Attention Therapy Improves Reading Comprehension In Adjudicated Teens In a Residential Facility

The Journal of Correctional Education 63(2) •September 2012
Attention Therapy Improves Reading
Comprehension In Adjudicated Teens In a
Residential Facility
Jphn Shelley-Tremblay
Jennifer Langhinrichsen-Rohling
Joshua Eyer
This study quantified the influence of visual Attentio'! Therapy (AT) on reading skills
and Coherent Motion Threshold (CMT) in adjudicated teens with moderate reading
disabilities (RD) residing in a residential alt:rnative sentencing program. Forty-two
students with below-average reading scores were identified using standardized reading
comprehension tests. Nineteen children were placed randomly in the AT group and
23 in the control group. The control group received normal small group classroom
instruction in reading, while the AT group received 12 additional one-hour sessions
of individually monitored, computer-based AT programs. To stimulate selective and
sustained visual attention, AT stresses various aspects of arousal, activation, and
vigilance. AT produced significantly greater increases in reading comprehension than a
normal education control. The current study supports the literature suggesting a role for
visual attention in reading, and that attention therapy may be an efficient addition to
normal educational practices in juvenile detention facilities.
Attention Therapy Improves Reading Comprehension in Adjudicated
Teens in a Residential Facility
One of the factors most strongly associated with involvement with the juvenile
system is having trouble in academic settings, particularly difficulty in learning
to read (Maguin
a Loeber, 1996). In addition to low socio-economic status and
lack of family involvement (Brier, 1993), difficulty with academic skills stands
as a hallmark feature of the population of juvenile offenders. Failure to attain a
normal reading level is a significant predictor of incarceration in adulthood as
The Journal of Correctional Education 63(2) •September 2012
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well (Harlow, 2003). Greenberg, Dunleavy, and Kutner (2007) reported in their
combinations from 1978 to 200Z The studies had to have been in peer-reviewed
2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy that while only 3% of inmates were
journals, been quantitative or single-case designs, employed reading interventions in
considered non-literate, 23.3% were below basis levels of literacy based on an
a juvenile corrections setting, and included a reading outcome measure. The authors
average score of Prose, Document, and Quantitative literacy.
point out that several factors may contribute to the relative paucity of literature in
a Archwamety (1997) found that higher achievement on
this important area, including: 1) the goal of educational interventions has been to
academic tests, particularly reading, was a significant predictor of both reduced
reduce recidivism, not improve educational outcomes, per se, 2) researchers have
likelihood of incarceration in adolescents, and of decreased recidivism within
difficulty gaining access to the secure setting, 3) the participants are transient by
the juvenile offender population. 'While illiteracy anci low reading skills are
nature, and their schedule is often subject to interruptions. Additionally, Shelley-
not necessarily direct causes of delinquency-reducing illiteracy through quality
Tremblay et al. (2007) point out that little financial support exists to fund such
education in correctional facilities has been shown to reduce recidivism·
research within the tight budgets of local and state agencies.
a Leone, 2000). Based on such evidence, Keith and McCray (2002)
As a result of these and other factors, it is apparent that an inadequate
argued that "juvenile justice systems must address not only the social and
literature exists to determine which, if any, are indeed the "best practices·
adaptive needs of these adolescents (youthful offenders), but also their academic
for reading interventions in the juvenile system. Shelley-Tremblay et al.
needs: The necessity of reading remediation is highlighted by the costs to the
(2007) presented a series of guidelines for conducting learning disabilities
incarcerated in the form of limited future social and job opportunities specifically
research in this setting, including: employing a true experimental design
associated with reading difficulties (Maughan, 1995). Additionally, the monetary
with appropriate control conditions, using time-efficient and cost efficient
cost to society for the education of incarcerated youth was estimated to be an
remediation strategies, employing interventions that are flexible, and including
average of $29,600 per youth (Acorn, 1991 ). Given such a price tag, emphasis
an adequate range of dependent measures to determine what aspects of the
should be placed on determining the relative efficacy of programs, as well as' on
reading process are being influenced by the intervention. The current study
means by which costs can be effectively tracked and controlled.
that we present in this manuscript is
such a comprehensive strategy.
