Headsprout Reading Program in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder and Reading Delay

2017-02-17 13:23:21 | BioPortfolio


Headsprout is a commercially available computer-based reading program that teaches children fundamental reading skills, including phonics, fluency, and comprehension. The Headsprout reading intervention has been shown to be effective with children with various levels of reading skills, but it has not been rigorously tested in children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of Headsprout in a pilot sample of 18 children with ASD and reading delays to serve as a foundation for a larger, future randomized clinical trial (RCT).

Eighteen participants will be included in the study and randomly assigned to one of two groups; the first group will immediately receive treatment with the Headsprout reading program and the second treatment group will receive treatment after 12 weeks. Treatment sessions will occur for one to two hours, two to four days a week, for twelve weeks. The participants who do not receive treatment immediately will be asked to come in for reading assessments periodically throughout their wait time.


A large number of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) experience reading delays, yet few empirically supported reading interventions exist for this population. Reading delay can interfere with academic progress, impede vocational opportunities, hinder self-expression, and limit capacity for independent living. Accessing empirically supported interventions for reading skills can be difficult, with parents of children with ASD facing long waiting lists at specialty clinics, reflecting the simple fact that demand is greater than the supply of trained providers. There is a pressing need for access to affordable interventions that do not depend on specialty clinics.

As a commercially available, computer-based program, Headsprout may be a good fit for children with ASD. Headsprout has shown effectiveness in children with reading delay uncomplicated by ASD, but has not been rigorously studied in children with ASD. This study will investigate the effects of the Headsprout reading program on improving reading skills of children with autism. Eighteen children will be recruited and the researchers will evaluate their current language use by: 1) asking their parents to rate their child's language, 2) completing an echoic skill assessment. Current reading skills will be determined by administering a reading assessment that evaluates their reading accuracy and fluency.

Participants will be randomly assigned to one of two groups; the first group will immediately receive treatment with the Headsprout reading program and the second treatment group will receive treatment after 12 weeks. During the intervention, children will meet with a trained therapist, several times per week for approximately twelve weeks. The therapist will instruct them to complete various reading activities on the computer. These reading activities may include tasks such as receptively identifying letter names and letter sounds presented on the computer or practicing saying sounds out loud and blending combinations of sounds together.

The participants who do not receive treatment immediately will be asked to come in for reading assessments periodically throughout their wait time. At the end of 12 weeks these participants will be able to start the Headsprout reading program.

Study Design


Autism Spectrum Disorder


Headsprout reading program


Marcus Autism Center
United States


Not yet recruiting


Emory University

Results (where available)

View Results


Published on BioPortfolio: 2017-02-17T13:23:21-0500

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A childhood disorder predominately affecting boys and similar to autism (AUTISTIC DISORDER). It is characterized by severe, sustained, clinically significant impairment of social interaction, and restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior. In contrast to autism, there are no clinically significant delays in language or cognitive development. (From DSM-IV)

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A cognitive disorder characterized by an impaired ability to comprehend written and printed words or phrases despite intact vision. This condition may be developmental or acquired. Developmental dyslexia is marked by reading achievement that falls substantially below that expected given the individual's chronological age, measured intelligence, and age-appropriate education. The disturbance in reading significantly interferes with academic achievement or with activities of daily living that require reading skills. (From DSM-IV)

Diagnosed when there are specific deficits in an individual’s ability to perceive or process information efficiently and accurately. This disorder first manifests during the years of formal schooling and is characterized by persistent and impairing difficulties with learning foundational academic skills in reading, writing, and/or math. The individual’s performance of the affected academic skills is well below average for age, or acceptable performance levels are achieved only with extraordinary effort. Specific learning disorder may occur in individuals identified as intellectually gifted and manifest only when the learning demands or assessment procedures (e.g., timed tests) pose barriers that cannot be overcome by their innate intelligence and compensatory strategies. For all individuals, specific learning disorder can produce lifelong impairments in activities dependent on the skills, including occupational performance. (from DSM-V)

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