.g., the number of words read per minute, rate, voice). Text-to-speech is a versatile assistive technology; it can be used on computers, personal computing devices, or handheld devices (i.e., iPad, iTouch, Netbook), or e-reader (i.e., Kindle, Nook, Google books). Further, text-to-speech programs can be acquired both for free (e.g., Natural Reader, Read Please) and for cost (e.g., Read & Write Gold, Word Q) (see Table 1 for examples of reading tools). Table 1. Reading

Reading Assistive Technology.

How It Supports



Reads Text

Wynn Reader (from Scientific Freedom) TextAloud (from NextUp Technologies) NaturalReader (from AT&T) ReadPlease (ReadPlease Corporation) Kurzweil 3000 (Kurzweil Educational Systems, Inc.) Dragon Naturally Speaking from Nuance E-speaking Kindle Apps MP3 conversions

Accessible Text

Digital Text

Book Share Project Guttenberg

Supported Text

Media, images inserted into text

Create through Microsoft Office Web-based items



Text-to-speech has a positive research base. When using a free text-tospeech program (i.e., Read Please), high school students with LD improve their reading fluency and comprehension of material (Moorman, Boon, Keller-Bell, Stagliano, & Jeffs, 2010). Arter, Helman, and D’Agata (2010) found that pairing text-to-speech capabilities along with other software increased seventh- and eighth-grade students’ overall reading ability. When hearing the text while reading, a student’s comprehension can increase, especially when text-to-speech is paired with other instructional comprehension strategies such as concept mapping or cognitive strategy instruction (Blankenship, Ayres, & Langone, 2005). Accessible Text Accessible text is text that can be either manipulated or transformed into another format other than traditional print (Stahl, 2004); accessible text is commonly called digital text or etext for students with LD (Boone & Higgins, 2007). Due in part to the mandate of accessible materials and the availability of computers and e-readers (e.g., iPad, Kindle, Nook), this technology for students with LD has experienced a rapid increase (Stahl, 2004). In addition to using accessible text with personal devices, software allows digital text to be imported into MP3 files and read aloud on such players as an iPod. Accessible text allows students to access material above their current decoding level (Hasselbring & Bausch, 2005). Supported eText Supported eText is digital or electronic text supplemented with rewording, description, media, highlighted text, or other strategies to increase comprehension of material (Anderson-Inman, 2009; Anderson-Inman & Horney, 2007). Use of supported eText has an emerging research base (Anderson-Inman, 2009); existing literature found supported eText improved the reading comprehension achievement of high school students with mild-to-moderate disabilities (Izzo, Yurick, & McArrell, 2009), and, in some cases, aided in comprehension related to functional skills for students with intellectual disabilities (Douglas, Ayers, Langone, Bell, & Meade, 2009).

Writing Students with LD often have deficits in one or more academic area, and writing can often be one of those areas (Graham & Harris, 2003). These


Assistive Technology for Students with Learning Disabilities

students often write at a slower pace, have frequent misspellings, and lack basic grammar and sentence structure (MacArthur, 2009). Students who lack these skills experience a disadvantage in classroom; they often do not write what they know nor do they extend their knowledge with writing and subsequently their grades suffer (MacArthur, 2009). Beyond grades, students with a deficit in written language can encounter problems in the adult world, as writing becomes integrated in daily work life. E-mail is frequently used in the workplace and other written communication is required in the business world as way to communicate knowledge, orders, or description. If an individual cannot communicate through the writing, she/ he will be at a disadvantage throughout their life (Mellard & Becker Patterson, 2008). Fortunately, there are commonplace tools that can support a person’s writing without intrusion (MacArthur, 2006; see Table 2 for suggestions on writing assistive technology). Word Processing The word processor has proven to be a powerful tool during the writing process for those with and without disabilities (MacArthur, 2009). Word processing programs are readily available in schools and support the recursive nature of writing, or, in other words, that writing pieces should be revisited, revised, added to, and edited during the writing process (MacArthur, 2009). In a meta-analysis of writing interventions, students Table 2. Writing

Writing Assistive Technology. How It Supports


Word Processor

Creation of text

Neo2 Writers Plus Laptops iPads Netbooks

Spell Checkers

Provides definitions and correct spelling

Franklin Spellers Online

Graphic Organizers and Planning Software

Revision and planning of writing

Solo Suite by Don Jonson Aurora Systems, Inc Inspirations Software  Kidspiaration  Webspiaration



with LD benefited more than comparison groups and had better outcomes in writing when using word processing programs during the writing process (Graham & Perin, 2007). In addition to helping students with the writing process, word processors can provide assistance for students with LD who also have handwriting difficulties. Handwriting needs to be legible, so the message can be read by the student and others, and handwriting must also be fluent so as not to interrupt the writing process (MacArthur, 2009). Hetzroni and Shrieber (2004) found word processors for junior high students with LD increased their writing performance in the areas of spelling, number of words written, and their ability to produce legible text when compared to paper–pencil writings. Students can also transcribe on a computer or a portable word processor (e.g., Neo2 or Writer Plus). The ability to type text can remove many of the physical fine motor barriers involved in traditional pencil and paper transcribing. When students were given one-to-one access to portable keyboards, students took ownership in their writing, viewed the portable keyboard as the main tool for writing, and increased the overall writing quality (Russell, Bebell, Cowan, & Corbelli, 2003). Spell Checkers Similar to the use of word processing for writing, spell checkers are ingrained within the fabric of classrooms (Peterson-Karlan, 2011). The majority of the word processing programs, as well as most e-mail software, blog posts, and smart phones, have embedded spell checkers. Spell checkers can remove the cognitive stagnation that can occur during the drafting process of the writing process and therefore increase fluency and confidence (Montgomery & Marks, 2006). However, using spell checkers is not a panacea for students with LD, as spell checkers fail to pick out homonyms, the correct word may not be found given the way the student has spelled the target word, or the student cannot always identify the correct spelling (MacArthur & Graham, 1996). Yet, when paired with other assistive technology (e.g., text-to-speech technology) spell checkers can increase a student with LD independence during the editing stage (Montgomery & Marks, 2006). Graphic Organizers and Planning Tools Struggling writers often skip important steps, such as the planning, revising, and editing stages during the writing process (Santangelo & Olinghouse, 2009). When students are taught directly strategies on how to use a graphic organizer that aid in revising and editing, students are more likely to be

Assistive Technology for Students with Learning Disabilities


successful during the writing process steps (MacArthur, 2009). Graphic organizers can be utilized in paper, software, or online formats to aid in the planning and revision of writing content (Santangelo & Olinghouse). Graphic organizers allow students to visually represent their ideas or text structure. Blair, Ormsbee, and Brandes (2002) studied use of a graphic organizer software with 24 seventh- and eighth-grade students with mild disabilities. Although the duration of the intervention time was short, students consistently and effectively used graphic organizer software (i.e., Inspiration) to plan and organize their writing, produced longer and higher quality writing pieces, and presented a more positive attitude to writing. The ease in which a student can revise while using a word processor encourages higher quality revisions when paired with a revising or editing strategy (Hetzroni & Shrieber, 2004). Another tool to aid in organization and planning is part of a ‘‘suite’’ of software tools, meaning a combination of assistive technology that supports reading and writing. An example of this type is SOLO Literacy Suite by Don Johnston. This suite of products contains word prediction software, talking word processing software, graphic organization and text reader, which are all assistive technology tools to help with the writing process. The graphic organization software called Draft Builder within the SOLO Literacy Suite functions as a graphic organizer to aid in the process of planning and organizing writing for students with LD. Included in the SOLO Literacy Suite is a product called Co-Writer, which functions as a word prediction software. Word prediction software suggests frequently used vocabulary correctly spelled and the user can insert this into the writing (SOLO, Don Johnston, Incorporated, 2011). Word prediction aids in the revision process along with reviewing the original graphic organizer. A word processor that reads text enables students to hear their own writing to read them aloud. Favorable findings of substantial benefits for students with disabilities in the area of writing have been found while using the SOLO Literacy Suite (Center for Literacy & Disability Studies, 2006).

