Date: Thursday, July 8, 2021 2:30 PM- Thursday, July 8, 2021 3:00 PM
Lead/Instructor: Patricia Bahr
Session Author: Patricia A Bahr (Iowa's University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities)*
Reading is a critical part of functioning in society. Beyond the usually discussed applications in the classroom, reading permeates life. From menus to maps, accessing the written word is a gateway to independence and engagement. Unfortunately, reading is a challenge for many people, including adults. Reading is essential for all adults, and adults with intellectual disability (ID) often find it very challenging.
For students with ID, one common reading accommodation in the K-12 setting is to have written content read outloud to them. While many people find this accommodation helpful (Meloy, Deville, & Frisbie, 2002), it has many limitations, including inconsistencies of
the readers (pronunciation and pace), the expense of hiring readers, the lack of independence by having to rely on someone else, and more. Human readers are also based on availability and lack options for customization such as pace, voice, or even an option to highlight to follow along with the text. Lastly, social norms make individuals reluctant to ask for a reader to repeat or change how they are reading (Buzick & Stone, 2014; Witmer, Schmitt, Clinton, & Mathes, 2018).
One type of assistive technology (AT) that can be used to increase people’s access to the educational curriculum is the use of text-to-speech (TTS) readers. Seegers (2001) reported that the use of TTS software provides access to important information on the internet and in books that students may struggle to access otherwise. Studies have also focused on the use of TTS readers and student achievement with large effect sizes, Izzo, Yurick, and McArrell (2009). Dolan and colleagues found an increase in test scores when students used computer-based TTS software (Dolan, Hall, Banerjee, Chun, & Stangman, 2005).
While it seems that TTS can provide increased access to reading and improve achievement in a variety of areas, providing AT to an individual is not sufficient enough. While past research has indicated the use of TTS readers can be effective, none of the studies indicated or reported on the follow-up or generalization of skills or use of AT after the study. Therefore, it is important to note that individuals wishing to use these tools must not only be given physical access but procedural access (i.e., they must be taught how to use the tool; Dunn et al., 2016).
There is still little empirical evidence available on how to teach AT, but emerging research indicates the use of AT can be taught using evidence-based effective teaching practices already identified by the literature, including the use of direct instruction.
This study evaluated the efficacy of a direct instruction program to teach students with ID enrolled in a post-secondary education program to use the TTS tool Snap&Read (Don Johnston Inc., 2016). We will discuss the results of the study, which indicated that direct instruction is a promising practice to facilitate AT acquisition.