UK Communication Trust lists RLI in What Works database

The Communication Trust – a coalition of nearly 50 voluntary and community organisations with expertise in speech, language and communication – has recently listed DSE’s new reading and language intervention in its What Works database of evidenced interventions.

RLI HandbookThe Communication Trust in the UK is a coalition of nearly 50 voluntary and community organisations. Working with the Better Communication Research Programme they have developed a database of evidenced interventions to support children’s speech, language and communication – the What Works database.

The Communication Trust’s What Works database includes over 60 interventions, assessed for inclusion in the database by independent experts. The What Works database is endorsed by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. The entry for RLI in the What Works database (registration required) observes:

“A key feature of RLI is that it is designed to be suitable for children across a wide ability range and content is adapted for each individual child, with assessment and daily record keeping built into the delivery of the programme. The Language Strand can be used for children with language ages from 2 years and the Reading Strand for beginning readers to a word reading age of 8 years. The RCT data supports starting reading instruction for children with Down syndrome at 5 years of age as younger children in the study tended to make more progress…

“RLI has a moderate evidence level. Within the evidence there are examples of significantly positive outcomes for children with Down syndrome, all of whom have language difficulties, though children continue to need additional support.”

(By the criteria applied, a “strong” level of evidence would require multiple trials and a systematic review – we are going to have to wait a while for that!)

It is great to see RLI – and the evidence underpinning it – assessed, recognised and listed here to bring it to the attention of Speech and Language Therapists and schools looking for interventions and teaching approaches with good evidence supporting their use.

DSE’s reading and language intervention (RLI) was evaluated in a landmark randomised controlled trial involving 57 children with Down syndrome living in two areas of the UK. It is now being used in hundreds of schools throughout the UK and in the US to provide highly structured, individualised teaching for children with Down syndrome. DSE is continuing to develop support networks for the new intervention, including accredited trainers in both the UK and the US, and continuing to evaluate and develop the teaching programme.

RLI training in Ireland

Professor Sue Buckley will be presenting a two day conference on DSE’s Reading and Language Intervention for Children with Down Syndrome (RLI) and contributing to a conference on early intervention in Ireland next week.

Down Syndrome Ireland is hosting a two day training event in Dublin on DSE’s Reading and Language Intervention for Children with Down Syndrome (RLI) for professionals on 22 and 23 May. RLI is an evidence-based program designed to teach reading and language skills to children with Down syndrome. It incorporates best practice in structured activities delivered in fast-paced daily teaching sessions. RLI was evaluated in a randomised controlled trial and found to improve rates of progress compared to ordinary teaching. The conference will be presented by Profess Sue Buckley, OBE, DSE’s Director of Research.

Can you help us improve RLI?

We are conducting a survey of educators working with children with Down syndrome who are using – or have used – the intervention, and of the children’s parents. The information we collect will help us to continue to improve the intervention and the resources and support that we provide.

The survey should take around 10 to 15 minutes to complete online.

To find out more, please visit our web site.

What is RLI?

DSE’s Reading and Language Intervention for Children with Down Syndrome (RLI) is an evidence-based program designed to teach reading and language skills to children with Down syndrome. RLI incorporates best practice in structured activities and was evaluated in a randomised controlled trial.

RLI was designed to incorporate best practice in reading and language teaching and interventions for all children with best practice in teaching for children with Down syndrome. It builds on previous work on reading and language interventions at The Centre for Reading and Language at the University of York by adapting teaching techniques found to be beneficial for other learners to meet the learning needs of children with Down syndrome.

The intervention includes a reading strand and a language strand, each of which includes several components. The intervention follows a prescribed framework within which content and teaching are tailored to meet individual needs. Daily one-to-one teaching sessions are expected to last 40 minutes (either as a single 40 minute or two 20 minute sessions).

The reading strand teaches phonics (letter-sound knowledge, phoneme awareness and the application of these to reading and spelling) and sight word learning, in the context of book reading. The language strand teaches vocabulary by exposing students to new words many times and in different contexts. Taught vocabulary includes nouns, verbs, adjectives and prepositions, and is grouped in themes to support the linking of knowledge areas and word meanings. The intervention includes assessment and record keeping tools and is designed to be adapted to individual children’s abilities and rates of progress.

RLI was evaluated in the first randomized controlled trial of an educational intervention designed for children with Down syndrome, and one of the largest of any study of children with Down syndrome to date – funded by the UK Big Lottery Fund. The study was conducted by researchers at Down Syndrome Education International and at The Centre for Reading and Language at the University of York. The primary findings were published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

The evaluation study found that:

  • Children receiving the intervention made faster progress on average on a number of measures than children receiving ordinary teaching.
  • Gains on four outcome measures were statistically significant (in other words, they are considered unlikely to have occurred by chance) after 20 weeks of intervention. These were single word reading, letter-sound knowledge, phoneme blending and taught expressive vocabulary, reflecting the skills that were most directly targeted by the intervention.
  • Children receiving the intervention gained an average 4.6 words on a measure of single word reading over 20 weeks, compared with an average 2.0 words for children in a control group not receiving the intervention: a gain of 2.6 words.
  • By the end of the study, 1 in 5 children with Down syndrome achieved word reading scores similar to those expected of typically developing children of the same age.
  • Teachers reported that the predictable structure of the intervention led to improved behaviour, attention and engagement in learning.
  • Rates of progress for individual children varied widely with some children making substantial progress quickly, some children steadily making slower progress, and a few children making little or no progress.
  • Children who started the programme at a younger age, who had better receptive language skills at the outset, and who received the most intervention sessions generally made the greatest progress.

Further information

Further information about the design and evaluation of RLI is available on Down Syndrome Education International’s web site. We will also be announcing online events and self-paced courses to support use of the program in the near future.

We have also published a handbook for teachers which includes training DVDs and a CD of assessment and example teaching resources. The handbook can be purchased from our US or UK online stores.

Welcome to the RLI blog

Welcome to our new blog which will offer information and guidance about the new reading and language intervention for children with Down syndrome published by Down Syndrome Education International and Down Syndrome Education USA.

We hope this blog will be a useful forum for sharing advice, guidance and answers to common questions from educators and parents about DSE’s new reading and language intervention (RLI). The blog accompanies an email discussion group, which is also monitored by DSE staff and through which we can answer queries and encourage the sharing of successful practice.

If you have a question that you would like us to address, please post it to the email group (ds-rli@listserv.down-syndrome.net – you must be subscribed to the group to post) or email us via rli@dseinternational.org.

Other sources of information and advice

Extensive information about the design and evaluation of RLI is available on Down Syndrome Education International’s web site. We will also be announcing online events and self-paced courses to support use of the program in the near future.

We have also published a handbook for teachers which includes training DVDs and a CD of assessment and example teaching resources. The handbook can be purchased from our US or UK online stores.