Mathematics Technology to support mathematics for students with LD includes not only that which can support access to the mathematics (e.g., literacy tools) but also tools to support both computation and problem-solving. In addition to the mathematics-specific technology that will be discussed to assist students with LD, increased attention has been paid to the area of eText or supported



eText within the domain of mathematics for students with disabilities (Anderson-Inman, 2009; Anderson-Inman & Horney, 1998). For example, Lewis, Noble, and Soiffer (2010) explored the provision of a middle school mathematics textbook through digital means (i.e., a digital or eText) for students with LD. Their pilot work indicated that students enjoyed using the digital text, felt more independent, and experienced higher scores using the digital textbook. Research-supported mathematics-specific technologies for students with LD include the calculator (i.e., four-function, scientific, or graphing), manipulatives, computer-assisted instruction (CAI), and anchored instruction (Bouck & Flanagan, 2009). Although research on calculator use for students with LD is limited – most is focused on calculators as an accommodation on assessments – the little literature on students with high incidence disabilities in general is supportive of calculator use (Bouck, Joshi, & Johnson, in press; Bethell & Miller, 1998; Horton, Lovitt, & White, 1992). For example, Bouck et al. (in press) found students with and without disabilities who used calculators on multiple-choice and open-ended problems were more likely to answer questions correctly. Further, a strong research base from the field of general education exists to support calculator use with students, such as improved problem-solving skills, improved conceptual understanding, and no negative consequences to skill development (Burrill et al., 2002; Ellington, 2003). In addition, calculators can also lighten the cognitive load for students with LD (Sharma & Hannafin, 2007). Concrete manipulatives also have a strong literature base for their use with students with and without disabilities (Funkhouser, 1995; Huntington, 1995; Peterson, Mercer, & O’Shea, 1988). In fact, use of concrete manipulatives is considered a best practice for mathematics education of secondary students with disabilities (Maccini & Gagnon, 2000; Miller, Butler, & Lee, 1998). Researchers found use of concrete manipulatives resulted in students successfully solving mathematics word problems (e.g., a geoboard for solving area and perimeter problems or Cuisenaire rods for learning correct operations) (Cass, Cates, Smith, & Jackson, 2003; Marsh & Cooke, 1996). Concrete manipulatives can support students in learning through a hands-one experience (Underhill, 1981) and can be used to assist students with LD in developing conceptual understanding through progressing from concrete (i.e., physical, concrete manipulative, such as tiles or fraction strips) to semiconcrete (i.e., pictorial representations) to abstract (i.e., symbols, such as numbers and operations), known as the concrete–semiconcrete–abstract (CSA) approach (Jordan, Miller, & Mercer, 1998; Underhill, 1981).

Assistive Technology for Students with Learning Disabilities


Beyond concrete manipulatives, teachers can consider using virtual manipulatives which are typically virtual replicas of the concrete objects or, in other words, interactive online tools (Moyer, Bolyard, & Spikell, 2002; Reimer & Moyer, 2005). While little research exists on virtual manipulatives to support students with LD in mathematics, this technology remains an option, particularly for teachers who may have limited access to concrete manipulatives (e.g., tiles for teaching area and perimeter or base 10 blocks for teaching addition and subtraction; see Bouck & Flanagan, 2010 for a detailed discussion of different Web sites for virtual manipulatives and examples of how to implement them in practice). The research on virtual manipulatives for students in general is positive in terms of student learning as well as student motivation (Reimer & Moyer, 2005; Steen, Brooks, & Lyon, 2006; Suh, Moyer, & Heo, 2005). CAI is another popular use of a computer to support students with LD in mathematics. CAI is defined as ‘‘computer programs that provide drill-andpractice, tutorial, or simulation activities offered either by themselves or as supplements to traditional, teacher directed instruction’’ (Cotton, 1991, p. 2). Although researchers studying students with high incidence disabilities – including students with LD – found CAI offered benefits to students in terms of computation and problem-solving (e.g., Fuchs, Fuchs, Hamlet, Powell, Capizzi, & Seethaler, 2006; Irish, 2002; Mastropieri, Scruggs, & Shiah, 1997; Seo & Bryant, 2010; Xin, 1999), a recent metaanalysis by Seo and Bryant (2009) to explore CAI and mathematics for students with LD reported the effectiveness of CAI for mathematics performance was inconclusive from the 11 students they reviewed between 1980 and 2008. However, it should be noted that the studies reviewed had methodological flaws that may have contributed to the results as well as primarily focused on elementary-aged students and basic facts (e.g., addition or multiplication; Seo & Bryant). Regardless, if teachers use CAI to support students with LD in mathematics, they should seek programs that particularly target students with LD or include evidence-based practices for teaching this population (Seo & Bryant, 2009). The final research-supported mathematics technology for students with LD is anchored instruction (i.e., video presentation of an applied mathematics lesson or problem in which the content is situated within a real-word context (Bottge, Heinrichs, Chan, Mehta, & Watson, 2003; Bottge, Heinrichs, Chan, & Serlin, 2001; Bottge, Heinrichs, Mehta, & Hung, 2002)). Bottge et al. (2001, 2002, 2003) research on anchored instruction indicated students with LD improved in their mathematical problem-solving after engaging with the anchored instruction and did so more than students



who received traditional instruction. Anchored instruction allows students with LD to access and engage in problem-solving skills that extend beyond computation (see Table 3 for examples of mathematics assistive technology).

Organization and Self-Management Assistive technology can also assist students with LD in other areas of school and postschool lives. Although lacking in a substantial research base, students with LD may benefit from assistive technology in terms of executive functions, such as organization and memory (Johnson, K.L., Dudgeon, Kuehn, & Walker, 2007). Also, it should be noted that teachers rate organizational behaviors (e.g., being prepared for class, making deadlines, following directions, and neatness and organization) as beneficial to academic outcomes (McMullen, Shippen, & Dangel, 2007). Common technology that makes life easier for individuals can act as assistive technology for students with LD in terms of executive functioning (Bouck et al., 2012; Johnson, K.L., et al., 2007). For example, students with LD can use smartphones, personal digital assistants, handheld devices (e.g., iPod or iPad), and smartpens (e.g., Livescribet – the Pulse and Echo) to assist with organization and memory (Johnson, K.L., et al., 2007; LoPresti, Mihailidis, & Kirsch, 2004). These handheld, portable devices can provide accessibility as well as support students who struggle with organization and memory (e.g., calendar features, notetaking with audio recording, and reminders – visual Table 3. Math

Math Assistive Technology.

How Is Supports


Aid in computation


Real or Virtual Provides visual or tactile representations of math problems Provides drill and skill practice or tutorials in the area of math Authentic applied problemsolving using video presentations

ComputerAssisted instruction Anchored instruction

Examples Four-function, graphing and scientific calculators Geoboards, Cuisenaire rods, pictorial representations, and symbols and virtual minapulatives Math Forum at Drexel http://mathforum.org/arithmetic/ arith.software.html The Adventures of Jasper Woodbury from Peabody at Vanderbilt University http://peabody.vanderbilt.edu/projects/ funded/jasper/Jasperhome.html

Assistive Technology for Students with Learning Disabilities


and auditory) (Shrieber & Seifert, 2009). Livescribet smartpens operate like regular pens, but they also have a built-in microphone and camera to record what students are writing as well as dialogue occurring (e.g., record a teacher’s lecture). Other technology can be used to actively teach students with LD selfmanagement skills. Fitzgerald and colleagues examined computer-based technology (e.g., software) to support students in regulating their behavior and academic performance. At a basic level, Fitzgerald and Werner (1996) developed and successfully used a ‘‘computerized verbal mediation essay’’ with a student to regulating his behavior. More recently, Fitzgerald and colleagues developed the KidTool Support Systemt (KTSS), an electronic performance support system designed to target behavior and academic performance of students with high incidence disabilities (Mitchem, Kight, Fitzgerald, & Koury, 2007). Programs within the KTSS support and teach students regulation, problem-solving, organization, and learning strategies (Fitzgerald & Koury, 2001–2002, 2004–2005; Fitzgerald & Semrau, 2000). Research supports the use of these self-management tools for improving academic achievement for students with LD (Miller, Fitzgerald, Koury, Mitchem & Hollingsead, 2007; Mitchem et al., 2007). Increasingly advanced forms of technology are being used for organizational purposes for students in schools, although the lower-tech form of datebooks and school planners still exist. For example, students can use personal data managers to help them to organize their calendars as well as keep track of assignments, and increasingly personal data managers are being delivered via an app on a piece of technology students already possess (e.g., iPod, iPad, smartphone) rather than a stand-alone technology. However, one stand-alone tool to support students with organization and memory is the WatchMinder (2011). The WatchMinder is a sports watch that can be programmed to provide 30 alarms in addition to 65 preprogrammed messages. Students can be reminded not only about taking medication, but also to turn in an assignment or study for a test as well as simply being prompted to pay attention.

Universal Design for Learning Related, but not exclusive to assistive technology, is the concept of Universal Design for Learning to support students with LD. UDL – a concept that focuses on multiple means of presentation, multiple means of engagement, and multiple means of expression – often utilizes assistive



technology to create accessible learning for students with disabilities (CEC, 2005; Pisha & Coyne, 2001). Rose, Hasselbring, Stahl, and Zabala (2005) advocated that UDL and assistive technology had similar goals but approached the goals differently. Specifically, Rose et al. (2005) indicated assistive technology offers an individual solution to access and participation, whereas UDL provides an environmental and larger contextual solution. UDL focuses on choice reflective in teachers providing multiple ways of representing or presenting the learning, multiple ways for students to engage with the learning, and multiple ways to express the learning. Often technology supports the implementation of UDL into a classroom and a teacher’s teaching (CEC, 2005). Although UDL is endorsed as an effective teaching approach – one that involves making learning accessible to all from the beginning rather than providing as many individual accommodations to particular students – few examples exist for teachers in terms of what UDL might look like in a classroom (Bouck, Courtad, Okolo, Englert, & Heutsche, 2009; Hitchcock, 2001). While limited existing examples are available, some include: allowing students to create a poster or a movie to demonstrate understanding of a concept (Meo, 2008; Samuels, 2007); using Virtual History Museum for instruction in social studies (Bouck et al., 2009); and offering multiple instructional resources that students can select when learning about a concept or unit (e.g., e-text, Webquests, assistive technology, or CAST’s (n.d.) Lesson Builder, Book Builder, or UDL Editions) (Behrmann, 2001; Hitchcock, Meyer, Rose, & Jackson, 2002; Kelly, 2000).While the concept of UDL is encouraging, Edyburn (2010) cautions that if more thought is not given about valuing diversity of learners, measuring UDL, and practicality of teachers implementing UDL, it will become another passing education fad.

