Joshua Mann" />
side bar
Friday, September 29, 2023

Faculty & Staff

UH helps kids learn to read

UH’s Texas Center for Learning Disabilities has received a five-year, $9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue their research into the diagnosis and treatment of children who have learning disabilities related to reading.

In 2006, the NIH awarded UH with an initial five-year grant for $7 million for the research, and a team of psychologists, educators, statisticians and neuroscientists from UH, University of Texas at Austin and UT Health and Science used the money to conduct a study on reading disabilities and develop curricula for use as treatment in schools.

“We’re always focussed on intervention studies and trying to figure out better ways to help children who are struggling with improving their reading,” said Jack M. Fletcher, the UH professor who is the administrative leader of the research team.

“In the previous project, we had studies of kids in middle school and studies of kids in the early grades.”

The research focussed on developing diagnostic methods for evaluating the children’s progress and the brain functions of children learning to read.

“We image kids over at the University of Texas before and after they participate in an intervention and measure the changes that happen in the brain as they learn,” Fletcher said.

“We’re doing what’s called functional neuro-imaging, which means imaging signals that we use to locate what parts of the brain are involved.”

In order to become skilled readers, children must develop a neural network between the visual and language centers of the brain.

“This is basically a network that gets built through experience,” Fletcher said.

“There are genetic (factors) on how readily your brain can adapt to reading.”

Sometimes, genetic factors will make it difficult for children to develop this network. These children are “at-risk,” Fletcher said, and can be treated in school with the kind of curricula the Texas Center is developing.

The research team has found that while children in the first grade react well to the curriculum, it’s more difficult for sixth graders.

“One of the things we demonstrated is that it takes a couple years to have a lot of impact on a sixth grader’s reading ability,” Fletcher said.

“So in the new study, we’re going to do interventions of kids in fourth grade … We want to see if we can’t do a better job in getting kids ready for middle school.”

[email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top ↑
  • Sign up for our Email Edition

  • Polls

    What about UH will you miss the least this summer?

    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...