Impacts of a word-picture training on reading in youth with mixed intellectual disabilities. A waiting-list control group comparison

Margelisch, Katja; Perrig, Walter J. (22 January 2015). Impacts of a word-picture training on reading in youth with mixed intellectual disabilities. A waiting-list control group comparison (Unpublished). In: 10th annual meeting Clinical Neuroscience Bern 2015. Bern. 22.01.2015.

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Individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID) often struggle with learning how to read. Reading difficulties seem to be the most common secondary condition of ID. Only one in five children with mild or moderate ID achieves even minimal literacy skills. However, literacy education for children and adolescents with ID has been largely overlooked by researchers and educators. While there is little research on reading of children with ID, many training studies have been conducted with other populations with reading difficulties. The most common approach of acquiring literacy skills consists of sophisticated programs that train phonological skills and auditory perception. Only few studies investigated the influence of implicit learning on literacy skills. Implicit learning processes seem to be largely independent of age and IQ. Children are sensitive to the statistics of their learning environment. By frequent word reading they acquire implicit knowledge about the frequency of single letters and letter patterns in written words. Additionally, semantic connections not only improve the word understanding, but also facilitate storage of words in memory. Advances in communication technology have introduced new possibilities for remediating literacy skills. Computers can provide training material in attractive ways, for example through animations and immediate feedback .These opportunities can scaffold and support attention processes central to learning.
Thus, the aim of this intervention study was to develop and implement a computer based word-picture training, which is based on statistical and semantic learning, and to examine the training effects on reading, spelling and attention in children and adolescents (9-16 years) diagnosed with mental retardation (general IQ  74). Fifty children participated in four to five weekly training sessions of 15-20 minutes over 4 weeks, and completed assessments of attention, reading, spelling, short-term memory and fluid intelligence before and after training. After a first assessment (T1), the entire sample was divided in a training group (group A) and a waiting control group (group B). After 4 weeks of training with group A, a second assessment (T2) was administered with both training groups. Afterwards, group B was trained for 4 weeks, before a last assessment (T3) was carried out in both groups.
Overall, the results showed that the word-picture training led to substantial gains on word decoding and attention for both training groups. These effects were preserved six weeks later (group A). There was also a clear tendency of improvement in spelling after training for both groups, although the effect did not reach significance. These findings highlight the fact that an implicit statistical learning training in a playful way by motivating computer programs can not only promote reading development, but also attention in children with intellectual disabilities.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Psychological and Behavioral Health
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology

Graduate School:

Swiss Graduate School for Cognition, Learning and Memory (SGS-CLM)

UniBE Contributor:

Margelisch, Katja, Perrig, Walter


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




Katja Margelisch

Date Deposited:

27 Feb 2015 11:01

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:41




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