CONCLUSION Assistive technology benefits students with LD (Lewis, 2005). Not only does assistive technology promote access, such as what a text-to-speech reader or ebook does for printed text, but it also can improve students’ success. Hence, assistive technology should always be a consideration for students with LD. Assistive technology holds promise to support students with LD in the core content areas (e.g., literacy, mathematics) as well as with other areas of known struggle, such as organization and self-management.

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While this chapter sought to present readers with overarching areas of assistive technology for students with LD as well as some specific tools, it is important to remember that assistive technology – reflective of technology in general – is changing at a rapid pace. Technology is also becoming increasingly present in all teaching and learning, including that of students with LD (Courtad & Bakken, 2011). Although it is not possible to predict where technology will take us in the future, it is likely to continue down the path of greater portability and increased access for all (Shilov, 2010). It may also be in the future that assistive technology becomes less specialized devices and more like common everyday devices that are repurposed to support students with disabilities, such as iPods, pentop computers, and video games (Bouck et al., 2012). Whatever the future holds, it will include technology and technology will continue to provide support and level the playing field for students with LD in school.

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FAMILIES AND STUDENTS WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES Christopher D. Yawn, Joanne M. Hill, Festus E. Obiakor, Don T. D. Gala and Jessica Neu ABSTRACT Families of students with learning disabilities (LD) have much to offer school professionals. When effective collaboration between schools and parents occur, cultural considerations are made to ensure that a relationship of mutual respect and trust is developed. Families can assist teachers and service providers by implementing supplemental instruction for their children to strengthen and generalize the academic and social skills they were taught in school. This chapter illustrates how training parents is a critical component for any parental involvement model. Additionally, simple evidence-based practices that parents can conduct daily with their children are provided. Finally, as a result of their collaboration with school professionals, families and students with LD should feel empowered and confident in their abilities as advocates.

The parents of students with learning disabilities (LD) have been and continue to be the most essential resource for the educational development of their children. The value parents add to the learning experiences of their

Learning Disabilities: Practice Concerns and Students with LD Advances in Special Education, Volume 25, 175–188 Copyright r 2013 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited All rights of reproduction in any form reserved ISSN: 0270-4013/doi:10.1108/S0270-4013(2013)0000025012




children is immense and cannot be duplicated. Likewise, the services that parents provide when their children enroll in formal education are critical to their child’s success. Furthermore, support from parents often helps to create and/or strengthen school practices (Cook, Shepherd, Cook, & Cook, 2012). For students with LD, it is especially critical that parents be involved in the educational process. Historically, as well as currently, many have not substantively been included in the planning, design, and implementation of their child’s individual education program (IEP) (Martin, Marshal, & Sale, 2004). Because of this and the value that has been placed on parental input, legal mandates have been put in place to ensure that parents of students with disabilities be included in the IEP process (IDEIA, 2004). Collaboration with parents is significant, and in some ways, the paradigm has shifted from them simply being recipients of professional decisions to an actual contributor in the decision-making process. While progress has been made and parental involvement is legally mandated, many issues surrounding the extent to which parents can participate still remain. Perhaps much of the trepidation professionals have with fully collaborating with parents is a naive belief that educational professionals are more knowledgeable about the child and know how to address his/her academic deficits better than their parents. In many instances, it may be the case that professionals are more knowledgeable about the most effective instructional strategies for working with students with disabilities. However, parents should be respected and value should be placed on their contributions, because they were the child’s first educator and continue to impart valuable knowledge unto them. The Individuals with Disabilities Educational Improvement Act (IDEIA) is known for safeguarding the provision of a free and appropriate public education for all students with disabilities (IDEIA, 2004). For some parents of children with LD who are beginning school, an adversarial relationship and/or lack of collaboration between the school and parents already exists. Often, this situation plateaus because parents carry with them the damaging experiences that they had as students. In addition, there is an accepted culture of parental confrontation within the school; and some teachers hold a disillusioned ideology about being a teacher in an urban school (Boyd & Correa, 2005; Harry, 2002). Gordon and Miller (2003) conducted a study in an urban school district in which more than 200 school professionals and 80 parents participated in interviews to examine the self-efficacy of parents as contributing members to their child’s IEP. According to the data collected, nearly 10 families were not aware that their child was receiving special education services, and approximately 30 families acknowledged their children’s participation in a special education program but had little

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knowledge or understanding about their child’s disability and the services they were receiving. As the data pointed out, 45% of the families were not acquainted with their child’s IEP and mandated services. Contrarily, school professionals perceived parents and families to be knowledgeable about the IEP and felt that their school district was successful at facilitating collaboration (Gordon & Miller, 2003). Such incongruence in perspective contributes to ineffective collaboration and presents barriers. When mutual respect is achieved and open communication exists, parents and professionals benefit. Moreover, effective collaboration between families and professionals promote a system in which both parties can work together to achieve shared goals for the student (Mueller, 2009). Effective collaboration with families and students with LD should go beyond the annual IEP meeting. Collaboration should empower students with disabilities and their families and be strategically used to buttress academic and social skills taught within the school. This is the context of this chapter.

CULTURAL CONSIDERATIONS IN SCHOOL-FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS Trust is a monumental phenomenon that is at the heart of any successful relationship. Researchers have suggested that culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) families have a distinct mistrust toward formal American institutions, because of historic and present day discriminatory practices (Boyd & Correa, 2005; Harry, 2002; Obiakor, 2008). Overt and covert racism increases the likelihood that CLD students are singled out for special education, and that their parents are falsely labeled as lackadaisical and uncaring. While much has been done to combat these prejudices in education (Hogan & Mallott, 2005), the realities of CLD overrepresentation in special education and school segregation still persist (McArdle, Osypuk, & Acevedo-Garcia, 2010; Obiakor, 2007). Consequently, many CLD parents’ first instinct when they are told their child requires special education is that their child is being prejudicially treated and placed on a track for failure (Blanchett, Mumford, & Beachum, 2005). Today, one of the cited causes of the disproportionate rates of diagnosis is the misclassification of English Language Learners (ELL) as students requiring special education (Macswan & Rolstad, 2006). This misclassification is often due to the diagnostician’s or tester’s lack of knowledge about how to accurately assess the knowledge of CLD students. For example, the



use of the intelligence quotient (IQ) – achievement discrepancy model has been raised as an issue of concern in the diagnosing of students with LD to such an extent that the 2004 IDEIA encourages Response to Intervention (RtI) models as an identification method. As it appears, CLD families are greatly impacted by their cultural understanding of disability and educators’ reactions to it. Identification of and responses to various disabilities can be culturally distinct (Anastasiou & Kauffman, 2012). How families from CLD backgrounds determine what is considered a disability, what requires treatment or therapy, and who should provide treatment can differ tremendously (Fadiman, 1998; Ingstad & Whyte, 1995; Kleinman & Good, 1985). For example, an educator may make a referral for a special education evaluation, concerned that a child has LD. The student’s parent may instead see the child’s ‘‘disability’’ as a special form of learning, a spiritual possession, or a gender- or age-related behavior that does not warrant attention. Educators may see any of these parental responses as neglectful or ill-informed, but cultural perspectives of how parents may understand their child’s differences must be acknowledged. How the student becomes identified as needing special education and what that special programming includes is also very culture specific. The majority of assessment instruments and programming strategies have been historically developed and normreferenced using data from Western countries and cultures (Rose & Huefner, 1984). When educators discuss disability and how it is addressed culturally in the United States, they must remain sensitive and tolerant of parents’ varied cultural perspectives. To achieve effective collaboration with CLD families and students with LD their feelings must be acknowledged. Next, school personnel must actively engage in building trust with the CLD families they serve. Determining how to build trust need not be an overly complex task; in many ways, it is the extension of common courtesies that one would expect in any relationship. To create a positive partnership with schools, parents have identified frequent, open, and honest communication as a primary factor (Blue-Banning, Summers, Frankland, Nelson, & Beegle, 2004). Similarly, parents would like education professionals to be forthright about issues of concern with their child, but to frame it in a manner that does not place blame and is sensitive to the fact that it is their child being discussed (Blue-Banning et al., 2004). Finally, parents expressed contempt toward service providers who do not disclose information about available resources (Blue-Banning et al., 2004). In sum, these are many of the contextual factors related to trust, which is a necessary element for enabling effective collaboration with CLD families and students with LD.

