Overview of the Vanderbilt University Learning Disabilities Hub

Vanderbilt University is home to the Vanderbilt University (VU) Learning Disabilities Hub, which is funded by a grant award from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development Grant #2 P20HD075443. The purpose of the VU Learning Disabilities Hub is to increase understanding about connections among math problem solving, reading comprehension, and language comprehension affect learning disabilities (LD).

Despite important advances in learning disabilities intervention, the dominant intervention approach, direct skills instruction, fails to meet the needs of many students. Therefore, innovative approaches are needed to target the specific needs of subgroups of students with LD (i.e., LD sub-types) to expand the framework for LD intervention. This Project addresses a subset of the LD population that has been understudied. This population experiences disproportionately poor response to intervention and has a distinctive set of needs. These students have difficulty in math problem solving and reading comprehension. With this understudied population, a trans-disciplinary team of researchers investigates an innovative approach to LD intervention on math problem solving. This approach involves embedding tutoring on language comprehension in the same academic material that is used for direct skills math problem-solving intervention and the same academic material that is used for direct skills reading comprehension intervention, with scaffolding that occurs in parallel ways across domains. The key question is whether transfer occurs across domains on experimental tasks.

This LD Hub has the potential to impact science by increasing understanding about this LD sub-type (with combined reading comprehension and math problem-solving difficulty) as an LD sub-typing framework and about the role of language comprehension in math problem solving, reading comprehension, and co-morbidity. The Project has the potential to impact clinical practice by testing the viability of this LD sub-type as a framework to differentiate instruction, via a novel intervention, and thereby meet the needs of a greater proportion of students with LD.

Requesting Information on Database Usage

The Project study, which is in progress, will include data from 455 second-grade children identified with comorbid LDs or as average or high in MPS & RC. The final data set will comprise parent or teacher reported information, teacher reports of attentive behavior, and experimental mathematics and reading tasks, and linguistic/cognitive abilities. Variables will become available as manuscripts reporting on those variables are published.

The Core will prepare and make de-identified datasets electronically available to external users under a data-sharing agreement that provides for:

  1. a commitment to using the data only for the research purposes described in the user’s request
  2. assurance that no individual will be identified for any purpose
  3. a commitment to secure the data using appropriate computer technology
  4. a commitment to destroying or returning the data after analyses are completed
  5. guarantees that publications are credited to NICHD and to this grant and are entered into PubMed

The outside user will submit a request to L. Fuchs describing variables of interest, the research purpose/questions, the quantitative methods to be applied to the requested data, and how those methods will answer the research questions. Within 2 months of the outside user’s request, L. Fuchs in collaboration with the other Hub Investigators will formulate a decision, based on whether the proposed variables are part of the database; the research questions can be answered with those variables; and the plan is internally consistent, quantitatively sound, and tenable. If so, the decision is yes, and a database with the variables of interest will be provided, along with the code book for those variables. If not, we will provide a written communication explaining this decision. If we are unclear, we will provide a written request for clarifications, with up to 2 rounds. If approved, L. Fuchs will prepare and send a Data Use Agreement Form to the outside user (outlining terms for data use & guarantees). The relevant (de-identified) data will then be extracted and provided to the user along with relevant portions of the code book. We will also provide a published study that describes the sample, study, and procedures. For additional information, contact lynn.fuchs@vanderbilt.edu.