January 25, 2012

New center to develop interventions for writing, reading disabilities

News and Information

Read more about the center’s projects and collaborators.

The University of Washington College of Education has been awarded an $8.1 million, five-year federal grant to study how best to teach writing and reading to both learning-disabled and typically achieving children.

The grant will fund the new Center for Defining and Treating Specific Learning Disabilities in Written Language at the University of Washington.

The award, announced Jan. 17 in a news release, is from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Virginia Berninger, UW professor of educational psychology, will lead the center, which will include researchers from the College of Educations educational psychology division and Health Sciences departments of radiology, medicine and medical genetics.

The cross-campus research collaborations of this center are expected to lead to better diagnosis of specific learning disabilities in children whose development is otherwise normal, and to create new ways of teaching writing and reading to help all students in upper elementary and middle school (grades four through nine) meet state and common core standards in literacy.

Berninger said that, across socioeconomic levels, one in five children struggle to write or read. Research at the center will include teaching approaches for children who struggle with specific writing or reading skills, including handwriting, reading words, spelling and putting words together in writing.

Other goals include identifying brain and genetic predictors for what learning tools work best with which children, professional development for teachers and computerized interventions to groups targeted for narrowing the achievement gap, including Native Americans and Spanish-speaking English language learners.

The center is now in start-up phase. Berninger said that recruitment of participants will probably begin sometime this spring. Check this website for an announcement of the start of participant recruitment, which in the first year will include sixth and ninth graders.

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For more information, contact Berninger at 206-616-6372 or vwb@uw.edu.