Successful interventions for students with learning disabilities

iStock_000018120666XSmallResearchers at the Institute for Behavioral Genetics, University of Colorado/Boulder, and the Colorado A summary of the effects of instruction for children with learning disabilities reveals several significant findings. A recent meta-analysis was conducted on 85 single-subject-design studies in which children or adults with learning disabilities received treatment to enhance their academ-ic, social, and/or cognitive performance. H. Lee Swanson and Carole Sachse-Lee, University of California/Riverside found that in word recognition, reading comprehension, spelling, mathematics, language, social skills etc., interventions significantly increased performance. In combination with an earlier meta-analysis of experimental-group studies, results reveal that students with learning disabilities benefit substantially from educational intervention.

Successful treatments included direct instruction (teacher-directed drill, repetition, practice and review); breaking down a task into small steps with frequent testing and feedback; interactive small-group instruction; and cognitive-strategy instruction that directed students to focus on task requirements, procedures, and monitoring their performance. These four interventions produced the greatest increases in students’ achievement. Cognitive-strategy and direct instruction had particularly pervasive positive effects.

The effects of strategy instruction differed, however, by reading level and overall ability. The largest treatment effects with cognitive-strategy instruction were seen with students in the low-average IQ range (85- 90) who tested in the lowest quartile in reading. Studies that combined cognitive-strategy instruction and direct instruction produced particularly large effects for these students. However, students with higher IQs and low reading skills benefited more from interventions other than cognitive-strategy instruction. Students with a large discrepancy between IQ and achievement were more resistant to improvement than students with less discrepancy. These findings are important, these researchers conclude, because they suggest that certain characteristics of the students contribute to the success or failure of educational inter-ventions.

“A Meta-Analysis of Single-Subject-Design Intervention Research for Students with LD” Journal of Learning Disabilities Volume 33, Number 2, April 2000 pp. 114-136.

Published in ERN May/June 2000 Volume 13 Number 5

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