- -
Despite alarming evidence about the necessity of designing good reading
interventions for the juvenile offender population, relatively few successful
programs have been created. One successful program was initi~ted by Simpson,
of the first in the literature to attempt
This study was based on a reading intervention that has previous been
found to be effective in a relatively short term intervention, amenable to
Swanson, and Kunkel (1992), who conducted trainings at both a residential
the juvenile corrections environment. The intervention was developed by
facility and a detention center. Their regression statistics demonstrated that for
Solan, Larson, Shelley-Tremblay, Silverman, and Ficcara (2001 ). This technique
every 10 hours of training, their treatment group improved by about one third of
focuses on combining traditional reading and specific visual attention-based
an academic year, moreover, the remediated group had a substantially reduced
training. Both aspects of training were found to be beneficial to reading
rate of recidivism (41 %) compared to a control group (63%), and the general
disabled (RD) students in the 6th grade at ethnically diverse, urban middle
population (66%). The critical features of this successful reading program were
schools, with students showing improvements in reading learning rate from
that it was a direct and explicit intervention that treated reading problems
60% (approximately 3 years of progress in 5 years) before treatment to 379%
within the context of developing broad, cognitive skills. In light of the paucity
(approximately 1.5 years of progress in 12 weeks) after treatment. While
of published studies, relatively little is known about the efficacy of literacy_
the obtained results supported the notion of a cognitive link among visual
intervention programs within the juvenile justice system (see Shelley-Tremblay,
attention, oculomotor readiness, and reading ability, the exact mechanism of the
O'Brien, a Langhinrichsen-Rohling, 2007 for a review).
Another excellent review conducted by Krezmien and Mulcahy (2008)
treatment remained unclear.
A follow-up study was conducted such that an intensive visual attention
examined the type, quantity, and quality of controlled reading interventions in a
training (Al1 procedure was utilized in the absence of direct reading training (Solan,
juvenile corrections setting. After a literature search, only six studies met their criteria
Shelley-Tremblay, Ficarra, Silverman,
using the descriptors: 1iteracy, delinquency, behavior, and reading,· in all possible
of computer-based and paper and pencil activities designed to increase sustained
a Larson, 2003). Attention training consisted
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and selective attentional abilities. At the completion of AT, the mean standard
over two and one-half years as part of a larger study of the inmates. Participants
attention score of the AT group improved one standard deviation from 95 to 113
for the present investigation were deemed eligible for the current project
(41 st to 77th percentiles) on the attention tests. Mean reading comprehension
on the basis of standardized reading test performance (i.e., greater than two
scores of the AT group improved significantly from grade equivalent (GE= 4.1 to
years below grade level for middle-school level students or greater than three
GE= 5.2, or from the 23rd to the 35th percentile). Controls, however, showed no
years below grade level for high school level students). This resulted in 42
significant improvement in GEs or percentiles in reading comprehension after
incarcerated teenage males being included in the current study. The mean age
12 weeks. The study supported the notion that visual attention is malleable and
of the participants was 15.53 years (SD= 1.27) with a range of 13 to 18 years of
that AT has a significant positive impact on reading comprehension.
Most recently, Solan et al. (2004) have linked the effect of visual attention
age (5 years). The participants were incarcerated for a wide array of offenses,
including drug possession, drug trafficking, assault, larceny, and many other
training to a reduction in coherent-motion detection threshold (CMn on a
crimes that were not deemed severe enough to warrant incarceration in the
test involving a random dot kinematogram. Essentially, reading disabled (RD)
state's primary juvenile detention facility. The mean number of offenses for the,
students were shown to have a deficit in their visual system, compared with
participants was 5, with a range from 1 to 11. The participants were ordered to
normal readers. This deficit could be detected by the presence of relatively low
serve their sentence in the facility for a term not less than 10 weeks, with an
sensitivity to random motion on a computer display. This deficit has previously
average length of stay greater than two months. Participants' good behavior
been shown in dyslexic adults, and to correlate with abnormal neuroimaging
resulted in accumulation of sufficient time served to permit graduation from
results on a PET scan indicating deficits in the brain system associated with
the facility. Negative behaviors resulted in longer duration of stay. Participants
tracking a word and rapidly integrating its location with its meaning (Eden
took part in daily physical activities, educational activities, and received regular
et al., 1996). The fact that Solan et"al. (2004) demonstrated that this deficit is
psychological and medical services. Participants were tracked by an aftercare
amenable to training may provide an important avenue for helping RD youth
who have not been responsive to traditional reading instruction. It is this logic
program upon release.
that underlies the current project that implemented this remediation program in
Attention Therapy (AT,
a residential detention facility.
