latch-on-class-studentsDespite the importance of and advocacy for developing literacy skills for successful and rewarding participation in the community, there remains a common perception that becoming literate is not possible for people with intellectual disabilities.

Until recently, limited research has been undertaken to investigate the literacy skills of adults with intellectual disabilities as there remains a common perception that becoming literate is not possible for people with intellectual disabilities. However, there is now a growing body of research that has reported the continuing literacy development among groups of post-school aged individuals with intellectual disabilities.


This research has challenged and refuted generalised educational myths related to the plateaux of learning that were traditionally thought to occur for individuals with intellectual disabilities.


Research results


The findings clearly indicate that young adults with intellectual disabilities can continue to learn to read.


Download a comprehensive list of peer-reviewed publications by The University of Queensland’s Latch-On team.


Research is integral to the Latch-On program. The student’s achievements in the program have been evaluated longitudinally since 1998. There has been additional research by our team in areas such as technology use, developing comprehension, and developing oral literacy.


The initial client group was young adults with Down Syndrome who had recently left school and were aged between 18 to 22 years of age.  The program has expanded to include students with other intellectual disabilities and who are older.


Findings of the research conducted within the Latch-On program and in longitudinal studies of individuals with Down Syndrome at The University of Queensland have provided evidence of gains in literacy. Such achievements have been possible because of an increased recognition of the need to maintain literacy as part of lifelong learning. Our research supports the view that when young adults with intellectual disabilities are provided with opportunities to broaden their literacy education through appropriate teaching and learning strategies, they continue to develop and improve their language and literacy skills.


Latch-On Research findings suggest that individuals with intellectual disabilities can develop literacy skills and that these will continue to develop through adolescence and beyond [1]. Research has found that literacy has the potential to add significantly to the quality of life of individuals with intellectual disabilities both academically and emotionally, contributing to the development of skills in problem-solving, choice-making and communication which are required for full participation in the community.


The implication of the findings is that young adults require sustained and ongoing support to assist them to develop literacy.


Such support may be provided through adult literacy classes in tertiary settings, or in community-based organisations. Wherever such opportunities exist, literacy programs need to be long-term and structured to meet both the students’ literacy needs and their interests.


Want to know more about the research?  View Associate Professor Karen Moni and Dr Anne Jobling’s research profiles and publications on post-secondary literacy for people with intellectual disabilities.


Would you like to become a partner?



[1] Moni, Karen B; Jobling, Anne; Morgan, Michelle and Lloyd, Jan. Promoting literacy for adults with intellectual disabilities in a community-based service organisation. Australian Journal of Adult Learning, Vol. 51, No. 3, Nov 2011: [456]-478.