U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences (IES)
PI: Dr. Jill Allor (SMU)
Co-PI: Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba (SMU)
July 2020 - June 2025
The purpose of Project Intensity is to conduct a randomized control trial (RCT) in schools in Alabama and Texas to evaluate the initial efficacy of Friends On The Block (www.FriendsOnTheBlock.com) a comprehensive text‐based early literacy intervention written by professors Dr. Jill Allor, Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba, and Dr. Jennifer Cheatham, to enhance the reading and language outcomes of participating students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). Specifically, 240 students with IDD will be randomly assigned to a literacy intervention treatment condition (Friends on the Block (FOTB)) or a business‐as‐usual (BAU) control condition. Students in the treatment condition will receive the intervention from Project Teachers across two academic years. In addition to examining treatment effects on reading and language outcomes, we will explore moderators (e.g., IQ, SES) of the treatment. Friends on the Block is a comprehensive early literacy intervention designed to be inclusive and address the specific challenges and strengths of students with IDD; it includes a range of customizable and motivating materials comprised of: (1) a researcher‐developed book series, (2) explicit lessons that provide extensive opportunities for students to integrate skills and apply them in a meaningful context, and (3) multiple learning games to support practice and review. The books include narrative stories about the main character, Sam, and his friends on the block and related expository texts. The FOTB program is flexible and customizable, so teachers can adjust the pacing and instructional activities to meet the needs of various learners, particularly those with intensive needs, such as students with IDD.
Primary Research Questions
1. Do students who participate in FOTB demonstrate greater reading outcomes compared to students who participate in BAU reading instruction?
2. Do students who participate in FOTB demonstrate greater language outcomes compared to students who participate in BAU reading instruction?
For any questions please contact Dr. Miriam Ortiz the coordinator for Project Intensity.
Dr. Jill Allor and Dr. Stephanie Al Otaiba acknowledge a financial interest in the Friends on the Block books and curriculum. Any inquiries should be directed to the Office of Research Compliance at Southern Methodist University.
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