What does the research tell us about different interventions?

What does the research tell us about different interventions? 2017-08-23T16:40:24+00:00

There are a vast number of programs, products and resources available for both teachers and parents to select from for intervention purposes. Some of the more popular approaches and products have been reviewed by university-based research teams* to determine their value for students with learning difficulties and disabilities. Their findings and recommendations are summarised in the following table.

The decision to recommend or not recommend particular programs has been based on the current evidence available linking particular programs and instructional approaches to improved results in specific academic areas. Research strongly suggests that interventions for learning disorders should target the component skills of reading, spelling, mathematics and writing – not other areas of functioning. They should also be cost effective. It is possible that some of the findings may change as additional research is completed and published.

The first two sections of the table relate to Direct Instruction programs and Structured Synthetic Phonics programs. There are a great many programs and resources that can be viewed as falling under these two headings and only a small number of examples have been included in the table.

Direct Instruction (DI)

Refers to a rigorously developed, fast-paced approach that is designed to teach students new skills in a step-by-step manner by instructors using a carefully designed script. Students receive immediate feedback and are expected to achieve mastery of each skill before progressing to the next level. The research evidence available suggests that DI programs are frequently found to be amongst the most successful intervention approaches available.

Structured Synthetic Phonics (SSP)

Programs are designed to teach children the predictable relationships between the sounds of speech (phonemes) and the alphabet letters (graphemes) we use in written language. Essentially, when a child learns to read using synthetic phonics they learn to link letters to speech sounds and then blend (synthesise) these sounds together to read words. Analytic phonics programs typically introduce whole words and initial sounds only – anticipating that children will induce the other letter-sound relationships. In synthetic phonics programs the sound-letter relationships are taught in a predetermined sequence using a systematic and explicit approach. Children are taught to read and spell accurately and fluently beginning with simple words like at, in and pin before progressing to words comprising more complex spelling patterns such as light, strange and production. There is a wealth of research evidence available documenting the success of SSP programs as both a whole class approach to literacy instruction and as an intervention (delivered individually or in small groups). For more information on structured synthetic phonics programs see Appendices 3 and 4.

Programs

(Some examples: Spelling Mastery, Reading Mastery, Elementary Maths Mastery, DISTAR programs, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons)

Designed to target

  • Reading
  • Spelling
  • Maths
  • Language
  • Writing

Research Evidence

Strong research evidence from independent studies indicating positive outcomes achieved across most academic areas when delivered with fidelity (i.e. the directions given to the instructor must be followed exactly as prescribed).

Cost/Student

Low/Moderate
(Depends on the program -e.g. Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is low / others are Mod)

(Some examples: Intervention:  Sounds~Write, MultiLit, MiniLit, Phonic Books UK. Whole Class: Sounds~Write, Letters and Sounds,   PreLit, Little Learners Love Literacy, Phonics Books UK, PLD Literacy and Learning,  No Nonsense Phonics Skills program, Jolly Phonics, Read Write Inc.)

Designed to target

  • Reading
  • Spelling

Research Evidence

Very strong independent research evidence worldwide that shows programs based upon Structured Synthetic Phonics provides the best opportunity to produce significant improvements in students’ literacy skills that are maintained long-term. Needs to be delivered by a skilled practitioner with fidelity.

Cost/Student

Low/Moderate (depends on program and intensity of delivery)

Designed to target

  • Reading

Research Evidence

Independent research has produced inconsistent results and while some students make gains, it is typically those with mild reading difficulties. These students may have made more progress using a more cost-effective alternative program. Overall, little evidence to support its effectiveness in remediating significant reading difficulties, particularly when there is evidence of phonological processing weaknesses (e.g. dyslexia).

Cost/Student

High

Designed to target

  • Academics
  • Memory
  • Motor Skills
  • Speech and Language
  • Reasoning

Research Evidence

No independent research evidence available to support claims that the Arrowsmith exercises – designed to improve neuroplasticity – improve academic skills or remediate learning difficulties.