Families and Students with Learning Disabilities


COLLABORATING WITH FAMILIES TO IMPLEMENT EVIDENCE-BASED PRACTICES As mentioned previously, parents are the first educators of their children; and their ability to teach their children persists and is exercised on a daily basis. The knowledge that students come to schools with is a reflection of the efforts set forth by their families. Indeed, not all children are equipped with the prerequisite skills necessary to quickly grasp new concepts presented in formal educational settings. However, all students are capable of learning, and most parents are willing to assist in the process, if they receive adequate training and are given guidance from educational professionals. Early Intervention Parents are the first to witness when their child hits his/her developmental milestones. While there is variance from child to child in hitting milestones, extreme delays are usually the first indicators that something is wrong (American Psychiatric Association, 2000; NICHCY, 2010). One of the most telling signs that a child may have a disability is delays in language development (Kaiser & Roberts, 2011). Often, this can trigger parental concerns, and this subsequently forces them to have their child evaluated. If they receive a disability diagnosis, they may go through a grieving process (Johnson, 1991), and may feel overwhelmed, confused, and in need of help obtaining services for their child. Early intervention programs are available to all families of children with disabilities and provide children and families with services such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, counseling, social services, and special education instruction in their homes, at daycare, and at other convenient locations (New York State Department of Health, 2012). Early intervention programs should prepare children for entering pre-school and kindergarten, identify children with disabilities, and prepare parents in advocating for their child. Most importantly, parents and professionals should work together to create and implement an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) that documents the child’s strengths and needs, designates the number of hours of special education or related services a child needs, sets goals for the child’s progress, determines how progress will be measured, and details the services and supports that caregivers will receive from early intervention. At age 3, if the child is still eligible for services, parents can determine if they would like to continue receiving services through the early intervention



program, or if they would like to transition the child to preschool services. If parents choose to transition to preschool services, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is developed for the child. Without guidance, it can be difficult for parents to transition with their child from program to program and ensure that their voice is heard. Headstart initiatives aim to identify and support students with disabilities through intensive services, and parental involvement is strongly encouraged. More importantly, they are empowered with knowledge that can help them effectively advocate for their child. Headstart even developed checklists for parents to use during the IEP/IFSP processes (National Headstart Association, 1998). The training material titled Translating the IEP into Everyday Practice (National Headstart Association, 1998) aims to inform teachers about federal and state laws that (a) protect the rights of students and their families, (b) involve parents in the assessment process to determine their child’s strengths and needs, and (c) inform parents about community support/advocacy groups. Research indicates that parent training, active parental involvement, and strong communication between the home and school have positive effects on student outcomes (Epstein & Saunders, 2000). Furthermore, parents who receive training can have a greater impact on student outcomes than parents who are not, and equipping parents with the skills to implement strategies that teachers and service providers use allows for students to better generalize behaviors learned in the school setting. Many students with LD have the issue of comorbidity of emotional behavioral disorders (Glassberg, Hooper, & Mattison, 1999; Lopes, 2005). Therefore, families and students with LD could benefit from interventions designed to deal with problematic behaviors. Reid, Webster-Stratton, and Hammond (2007) conducted a study with 1152 kindergarten and first-grade students and parents from low SES communities. Participants were placed in one of three groups: (a) group one students received typical in-class instruction with no parent training component; (b) group two students received typical in-class instruction and social skills training with no parent training component; and (c) group three students received typical in-class instruction and social skills training with a parent training component. The social skills training for groups two and three occurred twice a week for 15– 20 minutes and was delivered by the classroom teacher. Parent training, for those in group three, occurred in two to three hour sessions, once a week for a total of 12–14 sessions. Results indicated that students who received the classroom training exhibited less behavioral problems than students who did not. Students who received the classroom-based intervention and whose parents participated in the parent training had significantly less behavioral

Families and Students with Learning Disabilities


problems in and out of school than the other groups. Additionally, teachers reported that parents from group three became more involved with school activities than parents in the other groups. In another study, Bahadourian and Greer (2005) examined the effects of a parent training program that taught parents how to apply principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Training sessions were for one hour and individualized to address specific needs of the parent’s child, and reading assignments were given to supplement the principles discussed during sessions. Additional components of the parent training program included trainings in social and academic skills, data collection, and analysis. The training program was designed to equip parents with the ability to implement behavioral strategies, and make data-based decisions to change or maintain strategies being used. Findings from this study revealed an increased rate of compliance and an increase in appropriate play with siblings. Increasingly, the value of parent training is being realized. Researchers are increasingly including parent training as a component of their interventions. Educational institutions have created parent-training models to educate, empower, and endorse collaboration between the home and school. The ability that parents have to decrease problematic behaviors and provide replacement behaviors for their children is evident. Therefore, parent training is an essential component of any intervention aimed at addressing the social and academic deficits of students with LD.

Increasing Student Opportunities to Learn It is common knowledge that repeated practice of a skill will increase the likelihood that the individual will demonstrate improvements of that skill (Williams, Klubnik, & McCall, 2009). Thus, it is significant to note the importance of collaboration between teachers and families. Families are a primary source that interacts with the student more than anyone and can act as a conduit to promote the generalization of skills learned at school. Indeed, there are some skills and concepts that should be left to the expertise of teachers who are professionally prepared; however, if appropriately trained, family members can act as teachers at home who supplement instruction provided for their child at school. Not utilizing the instructional capacity or capability of the families of students with LD is wasteful and a disservice to the student. As it is commonly known, most learning disability diagnoses stem from reading deficits (Spafford & Grosser, 2005). Up to 80% of all students with specific LD have deficits in reading (LDonline, 2010) and



many reading problems are originated within the home (Hart & Risley, 1995). This is especially the case for families from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds. Hart and Risley (1995) revealed that even before entering school, children from privileged homes were exposed to more diverse language at a substantially greater rate than poor children. Implications of this are that children from privileged homes enter school with a greater level of vocabulary, and the gap between these groups potentially will never close because one never stops acquiring vocabulary (Hart & Risley, 1995). Related to these implications, the origins of reading failure among older struggling readers can be traced back to as early as kindergarten (Torgeson et al., 2001). The National Reading Panel (NRP) was a panel of reading experts, assembled by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), to identify the most effective methods for teaching reading (NICHD, 2000). After extensive research, the NRP identified five essential components of reading proficiency, namely, (a) phonemic awareness, (b) phonics, (c) fluency, (d) vocabulary, and (e) comprehension (NICHD, 2000). When placing this in the context of parent collaboration, the fact is many of them are not aware of the multiple component skills necessary for their children to become proficient readers. Thus, they do not know about simple exercises they can do with their children to prepare them for school or maintain skills learned at school. Herein is the potential for educators to empower families and students with LD. Phonemic Awareness and Phonics Phonemic awareness is an understanding that all spoken words are made up of individual units of sound, called phonemes (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998). Phonics is a method of instruction that teaches correspondence between graphemes and phonemes and their use in reading and spelling (Ehri, 2004). For both of these skills, educators and service providers could train parents in activities that they could do with their children. Such activities could include word segmenting (i.e., segmenting a word into individual phonemes), word blending (i.e., blending phonemes together to say a word), rhyming (i.e., saying words that are phonetically similar), letter identification, and letter sounds. Practicing these skills with children could easily be implemented throughout the course of the day and coincide with daily activities. For example, a parent could work on segmenting and blending exercises while doing chores by saying to the child, ‘‘I am using a mop. Mmmm-ooo-p. Mop, now you do it!’’ y child responds correctly y parent says, ‘‘great job!’’ Similarly, a parent could work on rhyming by saying, ‘‘I must dust. How do dust and must sound similar? How do dust

Families and Students with Learning Disabilities


and must sound different?’’ These are prerequisite skills to reading that would benefit children most prior to entering school. However, there are older struggling readers who struggle with these skills and also could benefit from extra practice with these skills. Fluency Reading fluency is the ability to read text quickly, accurately, and with proper expression. Reading fluency allows a reader to increase his/her exposure to text and ensures the effort needed to comprehend text is not expended on effortful decoding and word recognition (Kuhn & Stahl, 2003). For parents with non-reading or low-level readers, they could focus on proper expression by exaggerating different types of sentences (e.g., interrogative, declarative, and exclamatory). For more developed readers, a parent could practice guided oral reading where he/she and the child read aloud together, immediately stopping when errors are made and providing corrective feedback (accuracy) and reading at an appropriate rate. For more advanced exercises, parents could even be trained to conduct repeated readings with their child (see Therrien & Kubina, 2006). Vocabulary and Comprehension Put simply, vocabulary is the understanding of individual words; and comprehension is the understanding of connected text. Text comprehension is the most important skill acquired in school because it allows academic learning, as well as lifelong learning (Mastropieri & Scruggs, 1997; NICHD, 2000). Some of the exercises used with non-readers and low-level readers are the same that are used for stronger readers; the difference is that the stronger reader will do the actual reading himself/herself. Asking and answering questions as text is read is a highly effective method for strengthening comprehension. Therefore, parents can ask plenty of questions when reading to a young child. They can ask about previous scenes and characters in the text. If the child does not recall the answer, this then will allow for the exercise of fix-up strategies (i.e., going back to what was previously read). Based on pictures or headings in text, readers and non-readers can make predictions or make up questions. If parents have access to computers, there are creative online games that they can play with their children to help strengthen vocabulary and comprehension skills. In sum, the overwhelming majority of students with LD have reading deficiencies. Therefore, most would benefit from supplemental reading exercises that their families can be trained to conduct with them. Practicing these skills with children who have not entered school could adequately prepare them and ensure that they will not need to catch up before even



getting started. Arguably, practicing these skills with older struggling readers may be even more vital, because it is less likely that they are receiving a sufficient amount of instruction in reading (Chall & Jacobs, 2003). Therefore, if properly trained, families of students with LD can play an important role in providing evidence-based instruction.

