Researchers Working Toward Equitable At-Home Reading Disability Intervention

Reading Disability interventions have an equity problem.

Ten to 15% of school-age children suffer from reading disabilities like dyslexia. Currently, interventions proven to help these students rely on access to trained specialists only available in well-resourced classrooms or clinical settings. This means many students in under-resourced schools in the United States and around the world continue to struggle.

University of Connecticut associate professor of psychological sciences Nicole Landi and her colleagues are working on a remedy to this problem. Through a $2.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, she will evaluate the effectiveness of a home-administered technology designed to help children with Reading Disability.

UConn professors of psychological sciences Fumiko Hoeft and Ken Pugh are co-investigators on this project. UConn is partnering with Haskins Laboratories, the Child Mind Institute, and Georgia State University on this work.

GraphoLearn, a game that helps teach basic letters and their sounds, has emerged as a leader in the realm of reading-focused educational technology. Children can play the game independently at home, a major advantage for children who may not have access to classroom or clinic-based interventions.

This project is particularly timely, as many children are currently engaged in remote learning. Given the unique situation presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, home-based education technology interventions are likely to become more accepted and desired even when in-person education fully resumes.

To date, most studies assessing the effectiveness of GraphoLearn have been conducted in highly controlled settings, making it hard to determine how well it works in the home.

Landi and colleagues will implement a large-scale randomized trial of GraphoLearn with 450 boys and girls with Reading Disability aged six to 10 years old. Participants will be recruited form the Healthy Brain Network, an ongoing study of mental health and learning disorders in children.

Landi and her team will also evaluate various predictors of GraphoLearn response since, as with any intervention, not all children with Reading Disability will respond the same way. This is an important question to researchers, as it relates to developing the most effective interventions for a broad range of students. Every participant has individual and environmental-level factors which may facilitate or hinder the benefits they reap from intervention.

“We hope that findings from this study will help researchers develop a more equitable approach to reading interventions,” Landi says. “Ideally, this work will lead to the development of more research-based affordable Edtech options for students to access from their homes.”

Landi holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from the University of Pittsburg. Her research interests include reading and language development, disorders of reading and language, developmental cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging genetics.

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