Mallory Roberts and Professor Blake Hansen, Department of Special Education
This great opportunity of being awarded an ORCA grant allowed me to pursue and share my research with others at an Applied Behavioral Analysis International Conference. I was able to take my research study and present it with many ABA professionals at the conference held in Chicago, IL. Participating in such a conference enlightened my understanding of my own research method and taught me many other research methods unique from what I already knew.
The research I presented on was the “Effects of Explicit Print Referencing on the Print Awareness of a Child.” My purpose and goal of this project was to see what the effects would be if we taught a 5-year-old child with severe disabilities how to learn the skills associated with print awareness and reading. Our method was to have myself, a student majoring in Communication Disorders, use discrete trial training (a training method where each trial has a specific set of steps that are clearly defined and are to be followed) to teach her print awareness skills on three preferred books. Using this training method, I would work with the child once a week for 30 minutes in a clinical room at BYU.
The child I worked with had autism and was nonverbal. Her reading skills were two standard deviations below the mean and she was unable to recognize any components of a book necessary to begin reading. Through our training sessions, I focused on teaching her skills that included identification of the parts of book (cover and title), directionality of the text, text in the context of pictures, and others). While I worked with her, we used a standardized measure to assess her progress.
The results of our training and research with this child were positive. In the beginning, our training sessions primarily consisted of me prompting and directing the child’s hands to point to the parts of book. However after only 8 sessions, she began to rely less on prompts and more on her own independent skills. By the end of the study, she was able to maintain the same percentage of correct trials performing independently as she would if we were to prompt her. After the intervention, the child performed at the average level for 4 and 5 year old children in reading measures.
From this study, my mentor and I were able to prove that even children with severe disabilities and having no verbal speech, are able to learn print awareness skills with just some training. They are able to gain knowledge about the organization and features of print, including the parts of a book, print embedded in text, and the directionality of text. These skills are mandatory for a child to begin the steps to reading and understanding that the letters on a page represent meaning. We were also able to prove that discrete trial training is an effective method of teaching for children with severe disabilities. Our findings extended previous research on explicit instruction for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
In conclusion, this research project was rewarding and informative. I not only was able to achieve our research purpose and goal and learn a great deal from completing my own research project, but through this grant, I was also able to learn a great deal from other professionals in the ABA field performing similar research. Being in Chicago for the ABAI Conference taught me so much about working with children with autism and how best to teach them the mandatory skills of reading. I was able to hear from various researchers about many different ABA methods and what the benefits or disadvantages of each are. Because of this experience, I will take the knowledge and skills that I have gained and carry them with me through careers to come as well as many future interactions.