MCPER, in partnership with the University of California, Riverside, has been awarded $3.8 million to launch a 5-year project to evaluate a reading comprehension intervention for middle grade students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
The project, Reading Enhancements for Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders (Project READ), will be led by UC Riverside’s Michael Solis and MCPER’s Sharon Vaughn and Colleen Reutebuch. The funding is through the National Center for Special Education Research.
The intervention has demonstrated promise for meeting the reading comprehension needs of fourth- to eighth-grade students with ASD. Improving reading comprehension is critical for increasing these students’ later opportunities to attend college and obtain meaningful employment. Higher levels of reading comprehension are associated with greater gains in other academic areas, higher levels of employment, increased independence, and overall improved quality of life.
The research team will evaluate the efficacy of the intervention using a randomized controlled trial conducted across three cohorts in middle schools in California and Texas and will examine follow-up effects 3 months after the intervention is complete. The team will also collect data on the costs to implement the intervention and its cost effectiveness.
The intervention addresses vocabulary, fluency, and reading comprehension. It consists of 50 one-on-one tutoring sessions delivered daily for 30 minutes across 10–12 weeks. Difficulty builds across lessons, first focusing on word-level meaning, then sentence-level comprehension, and finally multiparagraph passage comprehension. Materials include texts with multiple readability levels to meet individualized student needs within a standard protocol.
Participants will include 180 students in grades 4–8 (ages 9–14) with ASD and low reading comprehension. Each student will be matched in a pair and then randomly assigned to a treatment condition that will receive the intervention or a comparison condition that will receive services as usual in their schools.
Districts and local school campuses interested in participating should contact Project Director Colleen Reutebuch.