Cost/Student

High

Designed to target

  • Concentration and focus
  • Memory
  • Academics
  • Physical co-ordination
  • Relationships
  • Self-responsibility
  • Organisation skills

Research Evidence

Supporting studies are methodologically flawed and provide no explanation of how the exercises bring about improvements. Overall, there is no good-quality, peer reviewed research evidence to support the claims made for the effectiveness of BrainGym in improving academic performance.

Cost/Student

Low/Moderate (depends on intensity of delivery)

Designed to target

  • Literacy skills
  • Language
  • Attention
  • Cognition
  • Working Memory
  • Executive Function
  • Processing

Research Evidence

There is some debate about the theoretical underpinnings of the program and only one independent study has investigated its effectiveness. Therefore, due to a lack of research evidence, its potential to remediate deficits associated with learning disabilities cannot be commented on.

Cost/Student

Moderate/High (depends on intensity of delivery)

Designed to target

  • Working Memory
  • Attention
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Mathematics

Research Evidence

Although the program has been found in some studies to show improvements on tasks similar to those taught, there has been limited evidence that the benefits generalise to academic learning (e.g. reading, writing, maths) or are maintained over long periods. Positive results appear to be inconsistent within and across studies. Ongoing research is occurring but the current cost (very high) attached to delivery makes it difficult to recommend.

Cost/Student

High

Designed to target

  • Language
  • Reading
  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Processing
  • Sequencing

Research Evidence

Although some studies show benefits from the FFW program, these are no greater than those of other comparative, less expensive, intervention programs and do not appear to be maintained in the long-term.

Cost/Student

High

Designed to target

  • Reading

Research Evidence

Limited evidence for the effectiveness of coloured glasses and overlays as an intervention for reading difficulties. Independent research shows no conclusive pattern of results and methodological issues. There is also no objective scientific evidence to support the existence of Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, also known as Irlen Syndrome.

Cost/Student

Moderate/High (for glasses)

Designed to target

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Maths
  • Attention

Research Evidence

Limited independent research evidence evaluating the program and its claims. Overall, there is a lack of theoretical and high quality research evidence to support the program’s effectiveness.

Cost/Student

Cost unknown

(Example: DORE/DDAT program)

Designed to target

  • Academic skills
  • Motor skills
  • Social skills

Research Evidence

No scientific research that exercise programs will result in improvement in reading or other academic or social skills. There is also no evidence that such programs are effective treatments for ADHD or Asperger’s syndrome.

Cost/Student

Moderate/High

Designed to target

  • Pre-reading skills
  • Reading
  • Spelling
  • Language (vocabulary, comprehension)

Research Evidence

Several studies supporting the effectiveness of the older version of Lexia Reading. However, no studies have been conducted to date on the newer version (Lexia Core5), the Lexia for Older Students and Lexia Strategies’ programs. Overall, the program seems promising, but further independent research is needed.

Cost/Student

Moderate/High

Designed to target

  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Speed
  • Flexibility
  • Problem solving

Research Evidence

Inconsistent research evidence to support the program’s effectiveness in improving targeted outcomes. To date there are no studies investigating its effectiveness in improving outcomes for those with learning disabilities.

Cost/Student

Moderate

Designed to target

  • Attention
  • Emotional difficulties
  • Communication
  • Psychomotor skills
  • Foreign language learning

Research Evidence

Like other sound-based therapies and listening programs, there is no convincing independent evidence to show that it is more effective than the control groups.

Cost/Student

Moderate/High

Designed to target

  • Visual Dyslexia
  • Learning Difficulties
  • Reading

Also claims to help with:

  • Auditory Processing
  • ADHD
  • Dyspraxia
  • Dyscalculia
  • Selective Mutism

Research Evidence

This treatment is based on an incorrect assumption that the visual cortex is responsible for the development of reading skills. To date, there have been no independent, scientific studies examining the effectiveness of this treatment for Dyslexia, learning difficulties or improvements in reading. All claims of success are based on anecdotal evidence.

Cost/Student

High

indicates that currently there is not sufficient evidence in relation to improved academic outcomes to recommend this program or approach)

*References: Dawson, G., & D’Souza, S. Behavioural Interventions to Remediate Learning Disorders: A technical report (2015), Centre for Brain Research and School of Psychology, The University of Auckland / MUSEC briefings – located here.

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