Thomas Williams is a fourth-year psychology honours student working with Gene Ouellette in the Mount Allison language literacy lab. Williams’s project focuses on literacy development in elementary school children.
Williams is taking a look at responses to intervention programs, such as the Linking Language to Learn (LINKS) program. LINKS is a literacy program designed for elementary school-aged children who are experiencing difficulty developing reading skills, which may be attributable to a learning disability. This program is active at Salem Elementary School in Sackville, and Williams has been involved with it since its inception in 2010.
The LINKS program uses volunteer tutors from Mount Allison.
“I am grateful for the Mount Allison and Sackville community, as a lot of my peers are helping with my research,” Williams said.
For Williams’s research, children complete the LINKS program over the course of a semester. Testing is administered at the beginning of the program to evaluate literacy ability, and again after the program is completed to test the child’s progress. The testing involves a series of tasks, such as sounds matching tasks (presenting a child with a picture, and having the child match the photo that matches it phonetically), elision tasks (for example, say ‘can’ without the C-sound), word classing (asking the child which two words go together the best), and spelling.
Literacy skills are paramount to academic success, regardless of subject. Williams explained, “if you struggle in the first grade with reading, without proper intervention, that struggle will carry on throughout their academic careers.” Williams hopes that through his research, he will be able to make recommendations for this program and other programs like it to contribute to their success.
Williams had always been interested in pursuing speech language pathology after completion of his undergraduate degree, but following his experience with working for Ouellette, Williams has shifted his focus.
“I’ve been looking into graduate schools for developmental and educational psychology,” Williams said, “I’m looking for schools with a particular emphasis on learning disabilities and educational interventions.”