FAMILY ADVOCACY: ‘‘OLD’’ BUT STEADY TREND An advocate has been defined as ‘‘someone who takes up another person’s cause’’ (Apler, Schloss, & Schloss, 1995, p. 261), and it is because of such strong parental advocacy that special education has resulted in positive outcomes such as the passing of the 1990 American with Disabilities Act and the 2004 IDEIA. Throughout time, family support has played a critical role in the lives of individuals with disabilities. Families have advocated on behalf of loved ones to obtain social services and/or employment, so they could be as independent as possible and become vital members of the community. According to Agosta (1989, as cited in Freedman & Boyer, 2000), the key components of family support are as follows: ‘‘(1) services should enable and empower family members to make informed decisions, (2) services should be responsive to the needs of the entire unit and (3) services should be flexible enough to accommodate unique needs’’ (p. 59). One type of active parental involvement has been the formation of parent advocacy and support groups that have been developed in collaboration with school districts. In a qualitative study (Freedman & Boyer, 2000), parents of students diagnosed with a variety of disabilities were asked to participate in one of three focus groups. All participant responses were recorded, transcribed, and coded. A repeated theme that was discovered is that parents strongly feel the need for information regarding programs, services, and information. This type of support was said to have empowered families, enabled them to feel knowledgeable about the types of supports available, and allowed parents to become better advocates and play a greater role in the decision-making process. Another finding revealed that participants felt that increased interagency collaboration was needed. Parents described how lack of communication between agencies caused services to fall short and led to unnecessary replication of paperwork (Freedman & Boyer, 2000). Advocating for families’ rights is an essential component of parent empowerment (Wright & Wright, 2006). When parents are familiar with

Families and Students with Learning Disabilities


educational laws, their rights as parents, and how to utilize those rights to secure services and supports, they feel confident in their ability to collaborate with schools to meet their children’s needs (Bauer & Shea, 2003; Dubos & Fromer, 2006; Fuller & Olsen, 1998). For many parents, accessing basic rights information can have a profound effect. When parents know the laws and their rights, they will also feel more confident to request the services and supports that their children need and have a stronger advocacy voice in IEP and other school meetings. Fortunately, there are many parent advocacy organizations that exist (e.g., National Association for the Education of African American Children with Learning Disabilities, Council for Exceptional Children, and the National Center for Learning Disabilities). Some of these organizations (a) provide advocacy services for parents during important school meetings, (b) help parents to secure specific services and supports for their children, and (c) assist parents in learning about how special education law affects their children. Different families may require more support during some transitions or life events than others. Educators and service providers can work to scaffold parent support and appropriately tailor it to the needs of each individual family (Dukes & Smith, 2007). In the end, providing parents with effective schoolbased supports encourages them to become involved with educational resources and tools at their disposal and to utilize them to meet their children’s needs.

CONCLUSION Often, families are the recipients of information that is not fully explained. For example, in IEP meetings, professional jargon and acronyms are thrown around as though they are common terms. Some parents possess the skills necessary to navigate the system and subsequently obtain the supports needed for their child, others have the resources to retain legal help to ensure their child is receiving the services that he/she is entitled to. But there are many who are left to fend for themselves. Often, it is overlooked that parents are key players in the decision-making process and that the decisions made also affect their lives. Nevertheless, many are placed in the vulnerable position of begrudgingly having to rely on the judgments of school personnel. Ultimately, they have no choice, but to go along with the recommendations they are given. From our perspective, effectively working with families and students with LD means bimodal, open communication between parents and the school.



We believe school personnel must actively build trust between themselves and parents, and empowering parents with the skills to be effective service deliverers and advocates for their children. For many parents, simply providing them with training sessions to address their child’s social and/or academic deficits can have a profound effect in producing positive outcomes. Viewing parents as valuable resources will allow educators to maximize the potential of their students. School personnel who elicit the advice and services of families and students with LD will help them to feel valued and give them reason for increasing their level of participation with the school community.

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Dukes, C., & Smith, M. (2007). Working with parents of children with special educational needs. London: Sage. Ehri, L. C. (2004). Teaching phonemic awareness and phonics: An explanation of the national reading panel meta-analyses. In P. McCardle & V. Chhabra (Eds.), The voice of evidence in reading research (pp. 153–186). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brooks. Epstein, J. L., & Sanders, M. G. (2000). Connecting home, school, and community: New directions for social research. In M. T. Hallinan (Ed.), Handbook of the sociology of education (pp. 285–306). New York, NY: Kluwer Academic. Fadiman, A. (1998). The spirit catches you and you fall down. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. Freedman, R. I., & Boyer, N. C. (2000). The power to choose: Supports for families caring for individuals with developmental disabilities. Health and Social Work, 25(1), 59–68. Fuller, M., & Olsen, G. (1998). Home-school relations: Working successfully with parents and families. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon. Glassberg, L. A., Hooper, S. R., & Mattison, R. E. (1999). Prevalence of learning disabilities at enrollment in special education students with behavioral disorders. Behavioral Disorders, 25(1), 9–19. Gordon, S.M., Miller, H.L. (2003). Parents as active team members: Where does accountability for a child’s special education rest? Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL, April 21–25. Harry, B. (2002). Trends and issues in serving culturally diverse families of children with disabilities. The Journal of Special Education, 36, 131–138. Hart, B., & Risley, T. R. (1995). Meaningful differences in the everyday experience of young American children. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brooks. Hogan, D., & Mallott, M. (2005). Changing racial prejudice through diversity education. Journal of College Student Development, 46, 115–125. Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA). (2004). Public Law No. 108-446, 20 USC y 1400. Ingstad, B., & Whyte, S. R. (1995). Disability and culture. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Johnson, D. (1991). Grieving is the pits. Exceptional Parent, 21, 46–48. Kaiser, A. P., & Roberts, M. Y. (2011). Advances in early communication and language intervention. Journal of Early Intervention, 33, 289–309. Kleinman, A., & Good, B. (1985). Culture and depression: Studies in the anthropology and cross-cultural psychiatry of affect and disorder. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Kuhn, M. R., & Stahl, S. A. (2003). Fluency: A review of developmental and remedial practices. Journal of Educational Psychology, 95(1), 3–21. LDonline. (2010). What is a learning disability. Retrieved from www.ldonline.org/ldbasics/ whatisld. Accessed on September 11, 2012. Lopes, J. (2005). Intervention with students with learning disabilities, emotional and behavioral disorders: Why do we take so long to do it? Education and Treatment of Children, 28, 345–360. Macswan, J., & Rolstad, K. (2006). How language proficiency tests mislead us about ability: Implications for English language learner placement in special education. Teachers College Record, 108, 2304–2328. Martin, J. E., Marshall, L. H., & Sale, P. (2004). A 3-year study of middle, junior high, and high school IEP meetings. Exceptional Children, 70, 285–297.



Mastropieri, M., & Scruggs, T. E. (1997). Best practices in promoting reading comprehension in students with learning disabilities. Remedial & Special Education, 18(4), 198–213. McArdle, N., Osypuk, T., & Acevedo-Garcia, D. (2010, September). Segregation and exposure to high-poverty schools in large metropolitian areas: 2008-09. Retrieved from http:// diversitydata.sph.harvard.edu/Publications/school_segregation_report_pdf. Accessed on September 11, 2012. Mueller, T. (2009). IEP facilitation: A promising approach to resolving conflicts between families and schools. Teaching Exceptional Children, 41, 60–67. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). (2000). Report of the national reading panel. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment of the scientific research literature on groups. NIH Publication No. 00–4754. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. NICHCY). (2010). Developmental milestones. Retrieved from http://nichcy.org/disability/ milestones. Accessed on September 11, 2012. National Headstart Association. (1998). Translating the IEP into everyday practice. Washington, DC: USGO. New York State Department of Health. (2012). Early intervention program. Retrieved from http://www.health.ny.gov/community/infants_children/early_intervention/. Accessed on September 11, 2012. Obiakor, F. E. (2007). Multicultural special education: Effective intervention for today’s schools. Intervention in School and Clinic, 42, 148–155. Obiakor, F. E. (2008). The eight-step approach to multicultural learning and teaching (3rd ed.). Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt. Reid, J. M., Webster-Stratton, C., & Hammond, M. (2007). Enhancing a classroom social competence and problem-solving curriculum by offering parent training to families of moderate- to high-risk elementary school children. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 36(4), 605–620. Rose, E., & Huefner, D. S. (1984). Cultural bias in special education assessment and placement. In T. N. Jones & D. Semler (Eds.), School law update: Preventive school law (pp. 179– 188). Topeka, KS: National Organization on Legal Problems of Education. Snow, C., Burns, M.,, & Griffin, P. (Eds.). (1998). Preventing reading difficulties in young children. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Spafford, C. A., & Grosser, G. S. (2005). Dyslexia and reading difficulties: Research and resource guide for working with all struggling readers (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Pearson. Therrien, W. J., & Kubina, R. M. (2006). Developing reading fluency with repeated reading. Intervention in School and Clinic, 41, 156–160. Torgeson, J. K., Alexander, A. W., Wagner, R. K., Rashotte, C. A., Voeller, K. K. S., & Conway, T. (2001). Intensive remedial instruction for children with severe reading disabilities: Immediate and long-term outcomes from two instructional approaches. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 34, 33–58,78. Williams, J. C., Klubnik, C., & McCall, M. (2009). Three versus six rereadings of practice passages. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42, 375–380. Wright, P., & Wright, P. (2006). Wrightslaw: From emotions to advocacy-the special education survival guide (2nd ed.). Hartfield, VA: Harbor House Law Press.

