Research-Based Resources on Specific Disabilities

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Alert! Alert! 
Because NICHCY’s website will only remain online until September 30, 2014, most of its rich content has moved to a new home, the Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR), where it can be kept up to date. 

The new address of Research-Based Resources on Specific Disabilities at the CPIR is:


Resources updated March 2013

Dr. Barbara Smith & Kyrie Dragoo
Research Analysts, NICHCY

Here’s a multitude of educational research connections you might find useful as you plan and deliver services to children with disabilities:

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Starting with Disability Research, in General

Research at NIH: What we know and what we’re trying to find out.
The National Institutes of Health, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the nation’s medical research agency—making important medical discoveries that improve health and save lives. The link above takes you to the Browse Health Categories, where you can select the disability area of interest and connect with the latest information and research (what we know to date). If you’d like to know more about current research protocols underway (what NIH is investigating), visit:

Research at the CDC.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website is CDC’s primary online communication channel for providing users with credible, reliable health information, much of it based upon CDC’s own research. The link above takes you to CDC’s Diseases and Conditions A-Z index, where you can select areas of interest, including asthma, autism, birth defects, diabetes, epilepsy, and much more.

Find effective teaching techniques for different disabilities.
Students studying special education at the University of Virginia Curry School of Education and East Tennessee State University College of Education have read and summarized scores of research articles about methods for teaching specific skills to individuals with disabilities. Take advantage of their work in the areas of: reading, spelling, handwriting, writing, math, content instruction, behavioral challenges, language skills, social skills, vocational skills, and functional skills.

Using what works.
Research has revealed 8 interventions that really work with students who have disabilities. Find out what those 8 things are.

Learning and the brain.
Recent brain research is giving us insight into how the brain works, how we learn, and how our brains are alike and different. We’ve organized this “starter” pack of resources on brain research, because it’s more than merely fascinating. It has direct connections to the classroom and our educational practices with all students.

Teaching for understanding in inclusive classrooms.
Traditional lectures, exercises, and drills may help students memorize facts and formulas and get the right answers on tests. But they don’t help students achieve the depth of understanding they need to understand complex ideas and apply knowledge in new settings or situations. What does work, particularly with students who have disabilities? Read NCSET’s Research to Practice Brief on the subject, at the link below.

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Finding Research Connections for Specific Disabilities

What light is research shedding with respect to specific disabilities? Connect with that research for AD/HD, autism spectrum disorders, emotional/behavior challenges, and intellectual disabilities.

AD/HD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder)

Healthy children: ADHD.
From the American Academy of Pediatrics, this resource landing page is chock-ful of info on ADHD.

Genetics behind ADHD.
This article in Psychiatric Times is from June 2009.

Research on treatments for ADHD.

Identifying and treating AD/HD: A resource for school and home.
A publication from the U.S. Department of Education.

A review of the research on interventions for AD/HD: What works best?
(2002, Spring). Review of Educational Research, Vol. 72, No. 1, 61–99.
Not available online. Visit the journal Web site at: for details of how to order.

Effects of school-based interventions for AD/HD: A meta-analysis.
A research summary from NICHCY’s Research Center.

Cognitive and behavioral treatment of impulsivity.

Cognitive behavior modification of hyperactivity-impulsivity and aggression: A meta-analysis of school-based studies.
A structured abstract of the research findings from NICHCY.

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Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

Autism spectrum disorders—medically speaking.
What’s scientific investigation revealing about ASDs? Find out, beginning with these three sources:

Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee.
The IACC coordinates all efforts within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) concerning  research into ASDs. Every year the IACC releases a  Summary of Advances in Autism Spectrum Disorder Research conducted in the the previous year.  Read all the latest findings (and more) at:

That’s the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, at the National Institutes of Health.

National Institute of Mental Health.

Autism Speaks.

Specific areas of the brain linked to ASDs.
Using advanced imaging technology, a research team headed by Dr. Martha R. Herbert of the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Medical School in Boston has identified specific portions of the brain’s white matter that are abnormally large in children with autism and developmental language disorder. Read more at:

Largest study ever launched.
In 2004, the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) launched the Autism Genome Project, the largest study ever conducted to find the genes associated with inherited risk for autism. The project is using DNA array technology to scan the human genome and includes 1,500 families. Read more at:

Autism: What neuroscience is finding.

Easter Seals’ Living with Autism study.
In cooperation with the Autism Society of America, Easter Seals surveyed over 2,500 parents of children with autism and typically-developing children about daily life, relationships, independence, education, housing, employment, finances and healthcare. Here’s what they found.

The genetics of autism.
This website is dedicated to helping families who are living with the challenges of autism stay informed about the exciting breakthroughs involving the genetics of autism.

For parents looking for research on autism.
This guide, entitled Life Journey Through Autism: A Parent’s Guide to Research, is intended to help parents become “savvy” about finding and consuming information on autism, with special emphasis upon examining the research. Sources of this information are presented. The science model is then explained, along with a framework for evaluating research studies and the current state of autism research.

