Young, M. C., Courtad, C. A., Douglas, K. H., & Chung, Y.-C. (2019). The effects of text-to-speech on reading outcomes for secondary students with learning disabilities . Journal of Special Education Technology , 34 (2), 80–91.

Journal Article

Young, M. C., Courtad, C. A., Douglas, K. H., & Chung, Y.-C. (2019). The effects of text-to-speech on reading outcomes for secondary students with learning disabilities. Journal of Special Education Technology, 34(2), 80–91.


High school; K-12; Learning disabilities; Oral delivery; Reading; Text-to-speech device/software; U.S. context




The oral delivery accommodation was investigated, provided as text-to-speech (TTS) software (Kurzweil 3000) with computer-simulated voice during reading assessments. Additional features were adjustable reading speed and listening-while-reading highlighting—that is, words were highlighted on the screen as the voice read them.


Three grade 9 students with reading-related learning disabilities in a self-contained English classroom at a public high school in the Midwest (U.S.) completed their participation; an additional student discontinued participation. Participants had high (95%) attendance records as a prerequisite for study participation. Demographic data including age, gender, and race/ethnicity were reported. Two participants had additional disabilities; one had attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and another had autism. All participants had no previous text-to-speech accommodation experiences. Participants' attendance proportions in general education were also reported. School population information was also provided.

Dependent Variable

A single-case A-B-A-B withdrawal design was applied to investigate the effects of of TTS software during reading comprehension curriculum-based assessments (CBAs). The Edge assessment series (Moore et al., 2014) was used, in which students read a fiction story, and then were assessed via 15 comprehension questions. Two baseline periods, during which participants did not use the accommodation but rather read silently and answered comprehension questions, were compared with two accommodated periods in which participants used the TTS accommodation; mean performance scores were calculated for each participant. A separate maintenance period was also implemented, during which participants did not use accommodations, as a check on whether previous use of accommodations had a residual effect on their reading comprehension skills. Oral reading fluency (ORF) was also assessed, using grade 8 reading passages from AIMSweb (Pearson, 2012); researchers measured whether students increased the number of words read per minute in different testing comparison conditions. In addition, the district's Scholastic Reading Inventory (SRI) screening assessment was used to obtain pre- and post-test scores. Participants also completed a survey with eight items that rated their levels of satisfaction in using TTS.


Reading comprehension effects were demonstrated for all three participants during accommodated CBAs; that is, participants had higher mean reading comprehension performance scores when using TTS, in comparison with silent reading baseline conditions. During the maintenance period (in which participants did not use accommodations), all participants demonstrated persistence of higher comprehension performance; the researchers suggested that TTS might have provided a remediation intervention for these participants with reading-related learning disabilities. Participants also demonstrated increases in oral reading fluency (ORF) during each accommodated period: one student had a small improvement in ORF that could have been due to routine learning growth, and two had relatively large improvements in word count per minute that were suggested to be associated with ongoing use of TTS across the time span of the study. Two of the three participants demonstrated an improvement of Lexile scores, on the SRI screening assessment; one participant scored lower on Lexile scores after accommodation use than before using accommodations. All three participants expressed positive impressions of the TTS accommodation, noted that it served to help them with recalling what they read. Participants also noted that they were not clear on whether TTS could be offered or accessed conveniently outside of the computer lab setting in which they used it.