TEACHER PREPARATION FOR STUDENT DIVERSITY AND DISABILITIES: CHANGING ROLES IN RESPONSE TO INTERVENTION MODELS Wendy Cavendish and Anabel Espinosa ABSTRACT This chapter examines best practice and burgeoning needs within general and special education teacher preparation programs as identified within the literature and as evidenced in recent research (Cavendish, Harry, Menda, Espinosa, & Mahotiere, 2012) that examined the beliefs and practices of current educators teaching within schools utilizing a response to intervention (RtI) model. Specifically, our discussion of the emerging needs in teacher preparation programs that prepare both general and special education teachers for assessment, instructional delivery, and progress monitoring within an RtI framework is informed by a 3-year research project of the initial implementation of an RtI model in a diverse, urban school district. Implications for practice include the need to: (a) address deficit perspectives of culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD)

Learning Disabilities: Practice Concerns and Students with LD Advances in Special Education, Volume 25, 189–205 Copyright r 2013 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited All rights of reproduction in any form reserved ISSN: 0270-4013/doi:10.1108/S0270-4013(2013)0000025013




students and youth with disabilities, (b) address changing perceptions of the function of special education, and (c) communicate the need for greater collaboration across silos within teacher preparation programs.

Consistent disproportionality in high incidence special education categories and the maintenance of the achievement gap in outcomes for youth of color and students with disabilities has fueled the discourse around methods of best preparing teachers to meet the needs of the most vulnerable student populations (Cartledge & Kourea, 2008; Trent, Kea, & Oh, 2008). Preparing educators for effective teaching of students of various academic abilities and culturally and linguistically diverse (CLD) backgrounds is one of the most challenging tasks faced by general and special education teacher preparation programs as it requires preservice teachers and teacher educators to reexamine their ideologies (Ladson-Billings, 1994, 2001; Milner, 2010; Pugach & Seidl, 1998) and confront inequity (Ford & Quinn, 2010; Harry & Klingner, 2006). Pugach and Seidl (1998) explicitly identified issues around the intersection of disability and diversity in teacher preparation programs and noted that the ‘‘unexamined pairing of disability with diversity in special education reform is extremely problematic’’ (p. 320). Changing student demographics have increased the demand for multicultural perspectives in education, and the poor academic outcomes among CLD students and youth with disabilities have intensified the focus on educational reform efforts (e.g., NCLB and IDEA) that promise to improve outcomes for diverse youth. Although the 2008 Schools and Staffing Survey demonstrates that white, non-Hispanic teachers constitute the majority of public school teachers (83.5%) (NCES, 2009), data from the 2004 National Education Association (NEA) report indicates when students are taught with culturally responsive techniques and content-specific strategies, they make significant academic gains, regardless of teachers’ racial/ethnic background. Thus, the need for a continued shift to a more responsive and inclusive focus in teacher education programs for general and special education is evident. Teacher preparation in the field of special education in particular has evolved from medical models of disability and distinct clinical approaches to more inclusive models of educational environments for instructional delivery to students with learning disabilities (LD) (Brownell, Sindelar, Kiely, & Danielson, 2010). Legislative mandates spanning the Education for all Handicapped Children Act in 1975 to the Individuals with Disabilities


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Education Act (IDEA, 1997, 2004) reflect the changing concepts that have required adaptation of teacher preparation approaches. However, the strain of the shift and the historic relationship between disability and pathology has promoted feelings of inadequacy among many general education teachers and schools when presented with the diverse learning needs of students (Skrtic, 1991) whereby general education teachers frequently believe they cannot meet the needs of those students who fall outside the norm and that placing students in special education is believed to be the best option for both the individual student and the teacher (Cavendish, Harry, Menda, Espinosa, & Mahotiere, 2012). Teachers who are not confident in their ability to teach challenging students are more likely to rate the general education classroom as an inappropriate setting to meet the needs of lowperforming and/or racially/ethnically diverse students (Podell & Soodak, 1993). These issues have remained unresolved and the legislative shift (IDEA, 2004) to Response to Intervention (RtI) models intensifies the need to address the identified divide between general and special education and magnifies the importance of preservice teacher development of culturally responsive instruction within both general and special education teacher preparation programs, particularly if RtI processes are to address inequities among students of color (i.e., disproportionality). Specifically, RtI was to provide an early intervention and contextualized assessment process within general education as part of the process for special education identification that considered a child’s opportunity to learn. Proponents of RtI recommended the use of a dynamic model built around the systematic documentation of student’s response to research-based instructional interventions in general education, primarily in reading (Fuchs & Fuchs, 2007). The tiered model of RtI is designed to provide universal screening and intensified evidence-based interventions and support based on students’ responsiveness to instruction as identified through systematic progress monitoring. The intended goals of RtI models are promising; however, the proposed benefits are largely dependent on training for implementation within schools as well as teacher preparation programs that emphasize the importance of collaboration and cultural responsiveness.

PURPOSE The purpose of this chapter is to discuss best practice and burgeoning needs within general and special education teacher preparation programs



as identified within the literature and as evidenced in recent research that examined the beliefs and practices of current educators teaching within schools utilizing an RtI model (Cavendish et al., 2012). We emphasize the need to: (a) address deficit perspectives of CLD students and youth with disabilities, (b) address changing perceptions of the function of special education, and (c) communicate the need for greater collaboration across silos within teacher preparation programs for both general and special education teachers. We discuss the literature related to these areas and provide illustrative examples from a research project that examined the RtI implementation process in two culturally diverse, urban schools (Cavendish et al., 2012). The school district RtI framework utilized in the participating schools in this project consisted of a three-tier model: Tier 1 included universal screening, progress monitoring, and instructional delivery by the general education teacher in 90-minute reading blocks. Tier 2 delivery was designated for students who were ‘‘non-responders’’ to Tier 1 instruction and consisted of an additional 30 minutes of reading instruction using the Voyager Passport program (the district’s designated Tier 2 intervention for all students). The district had not specified a Tier 3 intervention but schools were to select evidence-based programs for individualized delivery by the general education teacher with part-time assistance from a district interventionist in Tier 3. Data collection in this project was conducted through qualitative semistructured interviews (Patton, 2002) with school faculty (n=14, primarily second- and third-grade reading teachers) and participant observations of classrooms (n=22, primarily second- and third-grade classrooms) and RtI data-based decision-making meetings (n=20). The open-ended interviews and observations probed faculty beliefs and concerns that influenced observed classroom practice. The data was analyzed using an inductive approach (Corbin & Strauss, 2008) moving from open codes to conceptual categories and then to overall patterns in the data. Our intent is not to provide a comprehensive summary of the research project but to highlight statements made by teachers that are illustrative of the patterns relevant to preservice teacher training as they relate to the literature on teacher preparation such as: (a) assumptions regarding diverse learners, (b) confusion related to the purpose of RTI versus special education, and (c) a need for training for collaborative roles within the RtI process.


