Table of contents(15 chapters)
Educators’ decisions regarding what instructional practices they use have significant consequences for the learning and life outcomes of their students. This is especially true for students with learning and behavioral disabilities, who require highly effective instruction to succeed in school and achieve their goals. In this volume of Advances in Learning and Behavioral Disabilities chapter authors provide readers with accessible information on theory, critical elements, and research for instructional practices that are and are not supported by bodies of scientific research as effective in critical outcome areas. Educators can use this content to inform and enhance their instructional decision making. To contextualize subsequent chapters, in this introductory chapter we discuss the research-to-practice gap in special education, the importance of considering scientific research when making instructional decisions and considerations for interpreting and applying research findings on instructional practices. We conclude with a preview of the chapters in the volume.
Two Approaches for Improving Reading Fluency: Research Supports Repeated Reading But Not Colored Filters
Reading fluency, which is critical for developing reading comprehension, is a fundamental skill in both school and life. However, many students with learning and behavioral disabilities are disfluent readers. To improve reading performance for these learners, educators should implement practices shown by reliable research to cause improved reading fluency. In this chapter, following a discussion of reading fluency and its importance, we describe two instructional practices that educators might use to improve students’ reading fluency: colored filters and repeated reading. The research on the colored filters is, at best, inconclusive, whereas the research literature suggests that repeated reading is an effective practice. To bridge the gap between research and practice and improve the reading fluency of students with learning and behavioral disabilities, educators and other stakeholders should prioritize the use of research-based practices (e.g., repeated reading) but avoid practices without clear research support (e.g., colored filters).
While deficits for students with learning disabilities (LD) are prevalent in almost all aspects of mathematics, difficulty in the application and understanding of problem-solving tasks are much more challenging to remediate than computational and procedural skills. Given the complexities involved in authentic problem-solving activities emphasized in current mathematics standards and the inherent challenges presented to students with LD, the importance of using strategies and techniques guided by evidence-based practices is paramount. Yet, ineffective instructional strategies for problem solving are still widespread in both mathematics curricula and available teacher resources. In this chapter, we provide a description of a commonly used ineffective problem-solving strategy (i.e., the keyword strategy), an overview of the keyword research, and an explanation for its ineffectiveness. We conclude with a description of three evidenced-based problem-solving approaches and practices that significantly improve the mathematical performance of students with LD.
Struggling writers and students with disabilities tend to have difficulties with multiple aspects of the writing process. Therefore, in this chapter, we describe Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD; Harris, Graham, Mason, & Friedlander, 2008). SRSD is a writing intervention with extensive research demonstrating its effectiveness for improving the writing quality of struggling writers and students with disabilities when implemented by both teachers and researchers in a variety of educational settings. We also describe an ineffective writing practice, stand-alone grammar instruction. Although this type of grammar instruction is explicit, it is removed from an authentic writing context, and decades of research have demonstrated its negative effects on students’ writing quality. We close the chapter with recommendations for future research on SRSD as well as general suggestions for teachers who provide writing instruction to struggling writers and students with disabilities.
Picture Exchange Communication System and Facilitated Communication: Contrasting an Evidence-Based Practice with a Discredited Method
Learners with autism require specialized education and supports to ensure acquisition and mastery of various communication skills. This is particularly true for individuals whose disability significantly impacts their language development. Without functional communication, these individuals often engage in severe behavior, have reduced self-determination, and experience diminished quality of life. Accordingly, researchers in special education and related fields have sought ways to improve the communication skills of learners with autism who need specialized language and communication interventions. Although the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is well-established in the empirical literature and has helped countless individuals learn to communicate, the method known as facilitated communication (FC; which also is being called “supported typing” and “rapid prompting method”) has become increasingly popular in recent years. Few methods in special education have been as thoroughly discredited as FC and perhaps none are as dangerous. This chapter contrasts the thoroughly debunked FC and its pseudoscientific characteristics with those underpinning PECS. A brief historical account of each method is provided along with key scientific and pseudoscientific features that distinguish science from pseudoscience. Ultimately, our intent is to further clarify how FC is not an augmentative or alternative communication method and why PECS is.
Disruptive student behavior contributes to poor student outcomes, loss of classroom instructional time, and teacher burnout. Physical movement is an intervention that has been used to target and ameliorate disruptive student behavior for students with learning and behavioral disabilities. A review of two movement-based interventions – Brain Gym® and antecedent bouts of exercise – reveals different levels of research support. Brain Gym®, a commercial movement-based curriculum, is not supported by extant empirical research. Alternatively, a growing body of research empirically supports antecedent bouts of exercise as an effective behavioral intervention. This chapter provides a description and review of research for each intervention. Implications for instructional practice and recommendations are provided.
We consider the theory and evidence supporting learning styles, and contrast these with the related concepts of learning preferences and student choice. Although the theory of learning styles remains popular in the field of education as one guidepost teachers might use to maximize the effectiveness of instruction for individual students, including students with learning and behavioral disabilities, a review of the evidence supporting a learning styles approach suggests that it offers little benefit to students with disabilities. In contrasting learning styles with the related concept of learning preferences, we posit that interventions based on student choice may offer a more parsimonious and evidence-driven approach to enhancing instruction and improving outcomes for students with learning and behavioral disabilities.
Never Say Never: The Appropriate and Inappropriate Use of Praise and Feedback for Students with Learning and Behavioral Disabilities
The use of verbal reinforcement has longstanding support in encouraging desired student responses. For students with learning and behavioral disabilities, the use of verbal reinforcement through behavior specific praise (BSP) and feedback are promising practices for improving academic and behavioral outcomes. While these strategies are relatively straightforward to implement, they are often applied inappropriately. Thus, specific guidelines should be followed to ensure that BSP and feedback are used effectively. The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of BSP and feedback related specifically to students with learning and behavioral disabilities, provide theoretical and empirical support for these practices, offer research-based recommendations for implementation, and identify common errors to avoid.
Do School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, Not Exclusionary Discipline Practices
All educators will inevitably face unwanted student behavior that they need to address. A ubiquitous response to unwanted behavior is exclusionary discipline practices, including time-out, office discipline referrals, and suspensions. However, extensive research has demonstrated that these practices are associated with negative outcomes, including increased likelihood of further unwanted behavior, decreased achievement, and racial/ethnic discipline disparities. In this chapter, we provide a preventative alternative to exclusionary practices, school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports (SWPBIS). SWPBIS is an evidence-based framework for implementing systems to reduce unwanted behavior and increase prosocial behavior, decreasing the need for exclusionary practices.
Repetitive and restrictive behaviors are one of the core components of diagnosing a child with an autism spectrum disorder. These behaviors may take the form of repetitive motor movements or vocalizations, often referred to as stereotypical behaviors. These behaviors can impede the child’s educational and social opportunities, and have thus become a target for intervention. A variety of interventions have been used to reduce stereotypical behaviors with varied success. One of the most oft-used interventions is deep pressure therapy (e.g., weighted vests), a practice that enjoys substantial anecdotal but little empirical support. Conversely, interventions based on functional behavior assessment (FBA) have been shown to reduce these behaviors, but may not be used frequently within schools. Therefore, this chapter will provide a brief overview of stereotypical behaviors and compare these two intervention approaches, with a clear preference for FBA-based interventions due to their stronger empirical support.
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