Secondary Research

Teaching Sight Words to Students with ID (Intellectual Disability)

By Faith Gardner, Ed. D. and Carolyn Samuelson, Ed. D.

Submitted in partial fulfillment of the Requirements for the Doctorate in Education. Maryville University, St. Louis, Missouri. February 2018.


This research study asks how working memory and processing speed play into the acquisition of functional sight words for students with an intellectual disability in one school district.  The study also compared a computer aided instructional program, n2y, to a more visual program with images embedded within the word, SnapWords®, to try and determine which program worked best to teach these students.  By using a mixed method approach the study seeks to answer the questions of working memory and processing speed playing into the acquisition of functional sight words as well as which program, n2y or SnapWords®, helps the students acquire more words.  While the study shed much light on working memory and processing speed playing no significant role in acquiring sight words, it also helped assess that SnapWords® is a more effective method in teaching sight words than the n2y program.  The value shown between both programs calls for further study on how to best meet the needs of teaching reading to students with ID.   

Research Question

How do working memory and processing speed index scores relate to functional sight word acquisition for students in essential skills classrooms?  Which of the two programs that Wentzville School District currently has access to, is the better way to teach functional sight words? n2y or SnapWords®.


Through our research we found that SnapWords® program worked better to teach functional sight words to students with ID than n2y.  Interestingly, we found in our study, that the working memory and processing speed Index scores did not appear to help nor hinder the participant’s acquisition of the functional sight words.  With working memory Index scores ranging from 45 through 70 (25 point difference), which is significant in itself, the participants of all abilities learned SnapWords® much quicker and retained the words better than with n2y.  The same is true for the processing speed Index scores, although the range of 45 through 56 is only an 11 point difference, the participants continued to make progress commensurate with each other. 

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