|Kate is a Senior Scientist in the Life Span Institute (LSI) at the University of Kansas. She is a member of two NIH-funded research centers at KU: the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center and the Biobehavioral Neurosciences in Communication Disorders Center. She also directs a postdoctoral training program on translational research. Currently funded research focuses on (a) the computerized instruction of early reading skills, (b) improving procedures for assessing phonemic awareness in individuals with disabilities, (c) improving one-to-one discrimination-teaching procedures, and (d) developing procedures to teach children with cochlear implants (i.e., children who have no history of auditory stimulus control) to take a hearing test. Dr. Saunders is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association. She has served several terms on the Editorial Boards of Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior (JEAB), and The Behavior Analyst (TBA). She has served as Associate Editor of JEAB and TBA.|
Some children have difficulty learning to read despite phonics instruction. Considerable progress has been made in identifying the prerequisite and component skills that underpin success. I will characterize these skills in terms of the stimulus control involved, and tie this characterization to effective instructional programming. The critical skills are in two domains, auditory and visual. In the auditory domain, there is incontrovertible evidence that children who demonstrate "phonemic awareness" are more likely to succeed in learning to read. Phonemic awareness is the abstraction of individual sounds from spoken syllables, for example, recognizing that "can," "cut," and "cod" all begin with the same sound, or that "cat" and "cab" have the same middle sound. Phonemic abstraction does not automatically result from typical phonics instruction, yet it is crucial to success. In the visual domain, the number of printed letters that a child names at the beginning of reading instruction is a strong predictor of instructional success, as is the speed with which letters are named. Although these facts may seem prosaic, they are sometimes overlooked. Moreover, a child may have difficulty discriminating printed words despite mastery of individual letters. Ample evidence supports the explicit instruction of these auditory and visual skills.