Autism onset patterns linked to developmental outcomes.
In children under age 3, the onset of autism has three distinct patterns — regression, plateau, and no loss or plateau — which substantially affect developmental, diagnostic and educational outcomes, according to a study published April 2, 2010 in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

And what about educating students with autism?
The Committee on Educational Interventions for Children with Autism, National Research Council, offers Educating Students with Autism, which examines the scientific knowledge underlying educational practices, programs, and strategies for children with this disability.

And you may be interested in these NICHCY structured abstracts of educational research and meta-analyses involving children with an autism spectrum disorder.

Summary of “A Meta-Analysis of Video Modeling and Video Self-Modeling Interventions for Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders.”

Summary of “A Meta-Analysis of School-Based Social Skills Interventions for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders.”

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Emotional / Behavioral Disturbances

Visit the leading authority on research into mental disorders…NIMH.
The National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) is the largest scientific organization in the world dedicated to research focused on the understanding and prevention of mental disorders and the promotion of mental health. The link above will take you to the “mental health topics” page from which you can drill down to topics of interest to you (e.g., anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, eating disorders) and relevant research.

Visit NAMI’s research section.
NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The link above takes you to NAMI’s “Advances in Research” page, where you’ll find lots of connections to stay informed about where research is being conducted into mental disorders and what findings are emerging.

Learning/management model effective for anxiety treatment.
A blended intervention approach to anxiety treatment is superior to usual care for patients treated in primary care clinics, according to research published May 18, 2010 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Education and mental illness.
Here you’ll find information and resources for students, parents, teachers, and counselors that provide insight, tips, and suggestions for helping young people to cope with mental illness and enjoy success in school and in life.

NICHCY also offers structured abstracts of educational research and meta-analyses involving children with an emotional or behavioral disturbance. To date, there are 15 separate summaries of research on social skills interventions, rational-emotive therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and more. Find all at:

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Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

11th edition of Intellectual Disability: Definition, Classification, and Systems of Supports.
A classic publication of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), the 11th edition contains the most current and authoritative information on intellectual disability, including best practice guidelines on diagnosing and classifying intellectual disability and developing a system of supports for people living with an intellectual disability. Cost to members: $ 76.50; Non-member cost: $ 90.00.

Imaging study discovers brain development differences in kids with Fragile X syndrome.
A May 2010 article from Science Daily.

Down syndrome in the research news.
The National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) has long played a major role in advancing knowledge about Down syndrome. At the link below, you can connect with a listing of clinical trails and research studies actively recruiting participants with Down syndrome.

Research-based fact sheets on specific intellectual and developmental disabilities, from NIH.

Down syndrome:

Rett syndrome:

Fragile X syndrome:

Intellectual and developmental disabilities: Yesterday, today, tomorrow.
This NIH Research Timeline summarizes key research findings over the years with respect to intellectual and developmental disabilities.

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Learning Disabilities

Effective Mathematical Instruction.
From NICHCY’s Evidence for Education series. See especially part 3 in the discussion.

The Research Roundup.
Visit the archive of Research Roundup at the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

Alerts: Keep up to date with what LD research is finding.
TeachingLD is a service of the Division for Learning Disabilities (DLD) of the Council for Exceptional Children. The Alerts series is a joint initiative of DLD and CEC’s Division for Research (DR). Learn more about the Alerts initiative and the instructional practices that have been examined so far at:

NICHCY is also pleased to offer 18 structured abstracts of educational research and meta-analyses involving children with LD. The structured abstracts summarize research (and findings) regarding the effectiveness of specific interventions for students with LD in reading, math, expressive writing, computer-assisted instruction, and social skills. Examples include these three:

Students with Learning Disabilities and the Process of Writing: A Meta-Analysis of SRSD Studies

Reading Research for Students with LD: A Meta-Analysis of Intervention Outcomes

Searching for the Best Model for Instructing Students with Learning Disabilities

 Sounds good, eh? Find all 18 summaries of LD interventions at:

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Would you like to visit another page in NICHCY’s series on Research Basics?

If so, the links below will speed you on your way there.

Research 101 | What makes for good research?

Research 102: Adding Up the Evidence | How do you combine the findings of multiple research studies?

Finding Statistics | Looking for statistics for your own work?

Research Terms | A glossary.

Making Sense of Statistics in Research | Don’t let stats throw you.

Weighing Info for Its Worth | Is this research well done?

Special Education Research: Where to Start? | How to begin finding and applying research.

What Works: Can We Say? | Where can I find information on evidence-based practices?

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NOTICE: NICHCY is going away, but its resources are not. Find hundreds of legacy NICHCY publications, as well as our training curriculum on IDEA 2004, in the Center for Parent Information and Resources' Library at This website will remain available until September 30, 2014. After that date, web visitors will be automatically redirected to