Many individuals with mental retardation read at levels below what might be expected based on other cognitive skills. Further, reading instruction historically has emphasized sight words, and this emphasis limits reading vocabulary to words that have been taught directly. Thus, there is a critical need for effective methods to teach word-attack skills to this difficult-to-teach population.The long-term goal of this research program is to develop computerized instructional programming to teach foundational reading skills individuals with mental retardation. The present application takes a step towards that goal by addressing the critical early reading skills of phonological awareness and the alphabetic principle. Should we discover ways to develop these skills largely via computer, the efficiency, fidelity, and cost-effectiveness with which these skills could be taught would skyrocket. The scientific foundation for our work lies in the conclusion of the National Reading Panel that phonological awareness training that involves linking letters to sounds is more effective than training that is limited to the manipulation of speech sounds. Thus, we plan to study the development of these skills using a word-construction task, in which the participants build words by selecting individual letters from a pool of letters. These procedures simultaneously promote the development of phonological awareness and the concept that print maps sound. This approach to providing foundational skills of early reading instruction is an unstudied approach to generative reading in individuals with MR. If the success that we have had to date continues, we not only will produce a fine-grained analysis of reading difficulties in this population, but also will develop a set of evidence-based procedures that will have near- immediate utility as teaching tools.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Child Psychopathology and Developmental Disabilities Study Section (CPDD)
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Kau, Alice S
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University of Kansas Lawrence
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United States
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Schmidt-Naylor, Anna C; Saunders, Kathryn J; Brady, Nancy C (2017) Developing the Alphabetic Principle to Aid Text-Based Augmentative and Alternative Communication Use by Adults With Low Speech Intelligibility and Intellectual Disabilities. Am J Speech Lang Pathol 26:397-412
Yoo, J Helen; Saunders, Kathryn J (2014) The Discrimination of Printed Words by Prereading Children. Eur J Behav Anal 15:123-135
Barker, R Michael; Bridges, Mindy Sittner; Saunders, Kathryn J (2014) Validity of a Non-Speech Dynamic Assessment of Phonemic Awareness via the Alphabetic Principle. Augment Altern Commun :
Hayashi, Yusuke; Schmidt, Anna C; Saunders, Kathryn J (2013) Effects of letter-identification training on letter naming in prereading children. J Appl Behav Anal 46:838-43
Michael Barker, R; Saunders, Kathryn J; Brady, Nancy C (2012) Reading instruction for children who use AAC: considerations in the pursuit of generalizable results. Augment Altern Commun 28:160-70
Saunders, Kathryn J; Hayashi, Yusuke (2010) Although visually cued imitation training may increase peer imitation, the preexisting skills necessary for success should be identified. Evid Based Commun Assess Interv 4:78-82