The current study was a prospective randomized control design
another facility, or escape and subsequent transfer.
The participants were randomly assigned to participate in either the
19) or the control group (n = 23). The unequal
resulted from unpredictable student behavior leading to drop-out, transfer to
incorporating a prescreening process whereby all detainees were assessed for
reading disability (quantified as two or more years behind for 6th through 9th
grades, and three or more years behind for = 10th graders). Those who qualified
Gates-MacGintie Reading Tests, Fourth Edition (GMRT)
as reading disabled were placed in either a six-week (12 sessions, twice/week)
AT program, or a no-treatment control. The participants in the visual attention/
The Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test, Fourth Edition (GM Rn (MacGinitie,
fluency AT were monitored and encouraged by a college student trainer to
choice reading test that will reveal each subject's actual reading level. Test forms
ensure compliance and maximum effort during training sessions. Of the studies
used in this study ranged from the second to tenth grade levels. In the second
MacGinitie, Maria, Dreyer,
e Hughes, 2006) is a silent paper and pencil, multiple-
reviewed in Krezmien and Mulcahy (2008), none of the six were prospective,
grade level, the student was instructed to match which picture corresponded
randomized treatment/control group studies. As such, the current study
with the provided sentence. On the remaining levels, students read passages
represents the most methodologically rigorous to date.
and then answered questions on the passages.
In order to qualify for participation in the study, participants must have
tested two or more years behind in their reading level from their GMRT results.
All participants were sentenced to reside in a residential, alternative sentencing
with the pre-tests. If the subject did not qualify, they were excluded from the
facility in the southeastern United States. Participants (n = 174) were screened
study. The participants completed only the comprehension section of the test for
If the subject qualified as two or more years behind, they continued in the study
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the grade level they would be entering in the fall, and a Grade Equivalent was
For this test, the participant was instructed to sit at an arm's length away from
established for each subject based on his or her comprehension score.
the computer screen. During testing, the screen was black with the exception
of two adjacent rectangular patches consisting of white dots. In one of the
Woodcock Johnson Non-word Test (WJN). The Woodcock Johnson Non-word
Test (WJN) from the Woodcock-Johnson Ill (Woodcock, McGrew,
a Mather, 2001)
evaluates the participant's ability to acquire phonemic or sound information
from a list of clusters of letters that do not form actual words. The student
is instructed to sound out each item on the list to the best of their ability.
Depending on how many items are produced correctly, the WJN derives an Age
rectangles, the white dots move in a Brownian motion, but in the other
rectangle, a varying percentage of dots move horizontally back and forth, while
the remainder of the dots move in the Brownian motion (see Figure 1). The
percentage of dots in random motion is varied according to a double random
staircase method of limits, in which correct responses yield a more difficult
response and incorrect responses an easier discrimination. The participant is
Equivalent Score, as well as a Grade Equivalent Score.
instructed to select the rectangle consisting of the horizontally moving dots.
Cognitive Assessment System (CAS)
good readers score higher, around 7.1 or more.
Poor readers have previously been reported to score in the range of 5.2, while
The Cognitive Assessment System (CAS) is a clinical tool used to measure a
child's intelligence formulated from his or her performance on a series of
cognitive tasks (Naglieri a Das, 1997). The Expressive Attention (EA) subtest is
Gray Oral Reading Tests, Third Edition (GORT). The Gray Oral Reading Tests,
Third Edition (GORT) assesses a student's oral reading ability, taking into
(Red, Blue, Green, Yellow) on the first page while being timed. The next page
account rate, accuracy, and comprehension (Weiderholt a Bryant, 1992).
Because the GORT consists of two corollary forms, A and B, each containing
consists of several colored blocks arranged in rows, and the student must
state/read the color of the ink the blocks are printed in going across t.he page
14 stories with five multiple choice questions, it is productive in measuring a
change in oral reading ability due to the effects of a reading training program.
very similar to the Stroop Test. First the subject must read the names of colors
while being timed. This page utilizes the same four colors as the previous
The GORT is additionally useful in the diagnosis of oral reading disabilities.
page. The last page is composed of the names of the four colors once again;
The GORT provides measures of overa~·oral reading speed, as well as reading
however, the color words are all printed in one of the three other colors of
comprehension, and the number of errors in decoding. These scores are used
ink. For instance, the word "Blue· is printed in yellow ink. Th~ participant is
asked to state the color of the ink each word is printed in while being timed.
