Combined Reading and Language Interventions

Some children require support with both reading and language; this can sometimes be delivered in tandem depending on need. Here we describe two of the combined programmes we have designed:

Children with Down Syndrome

Children with Down Syndrome typically have language difficulties akin to developmental language disorder. They also have phonological difficulties which makes it difficult for them to learn phonics. We designed a language and literacy intervention for children with Down syndrome. The research study which underpinned its development assessed the progress of children who received daily 40-min sessions. Fifty-seven children with Down syndrome in mainstream primary schools in two UK locations (Yorkshire and Hampshire) were randomly allocated to receive the intervention for 40 weeks and their progress was compared with that of a waiting control group. After 20 weeks of intervention, the intervention group showed significantly greater progress than the waiting control group on measures of single word reading, letter-sound knowledge, phoneme blending and taught expressive vocabulary. Effects did not, however, transfer to other skills (nonword reading, spelling, standardised expressive and receptive vocabulary, expressive information and grammar) and they were weaker at follow-up.

Children at Risk of Dyslexia

Intervention studies for children at risk of dyslexia have typically been delivered preschool, and show short-term effects on letter knowledge and phoneme awareness, with little transfer to literacy. In the study which we did combining reading intervention with vocabulary instruction for 9-weeks , we found small-to-moderate effects on letter knowledge, phoneme awareness and taught vocabulary. However, these were fragile and short lived, and there was no reliable effect on the primary outcome of word-level reading. This study suggests that to be effective, more sustained approaches are required.