The purpose of the study was to determine whether it is possible to achieve greater fluency results with the method described in the study compared to results obtained by a comparative method based on a different approach. In addition, it was a goal to discover if it is possible to obtain continuous gains in reading fluency after treatment replications. In the research, a total of sixty-three children —41 boys and 22 girls — participated. The participants attended primary and secondary schools from the end of the second grade to the end of the eighth grade.
The students were enrolled in the study if they satisfied the criteria for a diagnosis of dyslexia according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Similarly, a clinical interview and a reading evaluation assessed the accuracy and fluency of the children’s ability to read a text with psychometric properties. This evaluation was completed by certified clinical psychologists. Additionally, the reading fluency of all participants was at least 2 SD below that of typical readers according to the norms of the standardized test used.
The dependent variables were reading fluency and accuracy. These factors were always assessed using normed passages of the MT Battery. Each participant was tested individually and required to read the passage selected according to his or her grade level as fast and accurate as possible paying attention to the content. Each passage consisted of a text of about 200 words. Maximum reading time allowed was 4 min. Fluency is expressed in syllables per second as is customary in Italy, accuracy as percentages of errors corresponding to words read violating the correspondences between orthography and phonology.
For the independent variable, two types of reading programs were introduced. Participants in the linguistic method were invited to attend the clinic twice a week for 45 min. The treatment was applied by certified speech therapists. This method consisted of different exercises to improve phonemic blending and synthesis and assisted reading of isolated words and simple texts, with feedback in case of errors, but no systematic exercises to recognize syllables either in isolation or embedded in words.
Participants in the two subsyllabic methods were requested to attend the clinic once a week during the first month and once every two weeks in the remaining period. During this time, the therapist (usually a certified psychologist) taught the participants and their parents the exercises to practice at home for at least 10–15 min a day for 5 days a week. The exercises consisted in reading text using computer software programs that allowed the presentation of texts of every length, difficulty level, and content, facilitating the visual identification of each syllable (i. e.
, inserted in a box or colored differently). An important detail is that the shift of the target syllable from left to right could be obtained either at a self-paced speed, pressing the space bar of the computer keyboard, or automatically after a precise interval chosen by the therapist, taking into account the reading fluency of each participant. The participant was invited to read the text accurately and as fast as he or she could, but still pay attention to its content. If the advancement of the target syllables was self paced, the participant was invited to aim for the velocity goal defined by the therapist.
If the syllable advancement was automatic, the participant was invited to maintain the fluency imposed by the computer. Reading errors were registered by an assistant and used for subsequent feedback. When the participant met the fluency goal with an acceptable number of errors, the therapist increased the velocity goal by gradual increments. The results of the study showed the overall outcomes between the pretest, posttest, and gain scores of fluency and accuracy in reading a passage using the standardized test. At posttest, all groups obtained average scores corresponding to a typical accuracy level.
A larger accuracy gain was obtained among the subsyllabic methods by the Aut method — simply because this group had a higher percentage of errors at pretest — whereas the linguistic method obtained a similar, smaller improvement; but still at the typical level. Gains in fluency were different among the three methods. As presented in the tables, the linguistic and the subsyllabic SP methods obtained almost the same improvement, though the former after a mean of 5 months and the latter after a mean of 3 months of treatment.
Their effect sizes were not statistically different. The best results were obtained by the subsyllabic Aut method. Gains obtained with this method were clinically and statistically superior to those obtained by the linguistic method. One implication of the study was that the small effect in comprehension suggests that even more intensity is needed for students to accelerate their reading achievement gains. In addition, the intervention we implemented was standardized in nature.
Although movement through the lessons was based on student mastery, the overall sequence of instruction and the amount of time spent on each component of the intervention was standardized for all students. I would say that the research was practical—it took place in a classroom and with trained instructors. Despite the amount of time it took to begin, it was clear that the program essentially ran on its own after that. Personally, I could not implement either reading method at this point in my training because I am not far enough in my respective field. I would need more time and training before I could do so.
Despite this, I do see the value and effectiveness of this method in teaching high school students to read at improved levels and would use this technique in my classroom should I ever come across any dyslexic students with reading difficulties in my career. Several strengths of the study stood out. For one, the research took place in a classroom under a trained teacher. In addition, the participants were evaluated by certified psychologists. Consequently, the outcomes were positive for the program — the participants enjoyed it and the outcomes were successful.
An additional strength was that there was a wide variety of measures taken to evaluate the research and respective methods. Also, a large number of students, from all socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds, were studied — enhancing the study’s reliability. On the other hand, the study also had a few weaknesses. The possibility of improving reading fluency and consequently reading efficiency, for instance, could have been more positive. Also, these results could have been at t a level closer to school requirements and thus, reducing the impairment of children with dyslexia.