to produce an Oral Reading Quotient (ORQ), used in the current study, which
is a standardized index of speed and errors under conditions of acceptable
This page normally takes longer than the previous two because the participant
must focus on the ink color and alter his or her attention so as to ignore the
printed word during this task. The Receptive Attention Test (RA) involves the
active discrimination of upper- and lowercase letter pairs based first on their
Attention Tests
physical similarity, and then on their lexical identity. This test requires the rapid
The attention processing assessment consisted of the three subtests that
establishment of set, selective attention to relevant stimulus features, and the
comprised the Attention Scales in the Cognitive Assessment System (CAS):
ability to change set flexibly. The final subtest, Number Detection (ND), is a
Expressive Attention, Number Detection, and Receptive Attention. The
cancellation task where participants must cross-out target letter or number
sets as a function of their font in a series of two trials. Time and accuracy are
standardized directions and extensive normative data analysis were followed
exactly as prescribed in the CAS Administration and Scoring Manual: Tests
a Das, 1997). Each of the subtests
recorded for all CAS subtests.
recommended for ages 8-17 years (Naglieri
Coherent Motion Threshold (CMT)
was individually administered to all participants by one of three examiners.
The three attention tests not only provide developmental measures of visual
The Coherent Motion Threshold (CMT) is a computer-administered,
psychophysical threshold task (Hansen, Stein, Orde, Winter, a Talcott, 2001 ).
attention and the ability to shift attention, but also quantify the potential to
avoid responding to habitual features while responding to another feature.
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That is, the tests assess how well the child attends to relevant stimuli while
Each therapy session was initiated with the Perceptual Accuracy-Visual
Efficiency (PAVE) program. Oculomotor readiness and visual processing
being challenged with irrelevant stimuli. The Expressive Attention subtest, the
only verbal response test, uses variations in color as distracters and is similar
efficiency were stressed. The oculomotor segment requires the participant to
to the Stroop Test (Stroop, 1992). For example, the word ·cREEN' is printed
count the frequency of appearances of a particular digit or letter while following
in blue, and the child is expected to respond
·swE: The Number Detection
subtest is a timed pencil and paper test that also measures ability to shift
a left-to-right sequential presentation of three equally spaced characters per
line on the screen, usually starting at 40 lines per minute. Sixty lines per minute
attention and resistance to distraction. The child is required to underline certain
is equivalent to one line per second or a fixation duration of about 300 ms
numbers that appear in regular typeface (e.g., 1, 2, 3) and others that appear
per character. The program automatically adjusts to challenge the individual.'s
in outlined typeface (e.g., 4, 5, 6). Similarly, the Receptive Attention subtest
performance. Ultimately, 120 lines per minute were reached by most students,
which reduces the visual processing time to about 150 ms per character. The
matches letters according to physical similarity (t and t) and lexical similarity
(t and
In each of these two timed tests, the child must work from left to
right and top to bottom, and may not recheck the page upon completion. The
timed test scoring is based upon number right minus number wrong and time
to complete the test. Therefore, the attention quotient represents the combined
therapy promotes the development of saccadic accuracy, automatic orienting
and focusing of attention, and the opportunity to process visual stimuli in the
right paracentral retinal area.
Perceptual Accuracy is a tachistoscope program intended to develop rapid
effects of accuracy and automaticity, that is, correctness as well as speed of
visual processing. Initially, four digits were flashed on the computer screen at
0.1 seconds, and the individual was required to reproduce them on the screen
Attention Therapy
To the extent that the results in this study apply to the population we have
not a challenge, some students found the transition from four to five digits difficult,
in which case a double flash was used at first. A few students were able to master
using the computer keyboard. Although four digits at 0.1 seconds generally was
defined, the authors have accepted overlap in the measures of attention
and memory. We propose that attention is multidimensional and malleable.
It involves arousal, activation, and vigilance. The question is therefore the
following: Given the appropriate therapy, can attention be op~rationalized and
cultivated with the expectation of improving the visual processing capacity
of the RD child (Mcllvane, Dube, Callahan, Lyon, 8- Krasnegor, 1996). The
therapeutic regimen includes both stimulus driven and goal directed voluntary
six digits at 0.1 seconds. Rapid and accurate visual processing as measured with
the tachistoscope correlates significantly-with reading readiness in kindergarten
(Solan e Mozlin, 1986), with reading in grades 1 through 5 (Solan, 1987a; Solan e
Mozlin, 1986), and with arithmetic in grades 4 and 5 (Solan, 1987b).