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BEST PRACTICE: TEACHER PREPARATION PROGRAMS Addressing the Needs of CLD Learners A disconnect has been identified between multicultural theory and classroom practice where program models frequently lack a theoretical framework and solely address intergroup differences often leading to a perpetuation of stereotypes (Trent et al., 2008; Tucker & Herman, 2002; Webb-Johnson, Artiles, Trent, Jackson, & Velox, 1998). Further, research in multicultural education used to inform practice has not consistently examined the relationship between culturally responsive teacher instruction and shifts in thinking alongside student outcomes (Webb-Johnson et al., 1998). A recent study (Utley, Obiakor, & Bakken, 2011) found that preservice teachers reported feeling unprepared to meet the needs of CLD students based on training and experience in coursework or in-service programs. Colon-Muniz, Brady, and Soohoo (2010) agree that little is known about the effectiveness of teacher preparation programs in multicultural education and the effect such programs have on teacher instruction, epistemologies, and beliefs in regards to the instruction of CLD students. Lack of preparation in preservice program coursework or professional inservice programs may translate into feelings of inadequacy once teachers enter classroom environments where student needs are diverse. Our interviews with current teachers in two primarily minority urban schools conducted in 2010–2011 revealed teachers’ feelings of being overwhelmed by the perceived needs of diverse student populations as evidenced in one teacher’s statement, ‘‘y but the needs of our population are far greater than you are going to see in other areas.’’ Sleeter (2012) has cautioned against teachers’ perception of marginalized students in deficit terms as it may lead to negative outcomes for youth. In our research, a deficit perspective based on cultural difference was evidenced in a statement by a school psychologist newly working in a primarily black school where she noted that ‘‘this year I learned the difference between ‘ghetto’ and poor y it’s [poor student performance and behavior] not a matter of poverty.’’ She believed that ‘‘it was more of an attitude’’ passed by parents to their children within this community. These attitudes were not the only attributes believed to be transferred by parents to students. Assumptions regarding parents’ skills were also noted by an administrator to rationalize a student’s responsiveness



to instruction. An administrator in another school, after conducting a data-based decision-making meeting, noted, ‘‘Look at the mother! She looks like she has a cognitive impairment herself. The apple does not fall far from the tree.’’ Deficit perspectives of linguistically diverse youth (e.g., Chu, 2010) was also evident as illustrated by the following statement from a teacher with several low-performing English language learners (ELL) in her third-grade reading class: ‘‘The problem is we don’t think they are ELLs. We think they just don’t pass the test [English proficiency test] because they have learning disabilities.’’ This statement illustrates Barrera and Liu’s (2010) caution to educators to consider the influence of ‘‘variability of (EL) learners exposure to academic learning’’ on linguistically diverse students’ proficiency in learning academic English and the resultant influence of these characteristics on assessment results when examining pre-referral academic progress. These perspectives highlight the need for greater preparation in culturally responsive instructional (CRI) practice in education programs for personnel likely to be working in diverse, urban schools. Merryfield (2000) noted that we need to increase the ‘‘ability of college and university faculty and other teacher educators to prepare teachers for multicultural classrooms and diversity’’ (p. 430). The importance of research and training on CRI practices is echoed in the position of the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education, which advocates for culturally responsive teacher candidates and explicitly calls for teachers who ‘‘value fairness and learning by all students’’ (NCATE, 2002). Intersection of CLD and disability The emphasis on meeting the needs of CLD youth (Cartledge & Kourea, 2008; Trent et al., 2008) coupled with the move toward more inclusive practices in special education (outlined in IDEA, 2004) has led to the consideration of special education or disability as an ‘‘area of diversity’’ within many teacher preparation programs. The Council for Exceptional Children diversity standards are recommended to be infused or embedded within courses across teacher education programs but are often addressed as a separate unit on diversity within programs (Devereaux, Prater, Jackson, Heath, & Carter, 2010). However, many researchers have opposed this approach and noted the importance of viewing disability as situated within a diverse sociocultural framework (Cartledge & Kourea, 2008; Pugach & Seidl, 1998). Trent et al. (2008), in a review of the recent literature, found that the majority of the research on the preparation of preservice teachers for diversity was conducted within general education teacher preparation programs. However, Trent et al. emphasized that such research should

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continue particularly for addressing issues of equity, privilege, and social justice, but there should be an increased focus on the relationship between teacher pedagogy and behaviors in the instruction of CLD students within special education. Within special education, systems responsible for providing support to students with disabilities and their families are often unprepared to deliver culturally responsive services (Blanchett, Klingner, & Harry, 2009). Blanchett et al. noted that ‘‘traditional service delivery models have tended to approach disabilities from the perspective that race, class, cultural beliefs and values, and language do not influence service delivery options’’ (p. 402). Other researchers have also reported that cultural differences in learning are infrequently addressed within special education practice (e.g., in IEPs) (Chu, 2010). Pugach and Seidl (1998) have suggested that the ‘‘disability equals diversity’’ perspective has focused attention on meeting students’ individualized needs but not addressing the issues inherent in a racially stratified educational system. They state that the ‘‘y danger in analogizing diversity and disability is that special educators may believe that because they are committed to educating children with disabilities, they are already attending to diversity’’ (p. 321). The lack of emphasis on cultural diversity within special education teacher preparation programs may also be related to the primary focus on strategy instruction targeted to categorical youth characteristics and differentiation of instruction based on individual performance differences (Trent et al., 2008; Utley, Delquadri, Obiakor, & Mims 2000; Webb-Johnson et al., 1998).

Silos within General and Special Education Teacher beliefs about learning have the potential to impact practice in inclusive settings when faced with the responsibility of educating diverse learners (Jordan, Glenn, & McGhie-Richmond, 2009). Differing beliefs about students’ abilities and learning may pose a significant barrier to collaboration between special education teachers and general education teachers (Winn & Blanton, 2005). Fuchs (2010), through teacher interviews, found that barriers such as lack of school-level administrative support, perceived lack of support from special education teachers, and lack of preparation from preservice programs hindered general education teachers’ attitude toward inclusion and teaching children with disabilities. Specifically, general education teachers identified ‘‘insufficient preservice preparation’’ for their difficulty in differentiating instruction, making



accommodations for youth with disabilities, and in collaboratively working with special education faculty to meet the needs of students with disabilities in an inclusive setting. Pugach, Blanton, and Correa (2011) noted that the current policy environment (NCLB mandates), and particularly IDEA’s inclusion of the RtI option for identification of youth with learning disabilities (LD), has converged in a way that requires teacher preparation programs to examine new ways of ‘‘collaboration across the spectrum of preservice teacher education to transcend the traditional duality of ‘special’ versus ‘general education’ and situate special education within the very diversity of students, families, and communities that lies at the heart of the challenge for general and special education alike’’ (p. 184). Currently, within the RtI framework, general and special education teachers are faced with determining exactly what their responsibilities are across each tier of RtI (Jones, Yssel, & Grant, 2012). Nellis (2012) noted that although RtI was to focus on pre-referral early intervention within general education, many states have included RtI processes within their special education policy and practice regulations, thus shifting the assessment protocols within RtI to special education teachers. As a result, collaboration and ‘‘teaming’’ within RtI must become a focus of both preservice teacher training and professional development for general and special education teachers.

NEW CHALLENGES FOR GENERAL AND SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHERS WITHIN RTI SYSTEMS Most RtI models, although proposed as an early intervention process to reduce failure due to poor instruction and potentially address disproportionate representation in special education, do not explicitly outline methods for providing culturally responsive instruction within RtI frameworks; thus, teacher preparation programs will need to incorporate these strategies if RtI is to meet one of its goals (of reducing disproportionality) in practice. Additionally, most state RtI plans/manuals for implementation do not provide guidance related to specific teacher roles in delivery of interventions at each tier (e.g., Berkeley, Bender, Peaster, & Saunders, 2009; Cavendish et al., 2012; Jones et al., 2012). Therefore, districts and schools implementing RtI must explicitly identify the roles and responsibilities of general and special educators, reading specialists, and interventionists. Teacher preparation programs will also need to address these issues of defining roles and responsibilities across general and special education to prepare preservice teachers to work effectively in today’s schools.

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Meeting the Needs of CLD Learners within the RTI Framework RtI models have been identified with the potential to improve educational opportunities for culturally and linguistically diverse learners and reduce disproportionality (NCCREST, 2005). Cartledge and Kourea (2008) noted that high-quality, research-based instruction and data-based decision making serve as foundational elements for effective RtI implementation and also represent instructional principles integral to culturally responsive classrooms. However, reform efforts (such as RtI) designed for all students are often superimposed on CLD students; thus, challenges in multicultural education and diversity training are frequently added to the pressure behind reform movements aimed at responding to standards (Colon-Muniz et al., 2010). Garcia and Guerra (2004) cautioned that without meaningful commitment to multicultural education principles, deficit beliefs may continue to serve as filters ‘‘that block educators’ abilities to examine their assumptions and look beyond traditional solutions for real and meaningful change’’ (p. 151), thus potentially contributing to a failure of reform efforts. Therefore, there may be risk associated with RtI protocols that are not sensitive to the needs of CLD learners. Specifically, Hosp (n.d.) noted that a strong RtI system must include the use of a universal screening with reliable measures that can be used to make decisions about individual student’s performance. However, no specific assessments are recommended but the IDEA legislation and the universal screening measure is ‘‘often y narrowly conceived, measuring a small set of skills’’ (Walker-Dalhouse et al., 2009, p. 84). Researchers have called for the need to consider instructional strategies and interventions that have been validated on diverse samples that are comparable to those in the target population within classrooms and schools utilizing RtI (Hernandez-Finch, 2012; Klingner & Edwards, 2006). Also, RtI’s emphasis on fidelity of implementation of ‘‘evidence-based’’ intervention/curriculum suggests an approach that offers all students the same curriculum in the same way initially (Klingner & Edwards, 2006; Sleeter, 2012). Artiles, Bal, and Thorius (2010) specify that ‘‘RtI is caught in the equity-difference dilemma as it aims to give the same treatment (i.e., rigorous instruction) to all groups as a way to deliver justice, while it strives to recognize differences so that students with different ability levels receive tailored learning supports’’ (p. 3). Klingner and Edwards (2006) noted that if instruction and interventions are to have the potential to reduce disproportionality in special education referral, the process of assessment and instruction must be flexible enough to allow for contextual differences during delivery (Klingner & Edwards, 2006). Further, Artiles and Kozleski



(2010) argue that ‘‘the use of response, in terms of what students do to demonstrate understanding y assumes that instruction, not the interactions between instructional tasks, social contexts, and learners is the key to learning. The assumptions underlying this view of response and failure miss the sociocultural nature of learning itself’’ (p. 651).

