UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Academic and neuroimaging outcomes of school-based reading interventions Partanen, Marita Helmi


Early intervention is important for decreasing the prevalence of reading disabilities. However, despite receiving treatment, some children continue to struggle with reading and therefore they require ongoing supports. Intensive and individualized programs may be beneficial for the lowest-performing readers, however, empirical review of intensive and individualized programs has not been widely conducted. Furthermore, there is a neurobiological basis to reading impairments. Children with poor reading skills have differences in brain function and structure when compared to typically-developing readers, and there may be changes in the brain after intervention. However, the combination of multiple reading tasks in functional brain imaging along with measures of grey and white matter structure has not been conducted previously. Therefore, the purpose of my dissertation was to evaluate the academic and neurobiological outcomes of an intensive reading program as well as to determine the predictors of reading success. In Chapter 2, poor readers receiving intensive instruction were compared to other poor readers receiving small group supports as well as to good readers not receiving additional supports. Performance on academic and cognitive measures were evaluated before and after 3 months of instruction and one year later. In Chapters 3 and 4, poor readers and good readers completed functional imaging tasks (Chapter 3) and scans of grey and white matter (Chapter 4) before and after 3 months of instruction. The results showed that students in the intensive program had improved word recognition and decoding fluency immediately after intervention and one year later. Changes after intervention were also shown in functional brain activity during a rhyming task, but not during a spelling task or in grey and white matter structures. However, baseline reading and spelling skills, brain activity in the left hemisphere, and white matter organization in the right hemisphere were associated with gains in reading skills over time. Although improvements in reading were shown, a significant gap between poor and good readers persisted in the third and fourth grades. Overall, this dissertation illustrates the importance of an intensive reading program and the need for continuing supports, and that both academic and neuroimaging measures are associated with reading outcome.

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