Effects of prior attention training and a composition curriculum with attention bridges for students with dyslexia and/or dysgraphia
Chenault, Belle Montgomery, 1946-
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Research attention has been directed to relationships between dyslexia and attention/executive function. After reviewing research on dyslexia as manifest in both reading and writing, this dissertation discusses executive function and the frequent overlap between attentional problems and dyslexia. Dyslexia and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are distinct disabilities, but both occur along a continuum and frequently display overlapping characteristics.Just as literacy processes can be improved in children with dyslexia through systematic instruction, attentional processes in children with ADHD can be improved with attention process training, originally conceived as cognitive rehabilitation for persons with head injury. Attention process training with the Pay Attention! materials has also shown positive effects on academic skills. This dissertation research investigated the proposition that attention process training, coupled with attention bridging activities in a literacy context, would enable dyslexic writers in grades 4--6 to make significant progress in subsequent writing composition instruction compared to a peer control group that received reading fluency training with the Read Naturally program.Twenty students in grades 4--6 identified as low functioning in reading or writing were randomly assigned to an intervention containing either the reading fluency or attention process training component. In addition, both groups received writing composition instruction with attention bridge activities in a literacy context. The first phase of instruction consisted of ten half-hour individual sessions twice a week, and the composition phase consisted of ten hour-long group sessions twice a week.As predicted, students who received attention process training prior to composition lessons demonstrated significantly improved scores in composition compared to their peers who received prior reading fluency training. In an unexpected finding, the attention group also demonstrated significant growth in oral verbal fluency. Results were interpreted as showing that prior attention training enhanced attentional management, enabling students to improve their planning and revising abilities in writing. In addition, attention training helped students improve their efficiency of retrieving information from memory stores for oral verbal fluency. This study is significant because it demonstrates that attention process training can enhance later academic instruction by improving cognitive efficiency.
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