What Mode of Visual Communication Best Supports Reading Comprehension for Students with Disabilities?

A large proportion of students with disabilities struggle with reading are visual learners. Among them are students with a hearing impairment, students with autism, and students with intellectual disabilities. The purpose of this study was to determine what mode of visual communication best supported reading comprehension for students with disabilities. American Sign Language, and the visual systems of Proloquo2Go and the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) can be used to facilitate learning and reading comprehension expression. This study examined how each one of these supports affected the ability of 15 high school-aged students with autism, hearing impairments, and intellectual disabilities to respond to comprehension questions at their individual reading levels using the Reading A-Z instructional program. Each student responded to a series of comprehension questions under each of two or three conditions that provided different supporting interventions. Students read nonfiction stories of their choice at their independent reading level and answered a series of multiple choice comprehension questions. During the baseline condition, they responded to the questions with no communication support during baseline. They then responded using, on a sequential rotating basis, the communication supports of (1) PECS, (2) the application of the Proloquo2Go program on an iPad Air 2, and (for students who were Deaf or hard of hearing) (3) American Sign Language. Students’ percentage correct responses were higher than during baseline when using the Proloquo2Go program and the PECS supports, with performance being highest under the Proloquo2Go condition.