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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Sight word reading in children with developmental disabilities using picture communication symbols : a comparative study Fossett, Brenda


Historically, children with developmental disabilities were often excluded from literacy instruction, particularly i f they were non-verbal. A growing body of research suggests this population can develop sight word reading skills. Numerous methods have been investigated; paired associate research recommends that pictures be removed from reading instruction while stimulus fading and picture-to-text matching research advocates the use of pictures in reading instruction. The present study used an adapted alternating treatments design (Sindelar, Rosenberg, & Wilson, 1985) to examine the use of Picture Communication Symbols (PCS) to develop a small sight word reading vocabulary in three non-reading individuals with developmental disabilities. The study compared two instructional conditions, paired associate learning and picture-to-text matching, and measured changes in participants' ability to match PCS to corresponding text. In the paired associate condition, PCS were always presented alongside text. In the picture-to-text matching condition, PCS were always presented separate from text. Results indicated that, for two participants, the picture-to-text matching condition was more effective than the paired associate condition for developing a small sight word vocabulary. The third participant was unable to complete the study due to difficulties in her personal life and did not demonstrate learning in either condition. Follow-up data for one participant showed that skills developed using the picture-to-text matching strategy were maintained up to 4 months after intervention. The results contribute to the existing research on sight word reading instruction and extend previous findings in a variety of ways. First, the study investigated the effectiveness of two different sight word instructional approaches, both of which used pictures. This was to clarify the role of pictures in sight word reading instruction. In addition, the study investigated two sight word instructional strategies that can be used to teach individuals who are unable to speak and are often excluded from literacy instruction. Finally, the study examined retention of sight word vocabulary over several months and suggested that the picture-to-text matching intervention can achieve long-lasting sight word reading skills. Further research is necessary to extend these findings, particularly in terms of the development of larger sight word vocabularies and the transition from sight word reading to more conventional reading skills.

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