The Impact of Audio-Support on Reading Comprehension

Apr 28 2022

Key Takeaway:

To compensate for fluency & decoding difficulties, students with dyslexia often receive audio-support. Identification & awareness of both the benefits and drawbacks of audio-support allows practitioners to: 1) raise students’ awareness of the impact audio-support may have on their reading behavior and 2) support active and optimal use of audio-support to increase reading efficiency. —Ashley Parnell

Reading Comprehension in Students with Dyslexia

Reading comprehension is fundamental to academic learning across all subject areas. Students with dyslexia read slower and less accurately than their peers without dyslexia, which can negatively impact reading comprehension. Furthermore, students with dyslexia tend to use fewer reading comprehension strategies, which also hinders their ability to interact with and understand the text. 

To compensate for fluency & decoding difficulties, students with dyslexia often receive audio-support via narration of written text. “However, audio-support linearly guides readers from beginning to end through texts, possibly hindering the use of reading comprehension strategies in expository texts and negatively impacting reading time and reading comprehension performance.”

Examining Impact of Audio-Support

The current study sought to examine the effects of audio-support on reading comprehension strategies, reading times, and reading comprehension performance in 43 eighth grade students (21 students with dyslexia; 22 typically developing peers) from six schools across the Netherlands. Participants were provided with three types of assignments in each condition (written expository text with and without audio-support; an average of 349 words per text). Assignments were designed to encourage either intensive reading strategies (i.e., information from the whole text is needed) or selective reading strategies (i.e., information located in one specific paragraph) as noted below:

By measuring student eye movements during the texts and comparing those movements to the results of adult expert-readers, researchers identified the reading comprehension strategies as either intensive or selective. Of note, students were able to control the audio (e.g. pausing, repeating, skipping, & selecting) during the audio condition.

Findings & Implication for Practice

In conflict with previous research, decoding skills did not impact comprehension of the text. This finding and others are summarized below:

While these results identify some potential disadvantages to audio-support (i.e., increased reading time and reading strategy for open-ended questions), audio-support can compensate for weak decoding and may support engagement, confidence, and stamina. Rather than discourage the use of audio-support, researchers suggest the following implications for practice:

Summarized Article:

Knoop-van Campen, C., Ter Doest, D., Verhoeven, L., & Segers, E. (2021). The effect of audio-support on strategy, time, and performance on reading comprehension in secondary school students with dyslexia. Annals of dyslexia, 10.1007/s11881-021-00246-w. Advance online publication.

Summary by: Ashley M. Parnell — Ashley strives to apply the MARIO Framework to build evidence-based learning environments that support student engagement, empowerment and passion, and is working with a team of educators to grow and share this framework with other educators.

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