Headsprout and Students With Severe Intellectual Disability

Research Applies to: Headsprout

About This Research

This study examined the outcome of using Headsprout to teach foundational reading skills to students with severe intellectual disabilities attending a specialized school. This study highlights ways educators can adapt Headsprout to facilitate its use by learners with severe disabilities.

Main Findings

All students with verbal ability showed reliable gains in reading nonsense words, and five of the eight students showed reliable gains in word recognition. The two students who were non-verbal showed negative changes in word recognition.


Participants were eight seven- to 19-year-old students attending a school in the United Kingdom for students with severe intellectual disability.

Study Design and Procedures

This study used a single case pre- and post-test design. Depending on each student’s level of disability, some adaptations were made to the program (for example, exempting students from activities requiring identifying examples and non-examples of sounds or activities requiring verbal responses). Students used Headsprout an average of 1–2 times per week for 13–18 weeks. Assessments used as pre- and posttests were the Word Recognition and Phonic Skills (WRaPS) assessment and four subtests of the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS): initial sound fluency, phonemic segmentation fluency, nonsense word fluency, and word use fluency.


Herring, E., Grindle, C., & Kovshoff, H. (2019). Teaching early reading skills to children with severe intellectual disabilities using Headsprout Early Reading. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/jar.12603

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