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SCROLL Research Projects

Coming Soon!

Announcing our new NIH/NIDCD R01 Project: Measuring Language Comprehension in the Primary Grades

South Carolina Early Literacy Screener

The purpose of the South Carolina Early Literacy Screener research program is to validate an app-based literacy screener for kindergarten and first grade students in South Carolina. The screener computer adaptive assessments embedded within engaging games to efficiently assess a student’s current performance regarding early literacy skills such as phonemic awareness, decoding, spelling, RAN, and oral language. This project is supported by the SC General Assembly and the SC Department of Education. The research team includes Dr. Lisa Fitton and Dr. Suzanne Adlof from the University of South Carolina, Dr. Hugh Catts from Florida State University, and Learning Ally. If your school is interested in participating, please contact Zoe Bader:


Project WORD

Word Learning in Reading and Language Impairment Subgroups 

Rich vocabulary knowledge is essential to strong literacy skills, and children with language and reading disabilities often struggle with learning new words. This longitudinal study follows

children with developmental language disorder (DLD; also known as “specific language impairment” or SLI), dyslexia, or typical language and reading skills from 2nd to 4th grades to examine the relation between word learning abilities and literacy achievement.

Our ongoing project is supported by a grant from the NIH/NIDCD (R01DC017156) and is conducted in collaboration with Dr. Dawna Duff at the University of Binghamton. The study currently includes children in 38 states from the United States. We are continuing to enroll children in 2nd grade who are experiencing reading or language difficulties. Click here to complete interest form.

A prior study, supported by R03DC013399, involved > 500 2nd grade students in South Carolina who were classified into four subgroups based on their performance on assessments of oral language and word reading skills: DLD, dyslexia, combined DLD+dyslexia, and typical development (TD) and followed longitudinally through 4th grade. Recent key findings from this study include:

  • Children with DLD and children with dyslexia exhibited significantly lower performance than their TD peers on school-based assessments of academic progress in reading and math that persisted from 2nd to 4th grade. However, less than 30% of students meeting criteria for the DLD, dyslexia, or DLD+dyslexia groups had received educational support services. Children in the DLD group performed similarly to children in the dyslexia group on both measures across time points, but the children in the dyslexia group were twice as likely to have received educational support services (Duff et al., 2022).

  • When provided direct oral instruction in word forms and meanings, children with dyslexia and/or DLD showed significant difficulty learning new words compared to their TD peers. Children with dyslexia had similar starting vocabulary as TD peers, but they showed difficulty on assessments of both phonological and semantic aspects of word learning. Children with DLD had significantly lower starting vocabulary compared to TD peers and peers with DLD, but differed from the TD group only on word learning measures that assessed semantic recall (Adlof et al. 2021). Our ongoing project examines factors that may explain these paradoxical findings and inform vocabulary interventions for both DLD and dyslexia.


DictionarySquared is a free, online vocabulary instruction program for high school students and young adults. Teachers and parents can request accounts for their students by e-mailing DictionarySquared Research was iteratively developed and supported by a grant from the Institute of Education Sciences  R305A130467. The program uses several research-based features for effective vocabulary instruction, including individualized selection of words to teach according to the learner's current word knowledge, direct instruction of word meanings and multiple authentic contextual examples, spaced practice retrieving word forms and meanings, and game-design features to promote learner engagement. An overarching goal is to build a program to effectively teach any word to any student. Beginning with an initial set of 1,000 useful vocabulary words, we developed corpus linguistics measures to automatically identify "nutritious" contexts for learners (Kapelner et al., 2018). We also developed an efficient method of measuring initial vocabulary knowledge using self-rated checklists (Abdi master's thesis). Following several phases of iterative development and feasibility testing, results of a pilot study with 264 high school students indicated students' minutes of program usage during one academic semester significantly predicted posttest vocabulary scores after controlling for pretest vocabulary scores (Adlof et al., 2019). Collaborators on this project include Adam Kapelner, Charles Perfetti, Margaret McKeown, Yaacov Petscher, Jeanine Soterwood, and Shalev NessAiver. Project coordinators were Joanna Scoggins and Elaine Miller.


Children’s Letter and Sound Processing 

This project, supported by an ASH Foundation Clinical Research Grant,  examines relations between children’s phonemic awareness (their ability to reflect on and manipulate speech sounds in words) and their orthographic awareness (how speech is represented in print in the English orthographic system). Several of these projects use eyetracking to evaluate the efficiency of children's processing in real time. One study (manuscript under review) compares children with persistent dyslexia, resolving dyslexia, and typical development. Other studies include typically developing 6-7 year olds children (Emily Fisher master's thesis),  students with speech sound disorder (Anna Ehrhorn doctoral dissertation), and children with developmental language disorder (DLD).

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