University of Iowa Honors Theses

Thesis Title

Beyond the Text: Using Illustrations and Text Readers to Support Reading Comprehension in Post-Secondary Students with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities

Major Department

Speech Pathology and Audiology


College of Liberal Arts & Sciences


BA (Bachelor of Arts)

Session and Year of Graduation

Spring 2018

Honors Major Advisor

Yu-Hsiang Wu

Thesis Mentor

Meredith Saletta


For individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), pedagogy typically tends toward emphasizing functional skills over academic skills, which limits opportunities to develop age-appropriate reading comprehension skills. This has negative implications for this population’s access to literature like print media and medical information, educational and vocational opportunities, and personal well-being. The present study explored two possible methods of facilitating reading comprehension for adults with IDD in a postsecondary educational setting. First, existing research indicates that including different types of illustrations can support reading comprehension, so we alternately added colored photographs, black-and-white drawings, and a control nonsensical pattern to a passage. We tested participants’ comprehension of the passage. In each of three separate iterations, we found no differences between conditions. Subsequently, we explored assistive technology utilizing the Universal Protocol for Accommodations in Reading (uPAR), an automated diagnostic assessment that measures students’ comprehension at their independent level and when using additional reading accommodations. We investigated whether the same subject group could benefit from a text reader or a recorded human voice. Subjects performed at a significantly higher grade level with both the human audio and the text reader than independently, suggesting value in pursuing assistive technology interventions for this population of readers.


reading comprehension, intellectual or developmental disabilities, postsecondary education, illustrations, text readers, assistive technology

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Copyright © 2018 Audrey Wood

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