Differential Codevelopment of Vocabulary Knowledge and Reading Comprehension for Students with and without Learning Disabilities

In this large-scale study of students from Title 1 schools (N = 14,773), we used multiple-group latent change score (LCS) modeling to investigate the developmental relations between vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension in students with a school-identified learning disability (LD; n = 627) and typically developing students (n = 14,146). Students were tested for their vocabulary breadth and passage comprehension skills in kindergarten through fourth grade. For typically developing students, there were bidirectional influences between their vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension skills. There were no cross-lagged influences across constructs for students with an LD. We find evidence for a developmental delay, such that students with an LD had similar levels and gains in their vocabulary knowledge relative to typically developing students, but these students started much lower in their reading comprehension skills and did not catch up to their typically developing peers. We discuss the implications for children with learning disabilities and the development of their reading comprehension skills. Educational Impact and Implications Statement: The present study suggests that for students with a school-identified learning disability (LD), the amount of vocabulary words a student with an LD knows does not have a direct impact on their growth in reading comprehension skills. This may have implications for language-based interventions of reading problems for these children with LD, as we find little evidence that improvements in language will transfer to their reading comprehension delays. This further emphasizes the importance creating individual education plans as a way to stimulate growth in reading comprehension for students with an LD in at-risk environments.

Quinn, J. M., Wagner, R. K., Petscher, Y., Roberts, G., Menzel, A. J., & Schatschneider, C.
Journal of Educational Psychology, 112(3), 608-627. doi:10.1037/edu0000382
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Content Area: 
Grade Level: 
early elementary
intermediate elementary
IDEA Disability Category: 
specific learning disability
National Reading Panel Standards: 
English Language Arts: 
Reading: Foundational Skills