The next three perceptual procedures are included in the Computerized
Perceptual Therapy Program developed by Dr. Sidney Groffman.1 The Visual
Search program required the student to locate a designated stimulus within
procedures. As noted by Katzir et al. (2006), therapies must provide the
an array on the screen that was organized into 5 columns and 15 rows. Target
participant with the opportunity to enhance executive functioning.
All therapeutic procedures were administered individually and most
stimuli consisted of four or five letters or digits, and the number of stimuli was
involved computer assisted programs. Five attention enhancing programs
were utilized in each of the 12 one-hour sessions, and the difficulty levels were
increased gradually for each participant. The programs were as follows:
(a) Perceptual Accuracy, (b) Visual Efficiency, (c) Visual, (d) Visual Scan,
and (e) Visual Span. Usually time was available to conclude with pencil and
variable. The response was identified and canceled either with the mouse or
by typing the column letter and row number. Time to complete the task was
affected by ability to develop an efficient response strategy. After each trial,
the computer summarized time (e.g., 31 s) and number of correct and incorrect
responses and omissions. The presentation is randomized for each trial. Visual
Search training improves visual discrimination, figure-ground perception, and
perceptual speed.
paper exercises. Visual processing therapy primarily stressed arousal, activation
and vigilance. In order to achieve our goal of stimulating selective and sustained
attention, the development of visual memory and cognitive strategies also were
In the Visual Scan program, the individual locates and cancels designated
target stimuli (e.g., numbers) hidden in a randomized array of distracter stimuli
emphasized in the therapeutic regimen.
(e.g., letters). Since time is a factor, it is necessary to develop an aggressive
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Neither the GORT nor the WJN changed significantly (p > .05). In the case of
strategy in order to identify the target stimuli rapidly and accurately. Enhanced
peripheral awareness helps to locate the next target. Since Visual Scan is a timed
the WJN, the clinician may take note that the AT group changed about one-half
exercise, visual planning and strategies are necessary to complement perceptual
of a year, while the control group changed about one-quarter of a year. The
speed and accurate saccades. Visual Scan therapy is also effective in regulating
WJN, as a measure of PA was not predicted to change. On the GORT, Table 2
perceptual tempo in individuals who present an imbalance between reflectivity
and impulsivity.
Visual Span, the third therapeutic procedure in the Groffman series,
combines a number of attributes associated with attention. The individual is
required to identify and recall the exact sequence of stimuli presented
one at a
displays a change in means from 97 to 105 for the AT, and of 100 to 94 for the
control group.
Coherent Motion Threshold
As seen in Figure 3, the CMT reduced very slightly for the Control, and by almost
time at various selected speeds of presentation. Numbers or letters are available,
a third for the AT group. An ANOVA indicated no significant main effect of Time,
and the length of the sequence increases or decreases automatically,depending
./(1,38) = .498, p = .485, partial 7J 2 = .013, or of Group, j(l,38) = 1.435, p > .238,
upon the response accuracy. Visual Span is especially effective in enhancing
partial 7J = .036. Follow- up analyses indicated that the AT group changed
visual processing and visual sequential memory.
significantly from a Tl mean of 8.41 to a T2 mean of 5.36, t(18)
= 2.87, p = .010,
d = .659, while the control group did not change, t(20) = .059, p = .954, d = .012.
Control Treatment
The control consisted of the normal edl!cation classes that were being
conducted by the staff of the detention facility. Staff consisted of one full-time
head teacher and one full-time aid. These individuals instructed classes of
In order to test the hypothesis that AT would directly improve visual attention,
the mean scores for each of the three subtests for all participants were entered
approximately 10 to 18 youths five times per day for one and a half hours. The
into a MANOVA with factors of Time (2) and Group (2). The scores were all
students worked on all academic subjects, with frequent reviews of basic math
hypothesized to increase in the AT g'roup, and were. found to moderately
and reading skills. Students also worked individually on the Skills Bank software,
correlate with one another, with Pearsoii~s r ranging from .245-.528 (all
focusing on reading, math, social studies, and sciences during this time. Students
p < .01 ). The MAN OVA yielded a significant effect of Time,J (3, 36) = 10.670,
were removed from their education period only (with a few exceptions due to
p < .001. Univariate ANOVAs revealed that only Number Det_ection and Receptive
illness, special visitors, or changes in daily schedule) in order to do the AT.
