Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Response to Early Reading Intervention: Examining Higher and Lower Responders

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Response to Early Reading Intervention: Examining Higher and Lower Responders

Article excerpt

Considerable research in beginning reading during the last decade has documented that most students with reading difficulties can be provided interventions that are associated with improvements in students' reading outcomes (Foorman, Francis, Fletcher, Schatschneider, & Mehta, 1998; Torgesen et al., 1999; Torgesen et al., 2001; Vellutino et al., 1996). These studies and others have demonstrated the importance of early identification and intervention for reducing the reading gap between students with reading difficulties and their grade-level peers (Blachman, Tangel, Ball, Black, & McGraw, 1999; O'Connor, Fulmer, Harty, & Bell, 2005; Vellutino, Scanlon, Small, & Fanuele, 2006).

Early reading interventions have been consistently effective in improving outcomes in more basic or foundation skills such as phonemic awareness, word attack, and word reading (Bus & van Ijzendoorn, 1999; Cavanaugh, Kim, Wanzek, & Vaughn, 2004; Gaskins, Gaskins, & Gaskins, 1992; O'Shaughnessy & Swanson, 2000). Several studies have also documented significant gains for students with reading difficulties in the areas of reading fluency and comprehension after intervention (Fuchs, Fuchs, Mathes, & Simmons, 1997; Hasbrouck, Ihnot, & Rogers, 1999; Pressley & Wharton-McDonald, 1997); although improvement in these areas is markedly more challenging (Blachman et al., 2004; Rashotte, MacPhee, & Torgesen, 2001). A substantial research base exists for implementing effective interventions for students at risk for and with reading difficulties in the elementary grades. For the majority of students, these interventions result in significantly improved reading performance over time.


Despite the success of early reading intervention studies in improving the reading outcomes of many students with reading difficulties, findings also reveal that some students progress at a much lower rate, struggling considerably with reading even after intervention (Al Otaiba & Fuchs, 2002). Vellutino et al. (1996) referred to these students as difficult-to-remediate and they are frequently described as treatment resisters or nonresponders. In this study, we refer to students who make inadequate or insufficient progress in reading interventions as lower responders, because these students show some response to instruction, but at such a low level that it is unlikely they will make adequate progress toward grade-level reading skills.

Students demonstrating low response to generally effective reading interventions may exhibit different characteristics from students with reading difficulties who respond well to the same interventions. Syntheses examining differences in students' responses to intervention indicate that the areas of phonological processing, rapid-naming ability, and verbal ability may differentiate levels of student response (Al Otaiba & Fuchs, 2002; Vaughn, Wanzek, Woodruff, & Linan-Thompson, 2007).

Several studies have specifically examined further intervention opportunities for students demonstrating initial low response to previous interventions (Berninger et al., 2002; Denton, Fletcher, Anthony, & Francis, 2006; McMaster, Fuchs, Fuchs, & Compton, 2005; Vadasy, Sanders, Peyton, & Jenkins, 2002; Vaughn, Linan-Thompson, & Hickman, 2003; Vellutino et al., 1996). The additional interventions provided in these studies often reflect increases in intensity of intervention (e.g., more time in instruction; smaller instructional groups) or changes in the focus of the intervention (e.g., comprehension emphasis versus a basic skill emphasis; addition of advanced word recognition strategies for reading multisyllabic words) in an effort to accelerate student learning. For example, Denton et al. examined five students demonstrating low response to multiple tiers of instruction including enhanced general education classroom instruction and a supplemental intervention in first grade. …

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