Combining Academic and Behavioral Interventions to Increase Academic Engagement and Reading Fluency of Elementary Students with Specific Learning Disabilities

Date of Award

Fall 12-14-2023

Document Type

Project (696 or 796 registration)

Degree Name

Master of Science in School Psychology


Graduate Studies

Committee Chair

Amber Visina


Combined interventions


This project explored the effect of combining academic and behavioral interventions simultaneously to increase academic engagement and reading fluency with a second-grade student. Gettinger et al. (2021) found in a meta-analysis that sequential, rather than simultaneous, interventions fail to address the link between behavior and academics. The student’s reading fluency, measured as words correct per minute on FastBridge curriculum-based measurement (CBM), was consistently at or below the first percentile when compared to the national average. Her identified target behaviors included task avoidance and academic disengagement via pushing her chair away from the table, pulling her legs to her chest, and using “baby talk” while refusing to complete assigned tasks. Through a functional behavior analysis, the student’s special education team identified adult attention-seeking and escape behavior when presented with a difficult task as the two primary functions of the behavior. The student received 15 minutes of a flashcard-based sight word intervention and 20 to 30 minutes of noncontingent reinforcement (NCR) per day throughout the intervention period. Studies have shown NCR to be particularly effective for attention-maintained behaviors (Wood et al., 2018). Reading fluency progress was monitored weekly through CBM probes and behavioral progress was measured daily using Direct Behavior Rating scales. Results showed that the student’s academically engaged behavior increased significantly. Her reading fluency measure increased, but not significantly so. Future research would benefit from addressing NCR thinning schedules and alternative or additional reading interventions, as well as tailoring both academic and behavioral interventions to student needs as determined by evidence-based rating measures.

Abstract only: No full text available.