Effects of working memory training on reading in children with special needs

Abstract

This study examines the relationship between working memory and reading achievement in 57 Swedish primary-school children with special needs. First, it was examined whether children’s working memory could be enhanced by a cognitive training program, and how the training outcomes would relate to their reading development. Next, it was explored how differential aspects of working memory are related to children’s reading outcomes. The working memory training yielded effects, and these effects appeared beneficial to children’s reading comprehension development. Working memory measures were found to be related with children’s word reading and reading comprehension. The results show that working memory can be seen as a crucial factor in the reading development of literacy among children with special needs, and that interventions to improve working memory may help children becoming more proficient in reading comprehension.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Alloway, T. P., Gathercole, S. E., Kirkwood, H., & Elliot, J. (2009). The working memory rating scale: A classroom-based behavioral assessment of working memory. Learning and Individual Differences, 19, 242–245.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Baddeley, A. D. (2007). Working memory, thought and action. Oxford: University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Cain, K., Oakhill, J., & Bryant, P. (2004). Children’s reading comprehension ability: Concurrent prediction by working memory, verbal ability, and component skills. The American Psychological Association, 96(1), 31–42.

    Google Scholar 

  4. D’Amico, A. (2006). Training of working memory for preventing mathematical difficulties. Etá Evolutiva, 83, 90–99.

    Google Scholar 

  5. de Jong, P. (2006). Understanding normal and impaired reading development: A working memory perspective. In S. Pickering (Ed.), Working memory and education (pp. 33–60). London: Academic Press.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Gathercole, S. E., Pickering, S. J., Ambridge, B., & Wearing, H. (2004). The structure of working memory from 4 to 15 years of age. Developmental Psychology, 20(2), 177–190.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Gunther, V. K., Schafer, P., Holzner, B. J., & Kemmler, G. W. (2003). Long-term improvements in cognitive performance through computer-assisted cognitive training: A pilot study in a residential home for older people. Aging and Mental Health, 7(3), 200–206.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Holmes, J., Gathercole, S. E., & Dunning, D. L. (2009). Adaptive training leads to sustained enhancement of poor working memory in children. Developmental Science, 12(4), F9–F15.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Howes, N.-L., Bigler, E. D., Burlingame, G. M., & Lawson, J. S. (2003). Memory performance of children with dyslexia. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 36(3), 230–246.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Kane, M. J., Hambrich, D. Z., & Conway, A. R. A. (2005). Working memory capacity and fluid intelligence are strongly related contracts: Comment on Ackerman, Beir, and Boyle (2005). Psychological Bulletin, 131(1), 66–71.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Klingberg, T., Fernell, E., Olesen, P. J., Johnson, M., Gustafsson, P., Dahlström, K., et al. (2005). Computerized training of working memory in children with ADHD - A randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 44(2), 177–186.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Klingberg, T., Forssberg, H., & Westerberg, H. (2002). Training of working memory in children with ADHD. Journal of Clinical and Intervention Neuropsychology, 24(6), 781–791.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Lundberg, I. (1994). Reading difficulties can be predicted and prevented: A Scandinavian perspective on phonological awareness and reading. In C. Hulme & M. J. Snowling (Eds.), Reading development and dyslexia (pp. 180–199). London: Whurr.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Lyytinen, H., Erskine, J., Tolvanen, A., Torppa, M., et al. (2006). Trajectories of reading development: A follow up from birth to school age of children with and without risk for dyslexia. Merill-Palmer Quarterly, 52(3), 514–547.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Martinussen, R., Hayden, J., Hogg-Johnson, S., & Tannock, R. (2005). A meta-analysis of working memory impairments in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 44(4), 377–384.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. McNab, F., Varrone, A., Farde, L., Jucaite, A., Bystritsky, P., Forssberg, H., et al. (2009). Changes in cortical dopamine D1 receptor binding associated with cognitive training. Science, 323(6), 799–801.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Niaz, M., & Logie, R. H. (1993). Working memory, mental capacity, and science education: Towards and understanding of the ‘working memory overload hypothesis’. Oxford Review of Education, 19(4), 511–525.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Olesen, P., Westerberg, H., & Klingberg, T. (2004). Increased prefrontal and parietal activity after training of working memory. Nature Neuroscience, 7(1), 75–79.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Otaiba, S. A., & Fuchs, D. (2006). Who are the young children for whom best practices in reading are ineffective? An experimental and longitudinal study. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39(5), 414–431.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Perfetti, C. A., Landi, N., & Oakhill, J. (2005). The acquisition of reading comprehension skill. In M. Snowling & C. Hulme (Eds.), The science of reading (pp. 227–247). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Pickering, S., & Gathercole, S. (2004). Distinctive working memory profiles in children with special educational needs. Educational Psychology, 24(3), 393–408.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Poskiparta, E., Niemi, P., & Vauras, M. (1999). Who benefits from training in linguistic awareness in the first grade, and what components show training effects?. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 32(5), 437–446.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. RoboMemo©, Cogmed Medical Systems AB, Stockholm, Sweden. www.cogmed.com.

  24. Savolainen, H., Ahonen, T., Aro, M., Tolvanen, A., & Holopainen, L. (2008). Reading comprehension, word reading, and spelling as predictors of school achievement and choice of secondary education. Learning and Instruction, 18, 201–210.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Swanson, H. L., Howard, C. B., & Sáez, L. (2006). Do different components of working memory underlie different subgroups of reading disabilities? Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39(3), 252–269.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Torgesen, J. K., Alexander, A. W., Wagner, R. K., Rashotte, C. A., Voeller, K. K., & Conway, T. (2001). Intensive remedial instruction for children with severe reading disabilities: Immediate and long-term outcomes from two instructional approaches. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 32(1), 33–58.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. van’t Hooft, I., Andersson, K., Sejersen, T., Bartfai, A., & von Wendt, L. (2003). Attention and memory training in children with acquired brain injuries. Acta Paediatrica, 92, 935–940.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Vellutino, F. R., & Fletcher, J. M. (2007). Developmental dyslexia. In M. Snowling & C. Hulme (Eds.), The science of reading (pp. 362–378). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Vellutino, F. R., Fletcher, J. M., Snowling, M. J., & Scanlon, D. M. (2004). Specific reading disability (dyslexia): What have we learned in the past four decades? Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatri, 45(1), 2–40.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

This research was supported by The Swedish Research Council.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Karin I. E. Dahlin.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Dahlin, K.I.E. Effects of working memory training on reading in children with special needs. Read Writ 24, 479–491 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-010-9238-y

Download citation

Keywords

  • Working memory
  • Working memory training
  • Word decoding
  • Reading comprehension
  • Small groups
  • Special education
  • Special needs