Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Reading Instruction for Elementary-Age Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders: Academic and Behavioral Outcomes

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Reading Instruction for Elementary-Age Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders: Academic and Behavioral Outcomes

Article excerpt

Students with emotional and behavioral disorders (E/BD) frequently experience concomitant reading difficulties (Forhess, Bennett, & Tose, 1983; Rock, Fessler, & Church, 1997). For example, in a sample of students with E/BD in public schools (ages 7-19), almost 75% were 1 to 2 years below grade level in reading comprehension (Kauffman, Cullinan, & Epstein, 1987). Glassberg, Hooper, and Mattison (1999) reported reading disability prevalence rates ranging from 6% to 24% for students, ages 6 to 16 years, who were newly identified with E/BD. In general, the academic performance of students with E/BD is reported to be significantly below that of students without disabilities (Reid, Gonzalez, Nordness, Trout, & Epstein, 2004). Although reported prevalence rates vary, the academic and behavior deficit overlap begins early in life, appears sizeable at levels above chance, and, once established, is difficult to remediate (Hinshaw, 1992).

Unfortunately, the academic needs of students with E/BD are often neglected in order to focus on the control and elimination of problem behavior (Gunter, Jack, Shores, Carrell, & Flowers, 1993; Wehby, Lane, & Falk, 2003). Frequently, academic instruction provided for students with E/BD is based on worksheets, non-meaningful curricula, and ineffective teaching strategies (Steinberg & Knitzer, 1992). As a result, improvement in academic achievement may be limited.

While reducing the problem behavior of students with E/BD is a priority, it is important to focus on academic achievement as well, for several reasons. Students with E/BD earn lower grades and fail more courses as compared to groups of students with other disabilities (U.S. Department of Education, 1994). Additionally, students with poor academic skills and E/BD are at greater risk for restrictive class placement, school dropout, low rates of postschool employment, and general adult adjustment problems (Wagner, 1995). Research also suggests that interventions targeting academic skill remediation may have a collateral effect of reducing problem behavior (Coie & Krehbiel, 1984; DuPaul, Ervin, Hook, & McGoey, 1998). If academic interventions for students with E/BD can improve academic performance and also reduce problem behavior, academic remediation may effectively supplement interventions designed to address social behavioral deficits.

Reading interventions for young students at risk for and with reading disabilities have a substantial base of empirical support (e.g., Foorman, Francis, Fletcher, Schatschneider, & Mehta, 1998; Torgesen et al., 2001). However, limited attention has been given to examining the effects of reading instruction for elementary-age students with reading deficits and E/BD (Coleman & Vaughn, 2000; Levy & Chard, 2001). The few studies that have addressed the issue suggest that for many children with E/BD, reading deficits may be amendable given reading intervention (e.g., Babyak, Koorland, & Mathes, 2000; Cochran, Feng, Cartledge, & Hamilton, 1993; Falk & Wehby, 2001; Wehby, Falk, Barton-Arwood, Lane, & Cooley, 2003).


There is some evidence suggesting that elementary-age students with E/BD might improve in both reading achievement and social/behavioral skills following reading intervention. The instructional strategies of peer tutoring and Direct Instruction appear to promote improvements in both areas. With peer tutoring, pairs of students implement and deliver teacher-selected instruction to each other. Peer tutoring has been reported to improve both academic and behavioral deficits (Cochran et al., 1993; Locke & Fuchs, 1995; Resnick, 1987). Using fifth- and sixth-grade students with E/BD to tutor at-risk second-and third-grade general education students, Resnick reported improved mean grade and percentile reading scores and behavioral ratings for the tutors. Cochran et al. …

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