Monday, May 23, 2011

Enhancing Phonological Awareness and Letter Knowledge in Preschool Children with Down Syndrome (2006)

van Bysterveldt, A. K., Gillon, G. T., & Moran, C. (2006). International Journal of Disability, Development and Education, 53(3), 301–329. DOI: 10.1080/10349120600847706

Details and questions in this study:
  • Examines effectiveness of a phonological awareness intervention for 4-year-old children with Down syndrome. 
  • Subjects: Seven subjects with Downs (preschoolers aged 51-59 months) in an early intervention program and a randomly selected group of age-matched peers (with no developmental concerns).
  • Research is needed to clarify whether children with Downs acquire PA and reading separately or in relation to each other. 
  • Can intervention to facilitate early PA development be useful for children with Downs?
  • Can parents be effective in facilitating PA at the phoneme level and letter knowledge in preschool children with Downs?
Important information from the Literature:
  • Children become aware of sound structures and patterns in language through reading and talking with adults (e.g., Adams, 1990; Stadler & McEvoy, 2003). 
  • Researchers found significant relationships between home literacy environment and family to the development of phonological awareness, decoding, and oral language skills in preschool children, especially with parent attitude toward literacy and parent engagement in literacy-related activities.
  • Joint book reading with children had a positive effect on reading outcomes (Bennett, Weigel, & Martin, 2002; Burgess, Hecht, & Lonigan, 2002). 
  • Bus and van IJzendoorn (1988) found parent instruction in letter name and sound knowledge was positively correlated with children’s emergent literacy on five tasks including reading, letter knowledge, and concepts of print. 
  • A meta-analysis of studies found that joint parent–child book reading positively affected the development of emergent literacy skills, including letter and vocabulary knowledge (Bus, van IJzendoorn, & Pellegrini, 1995).
Performance measures:
  • initial phoneme identity
  • Letter name knowledge and letter sound knowledge for the 26 letters of the alphabet assessed using lower-case letters in the Gillon Preschool Phonology and Letter Knowledge Probes
  • Print Concepts task measured awareness of word, letter name, and letter sound
  • Standardized articulation measures - Goldman Fristoe Test of Articulation
  • Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-III
  • New Zealand MacArthur Communicative Development Inventory-Words & Sentences (NZCDI: WS)
  • Communicative Development Inventory-Words & Sentences (CDI: WS)
  • Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals—Preschool (CELF-P) (Wiig, Secord, & Semel, 1992) assessed concepts, semantics, syntax, and morphology
  • pre-intervention and post-intervention measures compared in both groups
In a 6 week intervention, children’s parents were instructed to draw children's attention to targeted letters and sounds within words and initial phonemes in words during daily shared book reading activities.

Parents were instructed to read to their child in their usual manner, but report the amount of time spent
reading to their child per day, on four randomly selected days for 2 weeks prior to the study to establish baseline measures (averaged10–20 min per day)  This determined the frequency and duration of the intervention, making it comparable to prior family schedules, minimizing the risk of spending an excessive amount of time on the intervention, and eliminating intervention effects of changes in the home literacy environment since the children were already read to regularly.

Parent procedure for intervention: Parents directed the child’s attention to a targeted letter and sounds during shared book reading using key strategies in this order:
" 1. state the letter name while pointing to the letter in a book;
  2. describe the sound it makes; and
  3. bring the child’s attention visually as well as orally to the target letter and corresponding phoneme in initial position in a word, while pointing to the word. For example, “This is the letter ‘S’ (letter name). It makes the ‘ssss’ sound (letter sound). ‘SSS’ is the first sound in the word ‘Spot’ (pointing to the word Spot).”'  (p. 314)

Results: Though the sample was small, groups differed significantly on the following tasks
  • Letter Name Knowledge at preintervention (t(1, 12) = −3.52, p = .004) and post-intervention (t(1, 12) = −3.70, p = .003)
  • Letter Sound Knowledge at pre-intervention (t (1, 12) = −3.07, p = .010) and post-intervention (t(1, 12) = −2.62, p = .022)
  • Initial Phoneme Identity at preintervention (t(1, 12) = −0.31, p < .001) and post-intervention
  • a significant treatment effect on phonological awareness and letter knowledge for children with Down syndrome
  • above-chance performance on  initial phoneme identity task, related to letter knowledge of the target phoneme. 

"Of the group of participants with Down syndrome, five participants made gains on all measures, with scores from the remaining two participants remaining stable . . . [A]t least five of the participants in the Down syndrome group demonstrated equal or greater change to that of their typically developing peers.
The results suggested that the print referencing techniques used in the intervention influenced the treatment outcomes." (p. 317)

"[T]he ability to identify initial phonemes in words emerged when phonemes were already familiar . . . (p. 318). Thus, for the children with Down syndrome, letter name/sound knowledge was, as suggested by the literature (Bowey, 1994; Johnston et al., 1996; Lundberg et al.,1988), likely to be a prerequisite for the development of phoneme awareness, demonstrated in this study by the Initial Phoneme Identity task. Such a finding suggests phoneme awareness needs to be taught in the context of known letter names and sounds in order for the child to make the connection between the letter names and sounds in isolation and in words" (p. 320). 

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