Camps built on KU research to help young readers improve, future school psychologists put theory to practice

LAWRENCE — Summer is the time of year many young people think about leaving school behind and heading off to camp. This summer, the University of Kansas will be home to a camp that helps students boost their reading skills while also training aspiring school psychologists in using research-based reading intervention and behavior supports.

OASIS — the Outcomes, Assessment Services & Intervention Supports training clinic in KU’s School of Education & Human Sciences — will host two reading camps this summer that pair youths ages 7-11 with doctoral students in school psychology for one-on-one academic supports to improve their reading skills in an engaging, positive environment. The clinicians will be supervised and coached in real time by licensed psychologists and KU researchers to gain experience in translating research into practice and collaborating across professional specialties.

In this year’s pilot programs, the camps will run June 3-7 and July 29-Aug. 2. Students and parents from the Lawrence area will take part in the first camps, and researchers will evaluate both the progress of this year’s participants and effectiveness of the camps in hopes of scaling up the camps and bringing in graduate trainees in additional disciplines.

Erin Yosai, associate professor of the practice in school psychology, and Irma Brasseur-Hock, teaching professor in special education and researcher at the Center for Research on Learning, will lead the camps. The pair met volunteering at KU Commencement a few years ago and realized they had shared interests in applied professional training and school-based intervention. They also both recognized a local need for boosting reading skills for struggling learners. Brasseur-Hock leads the Fusion reading curriculum, a research-based initiative developed at KU.

“I said, ‘Oh my goodness, we could take that (Fusion Reading) structure and apply it to a summer camp format to create some really good experiences for our graduate students; having interactive experiences working with reading intervention, student engagement and motivation behaviors, and remembering how to have a little summer-camp-style fun, all while practicing how to apply what they’ve learned about across their graduate training,’” Yosai said. “When you think about reading intervention and teaching reading skills, you think about repetition and practice and boring things over and over. So how do we make this fun? How do we build these skills and motivate students to be lifelong learners while we're targeting these monotonous skills rooted in research outcomes and best practices?”

Based on that research, Yosai and Brasseur-Hock have creatively adapted the Fusion Reading Program in which campers will take part in reading exercises via a treasure map and characters named Polly Parrot, Ollie Owl, Holly Hippo and Molly Mole. The characters will guide readers through concepts based on Science of Reading and five key elements to reading success dubbed Comprehension Cove, Decoding Desert, Vocabulary Valley, Syllable Springs and Word Waterfall.

“I've studied a great deal on the science of reading and key elements to reading. In special education we have been doing this type of work for many, many years. We're excited that others are embracing the science of reading,” Brasseur-Hock said. “And the type of training that the clinicians are receiving is focused specifically and aligns with the theory behind the science of reading.”

Campers will also “visit” Positivity Perch daily. Rooted in positive psychology and motivational interviewing, Positivity Perch is designed to help young readers think about who they are and how the skill of reading can open possibilities in life.

“We've come up with a unique way to make it fun. In Positivity Perch, we have students think about, ‘Who am I, and if I become a good reader, who can I become?’ If you become a good reader, there are so many doors that will open for you,” Brasseur-Hock said.

After parents and camp clinicians discuss if the student has an Individual Education Plan, reading or learning disabilities, home and school reading habits and any other related concerns, students then complete screenings for dyslexia, phonemic awareness and other foundational reading skills that will help build a tailored intervention for each camper. All campers are youths who read at least a grade level below their age. Some may be due to disability or being an English learner, but all also have the potential to learn, practice and improve.

Parents and students will be asked to rate their satisfaction with the camps immediately following the last day and six months later. At the time of the six-month follow-up, both parents and students will meet with their clinicians again to assess progress.

Clinicians providing  tutoring will also reflect on their experiences, and Yosai and Brasseur-Hock will supervise application of their academic intervention  techniques, positive behavior supports and translation of research to practice, among other skills. They will also utilize the FLITE center, led by Lisa Dieker, Williamson Family Distinguished Professor in Special Education at KU. The center is devoted to coaching teachers in effectively working with students while improving their skills via technology that can record and tag teaching sessions to target areas for improvement.

The camps received startup funding through the School of Education & Human Sciences and Center for Research on Learning. If effective, organizers hope to seek further funding to help reach more students, potentially through satellite camps for additional schools, at multiple points throughout the year, and with programming designed for multiple age ranges or academic skills. Additionally, they hope to incorporate more graduate students in areas such as speech-language pathology and others who work with school psychologists and teachers.

“Something we've been talking about this whole time is, ‘How do we create interdisciplinary opportunities?’ School psychology, special education, those are team-based occupations, where you are working with team members in your profession, in special education and speech language pathology, and maybe audiology or occupational therapy,” Yosai said. “So, what if we can create opportunities with child clinical psych or with special education or with speech language pathology programs, where we're learning from and training with each other? How much stronger will all of our trainees be going out into the real world?”

Parents interested in the camps or learning about OASIS, KU’s psychology training clinic focused on the academic and mental health success of all students, can complete a signup survey for the camps or join a contact list for future programming.

Mon, 06/03/2024


Mike Krings

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