Literacy Instruction and Intervention for Middle School Students with Mild Intellectual Disability

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Research reveals that many individuals with mild intellectual disability (ID) face significant challenges in foundational literacy skills that hinder their ability to comprehend texts. Thus, individuals with mild ID need access to instruction and intervention that target reading comprehension effectively. However, the extent to which interventions can improve reading comprehension among individuals with mild ID has been unclear. Therefore, the current dissertation was conducted to explore literacy instruction and intervention for individuals with mild ID.

Chapter 2 of the dissertation is a synthesis of interventions targeting reading comprehension among individuals with mild ID. The purpose of the synthesis was to identify common features as well as determine the effectiveness of these interventions for individuals with mild ID.

Chapter 3 presents findings from a mixed-method study, designed based on findings from the synthesis presented in Chapter 2. The study included an intervention intended to improve the main idea identification skills of one middle school student with mild ID. The student received sentence-level comprehension instruction, and a subsequent interview of the student’s special education teacher helped interpret the findings of the intervention in the context of the entire class. This mixed-method study as well as the Chapter 2 synthesis informed the practitioner manuscript presented in Chapter 4. The practitioner manuscript explains how teachers can provide middle school students with ID explicit instruction on using a main idea identification strategy, supplemented with instructional scaffolds, other forms of instruction, and peer-mediated practice to support students’ comprehension of grade-level texts.

The current dissertation yields several important findings. First, the synthesis revealed that explicit instruction and peer-mediated practice improve reading comprehension among individuals with mild ID. Second, the findings of the mixed-method study suggest that middle school students with mild ID require main idea instruction—supplemented with background information and vocabulary instruction—as well as phonics instruction to support reading comprehension. These features were incorporated into the instructional approach outlined in the practitioner manuscript. Areas for future research are discussed throughout the dissertation.