Defining RTI versus Special Education The need for renewed consideration of explicit training for collaboration of general and special education teachers within teacher preparation programs is evidenced within our RtI project in confusion over instructional and decision-making roles within the framework of RtI. The majority of teachers interviewed expressed some level of discomfort and/or confusion over the role that both general and special education teachers were to play within the RtI process. Teachers in general education were uncertain as to their responsibilities in the universal screening and intervention delivery prereferral stages in the RtI system, and special education teachers were uncertain as to their expected role in the Tier 3 intervention delivery and interpretation of progress monitoring data used for entitlement decisions. General education teacher participants in our study expressed beliefs that general education was an inappropriate place for struggling students (a belief incongruent with RtI’s focus on early, pre-referral intervention). A third-grade teacher, responsible for Tier 2 and Tier 3 reading interventions, noted that most of the struggling and disruptive students should be served in special education and that ‘‘in a normal school, they would be in a [special education] class, not in a general education classroom.’’ Another teacher noted that she understood the RtI process as a method to place students in special education: ‘‘We have a lot of special needs children in the school so eventually the RtI process is supposed to get them placed in special education y’’ Further, the perception of Tier 3 in RtI as signifying special education is evident in the statement from a general education teacher who taught in a classroom designated as a ‘‘Tier 3 class,’’ as she noted, ‘‘We were a Tier 3 class. Our kids should have all gone to [special education]. They should all have been placed.’’ The perception that struggling students’ needs cannot be met within general education classrooms is at odds with the purpose of RtI that is to deliver supportive interventions within general education at increasing levels of intensity prior to any consideration of referral to special education. While much confusion can be attributed to lack of administrative clarity at the school level in this study (see Cavendish


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et al., 2012), preservice teacher programs may need to make modifications in order to accommodate the changing protocols within and across classrooms. In particular, we suggest that without explicitly addressing the need for an ideological shift and renewed emphasis on CRI and collaboration within teacher preparation programs (and professional development foci), RtI may potentially facilitate an increased divide between general education and special education (e.g., Orosco & Klingner, 2010).

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR TEACHER PREPARATION PROGRAMS Cultural Responsiveness Culturally relevant pedagogy must be understood as a paradigm for teaching and learning across both general and special education (Sleeter, 2012). As culture permeates learning and behavior, it should be recognized in curriculum and instruction, referral, entitlement determination, and program planning within classrooms of children with and without disabilities (Harris-Murri, King, & Rostenburg, 2006; Utley et al., 2011). Successful teacher training programs must address culture and diversity with sufficient depth to help teachers distinguish between Eurocentric values and learning problems and find strengths amidst cultural differences (Utley et al., 2000). Gay’s (2010) definition of culturally responsive pedagogy in general education aligns with the individualized approach applied to special education as she notes CRI in inclusive settings requires teaching ‘‘to and through [student’s] personal and cultural strengths y intellectual capabilities, and prior accomplishments’’ (p. 26). Culture must be at the forefront of any RtI model if one of the intended goals is to reduce disproportionate representation of CLD learners in special education (Klingner & Edwards, 2006). Therefore, CRI should be at the center of teacher preparation programs that seek to prepare general and special educators to effectively work within RtI frameworks that currently permeate classroom and school practice. We suggest that equity pedagogy can be used as a framework for CRI in teacher preparation programs. Garcia and Guerra (2004) highlight five underlying assumptions of equity pedagogy that can be used as guiding principles within teacher preparation programs across general and special education. We adapt these principles in our specific recommendations for development within current teacher



preparation models. First, social and structural paradigms that significantly influence school culture should be examined (particularly within the context of field experiences and student teaching experiences) for the ways in which they may pathologize or marginalize ‘‘difference.’’ By recognizing school climate and culture, and understanding how it may systematically perpetuate deficit thinking, preservice teachers can reflect and reevaluate their own attribution of success or failure in the classroom in relation to school culture. Second, teacher preparation programs can expand course development in diversity to include not just social class, racial, ethnic, or linguistic diversity but also hierarchical differences between teachers and students. Third, programs should include considerations of intercultural communication, which permeate every aspect of schooling, for example, interactions between teachers, students, families, and communities. Fourth, reflective practice that acknowledges cultural sensitivity and awareness does not automatically result in equity practice and must be modeled. Both insufficient cultural knowledge to develop alternate explanations of student behavior and performance and insufficient opportunities to develop the skills and implement practice within school-based classroom experiences must be addressed. Last and relatedly, professional development activities must systematically and explicitly link knowledge to school-based classroom practice. Participation in field experiences and community-based partnerships prepare future educators for diversity in ways that far surpass the knowledge on multicultural education found in textbooks (Garcia, Arias, Harris-Murri, & Serna, 2010; Peterson, Cross, Johnson, & Howell, 2000; Tucker & Herman, 2002). Once these principles are realized within teacher preparation programs, explicit instruction for effective CRI as used for validation and support of students’ culture and language can be used as a means to differentiate supports within RtI frameworks across general and special education (Utley et al., 2011).

Collaboration across General and Special Education RtI’s increasing implementation affects teachers across both general and special education and presents new challenges in defining roles and responsibilities for assessment, instructional delivery, intervention delivery, and data-based decision making in all classrooms. For RtI to be successful, collaboration is necessary (Nellis, 2012). However, past research has noted challenges to collaboration and co-teaching models both within universities and across general and special education classrooms long before the high

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stakes environment of RtI (e.g., Pugach et al., 1998). Thus, the silos of general and special education have contributed to general education teacher perceptions that struggling student’s needs can only be served in special education (Cavendish et al., 2012). Special and general education practitioners must, therefore, reevaluate beliefs and practices that perpetuate the transfer of responsibility to each other (Jimenez, Graf, & Rose, 2007; Pugach & Seidl, 1998). Collaboration should consist of interaction between professionals with different areas of expertise yet who share goals and responsibilities (Murawski & Hughes, 2009), and parity is critical (Friend & Cook, 2007). Teacher preparation programs must provide not just instruction related to collaborative models but also opportunities for practice in field-based experiences (Hawkins, Kroeger, Musti-Rao, Barnett, & Ward, 2008). Hawkins et al. developed and evaluated a preservice interdisciplinary RtIfocused program that included contextualized (in general education) RtI field experiences for school psychology and special education students. The program was developed to integrate previous and concurrent course content related to: ‘‘(a) collaboration and consultation; (b) elements of RtI: evidence-based prevention, instruction, and intervention; and (c) data-based decision making (including technical adequacy)’’ (p. 747). Hawkins et al. (2008) evaluation of this integrated program led to several recommendations for effective program change to incorporate RtI training models. Specifically, their findings suggest that:  field experiences must be supported by role-specific coursework  interdisciplinary training using a systematic approach is necessary  both general and special education preservice teachers must be trained in and participate in field-based data-based team decision making  programs should include explicit instruction within assessment-related coursework that includes methods for determining ‘‘intervention strength’’ Differentiated Instruction Teacher preparation programs in both general and special education have included methods for differentiation of instruction within course content. However, practical application of these methods may shift within an RtI framework that requires emphasis on selection of appropriate screening and progress monitoring assessments for diverse students, CRI delivery, appropriate selection of ‘‘evidence-based’’ intervention(s), and the ability to effectively access personnel and school resources and collaborate



systematically with other school professionals. Jones et al. (2012) suggest that systems for identifying evidence-based strategies for diverse youth must be available to all educators. They suggest that for RtI to realize its potential, general education teachers should embed evidence-based interventions (previously the domain of special educators) within Tier 1 of the RtI process, which would require cross-disciplinary training in teacher preparations programs. Additionally, universal design for learning (UDL) models could be taught across disciplines in order to better meet the needs of diverse students. UDL principles are congruent with the problem-solving models of RtI as UDL provides a flexible approach to creating instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments that can be customized and adjusted for individual student needs and be implemented with diverse student populations (NCUDL, 2012). The principles of UDL emphasizes teachers’ explicit use of: multiple means of representation in presenting content; multiple means of action or engagement for students to participate in learning activities related to content; and multiple means of expression for students to demonstrate knowledge of content. Within UDL, students’ background knowledge and experiences can serve as a springboard for instruction, thus aligning with principles for CRI. Thus our recommendations for change within and across teacher preparation programs to meet the needs of general and special education teachers practicing in RtI frameworks support the call from other researchers (Jimenez et al., 2007) to encourage university teacher preparation programs to move away from silos of privileged knowledge (school psychology) and division (special education versus general education) and make a concentrated effort to share a single instructional approach that unites many approaches by building on a UDL framework.

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