Fragile X and literacy: What’s the role of phonological awareness?

Although individuals with Fragile X Syndrome (FXS) are known to have literacy impairments, we have little research to draw from for reading instruction with this population—problematic,  because literacy skills have a huge impact on quality of life, employment, and social opportunities! This paper described two experiments meant to help bridge that gap.

Participants in the first study were adolescents with FXS aged 16 to 23, all males with intellectual disabilities. Their phonological awareness skills predicted their oral word reading performance, which provides evidence of an association between phonological awareness skills and reading skills in this population. The authors state, “Instruction targeting phonological awareness and phonics should not be ruled out for individuals with FXS” and recognize that we need more causal data here—in other words, we need to know more about the effects of phonological awareness instruction on individuals’ reading skills so that we can improve our intervention.


On that note, the second study looked at feasibility—can individuals with FXS complete a phonological reading intervention that was originally designed for mainstream students? A small group, 8 individuals with FXS aged 7 to 23, participated in the HeadSprout Early Reading Program (HERP). Since there were no control groups or conditions, this study doesn’t tell us about effectiveness of the intervention. Instead, the authors found that individuals with FXS were able to access the web-based instruction and identified factors that enabled their success. Even though we need more information to know how best to approach literacy instruction with individuals with FXS, we should keep in mind the important relationship between phonological awareness and reading skills within this population.


Adlof, S. M., Klusek, J., Hoffmann, A., Chitwood, K. L., Brazendale, A., Riley, K., Abbeduto, L. J., & Roberts, J. E. (2018). Reading in Children with Fragile X Syndrome: Phonological Awareness and Feasibility of Intervention. American Journal on Intellectual and developmental Disabilities, 123(3), 193–211. doi:10.1352/1944-7558-123.3.193