Attention changed significantly from Tl to T2 for both groups combined,
Reading Measures
In order to determine whether AT produced significant improvements in reading,
the mean scores for the Gates-MacGinitie reading comprehension scores were
(1, 38) = 32.070, p < .001, and/ (1, 38) = 11.444, p = .002, respectively.
Follow-up analysis performed for each group revealed that both Number
Detection (f (1, 18) = 27.725, p < .001) and Receptive Attention (f(l, 18) = 13.376,
p < .002) improved significantly for the AT group. For the control group, only
Number Detection improved significantly, f (1, 20) = 13.592, p = .001.
analyzed for both the AT and control groups, before and after training. The
standard scores were transformed into Normal Curve Equivalents to make them
more suitable for parametric statistical analysis. The means displayed in _Table .1
Reading comprehension improved significantly for the AT group only, supporting
show that while the AT group improved 9.736, the control changed only 1.364.
the primary hypothesis of the study. The Gates-MacGinitie measures only
A 2 x 2 AN OVA with a between subjects factor of Group (AT vs.~control) and
silent reading comprehension, and as such has the largest amount of parallel
a within subjects factor of Time (Time 1[Pretest] vs. Time 2 [Posttest]) yielded
to the sorts of standardized reading tests (Iowa Test of Basic Skills, PSAT, etc.)
a main effect of Time,f (1, 39) = 11.354, p = .002, partial T\ 2 = .225, and most
that students are likely to encounter in a normal school setting. These scores
critically an interaction between Time and Group,f (1, 39) = 6.461, p = .015,
correspond to a change in Grade Equivalent of 5.3 (Time 1) to 6.6 (Time 2) for
partial T\ 2 = .142 (see Figure 2).
the AT group (1.3 years). For the control group, the corresponding scores were
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5.0 to 5.4. Another way to conceptualize this change is to convert the amount of
above, RA requires the rapid establishment of set, selective attention to relevant
change of a learning rate by dividing the years gained by the total time elapsed
from pre- to posttest. Following this formula, the AT group began their training
stimulus features, and the ability to change set flexibly. The improvement in this
test may indicate at least some of what underlies the significant increase seen
at a mean grade level of 8.4, with a mean reading level of 5.3, indicating a
in the AT group. The AT group was able to complete a greater number of test
learning rate of 63% at the start of the program. The control group had a grade
items than the Control group, and thus was able to earn higher scores on the
level of 8.2, with a starting grade equivalent of 5.0, yielding a learning rate of
comprehension measure. It must be stressed that the improvement seen was
61 %. During the period of the training program, the educational activities at the
not simply in speed, but in.fluency. That is, participants were only given points for
detention facility alone (control group) yielded a learning rate of 0.4 years in
0.33 years of instruction (3 months out of a 10 month school year), or 121 %. By
number of items.
contrast, the learning rate of the AT group was 394%. If calculated as gain per
hour of instruction, this yields 540 minutes, or 9 hours of instruction. Thus the
average gain can said to be .14 years of gain/hour of instruction.
The rates are valuable in that they provide a metric against which this
technique may be compared to other educational interventions. For the studies
that were reviewed in Krezmien and Mulcahy (2008 above), similar learning
rates can be computed. While each of th~se studies had serious limitations,
including lack of control groups and statistical inadequacies, perhaps the best
controlled was that of Allen-DeBoer, Malmgren, a Glass (2006). These authors
used a multiple-baseline design across four participants to calculate the effect of
daily, one-on-one, 30-minute Corrective Reading instruction over nine weeks. If
converted to total instruction time, this equals 1,350 minutes, or 22.5 hours. An
average of their participants' scores allows computation of their comprehension
gains on the Gray Oral Reading Tests, 3rd edition (GORT-3), which began at the
grade equivalent of 3.9 (note however, that 2 of their 4 subjects were< GE
1.9 at start). The posttest scores of 5.2 indicate a net increase of 1.3 years.
Interestingly, this is the same effect size as in the present AT intervention.
However, their average gain is 1.3 years in 22.5 hours, or a rate of .06 years/
correct comprehension questions, and no points for merely attempting a larger
As indicated by Mulcahy, Krezmien, Leone, Houchins,
a Baltodano (2008),
one of the major difficulties with conducting research in a prison setting is being.
able to use true experimental methods. The ·gold standard" of experimental
research is to employ random assignment of otherwise equivalent participants
to the experimental treatment and control groups. It must be stressed that
this level of control in the current study was only possible in the context of an
ongoing, multi-year relationship between the facility and the researchers. Only
after considerable time and effort were the goals of the facility and those of the
research team aligned.
