College of Education Professors Julie Washington and Nicole Patton-Terry have received a four-year, $2.6 million grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to develop one of four national Learning Disabilities Innovation Hubs – epicenters of research on learning disabilities.
Washington and Patton-Terry will focus on African American students in first through fifth grades, and conduct research in metro-Atlanta area school systems to differentiate between those children who have learning disabilities and those for whom language variation and socioeconomic status play a large role in learning to read and write.
“Our goal in applying for this grant was to address an issue that we knew people weren’t really addressing in this population of students,” Washington said. “The students are not always identified as learning disabled – they’re usually talked about as being ‘struggling readers.’ We want to take on the learning disability issue, but also another issue that people let influence how they address this issue, and that’s poverty. We want to figure out which issues are true poverty issues and which issues are true learning disability issues.”
Washington and Patton-Terry will be teaming with co-principal investigator Mark Seidenberg, the Hilldale and Donald O. Hebb Professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Wisconsin-Madison’s Institute for Research on Poverty to identify different subgroups of students with reading problems and collect data on why they struggle with different literacy skills.