Additional considerations included the inclusion of sufficient numbers of
experimental and control subjects (n· approximately ;:::: 20 for both groups), as
well as sufficient time in training (45 minutes/session). Participant effort was
maintained by stressing the intrinsic value of reading, as well as by trainers who
developed enough of a rapporj: with the detainees to be able to talk about their
plans after release, such as work, graduation, and college. Another important
feature of this research design was the inclusion of additional measures to
corroborate and explore the potential salutatory effects of the intervention, such
hour. This rate of gain is less than 10% that of the AT condition. This suggests
as measures of oral reading, phonological skill, magnocellular functioning, and
general attentional abilities. This study was limited by the number of available
that while phonics based instruction, like Corrective Reading, may be effective,
participants who could be assigned to two different experimental groups, and
their efficacy may be less than AT.
Another finding was that the students' oral reading did not improve
spending time with an enthusiastic college student twice per week (i.e., unable
significantly in either group, suggesting a limit on the generaliz~bility of the
to have an attention-only control condition). As in the public schools, detention
attention training procedure. It may be that repeated practice with selective
attention arrays enhances cognitive selection processes in data input, but the
output process (speech) remains relatively unaffected. This raises the possibility
facilities are highly resistant to allow some participants to be assigned to a
of developing attention-based training for oral reading and public speaking.
Interestingly, one of the attention subscales that improved significantly in
the AT group, but not the control group was Receptive Attention (RA). As noted
so was unable to control for non-specific treatments effects such as effect of
condition that would involve time socializing as opposed to being educated.
Future research should be undertaken to assess the effects of reading
remediation on recidivism, as well as consider whether there are concomitant
changes in the juvenile delinquents psycho-social adjustment (i.e., depression,
locus of control, academic self-esteem, and frequency and severity of ADHD
The Journal of Correctional Education 63(2) •September 2012
The Journal of Correctional Education 63(2) •September 2012
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Shelley-Tremblay, et. al.
symptoms). Ultimately, any RD intervention study must be seen as an
intervention against recidivism and toward better eventual integration with
society. By working with aftercare providers and local juvenile justice systems it
may be possible to track additional positive outcomes (resistance to risk-taking,
drugs, and violence) experienced by a juvenile delinquent who has had the
Shelley-Tremblay, et. al.
Reading Adjudicated Teens
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Figure 2. Gates-MacGinnitie Normal Curve Equivalents for the
Experimental and Control Groups before and after training.
Biographical sketch
DR. JOHN SHELLEY-TREMBLAY is an Associate Professor of Psychology. He specializes
in the biological bases of reading disability, as well as psychophysiological research
DR. JENNIFER LANGHINRICHSEN-ROHLING is a Professor of Psychology. She studies
violence, suicidality, risky behaviors, and addictions.
JOSHUA EYER is currently a Doctoral student in Clinical/Health Psychology at the
University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Figure 1. Screen shot of the random dot kinematogram. Random
. motion appears on either the right or left, while a percenf:11;ge of
coherently moving dots appears on the opposite panel.
Group Me...,ership
Figure 3. Mean Coherent Motion T.\rreshold from the Random Dot
Kinematogram task for the Experimental and Control Groups before
and after training.
"'•°'*"'ntal (Tralning)
Coo... (T-od)
Group Membership
The Journal of Correctional Education 63(2) • Se~ember 2012
The Journal of Correctional Education 63(2) • Se~tember 2012
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Shelley-Tremblay, et. al.
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Table 2. Attention Measures
Table 1. Reading Measures
Group Membership
Std. Error
GATES NCE = Gates MacGinitie Normal Curve Equivalent
WJN-NW = Woodcock Johnson Non-word Decoding Subtest
GORT-ORQ =Grey Oral Reading Test-Oral Reading Quotient
Group Membership
Std. Error
GAS EA = Cognitive Assessment System Expressive Attention
GAS ND = Cognitive Assessment System Number Detection
GAS RA = Cognitive Assessment System Receptive Attention
This research was supported by Grant No. 2001-Sl-FX-0006 awarded by the Office of Juvenile
Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points
of view or opinions in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent
the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. We wish to acknowledge the
work of Clint Moore in the execution of this project.