Abstract

As an instructional design framework that can be used to design curriculum for students with and without disabilities, Universal Design for Learning (UDL) has the potential to support meaningful inclusion of students with intellectual disability (ID) in general educational settings. This article presents an overview of the existing set of research studies on UDL application for students with ID in PreK-12 settings. The current body of research illustrates that UDL is being applied to instructional activities for students with ID to examine a variety of interventions (e.g., adapted stories for individual students, inclusive general education curriculum) and outcomes (e.g., interaction, perceptions, knowledge gains) in self-contained and general educational settings. It also identifies important questions for consideration in future research as the field seeks to determine how UDL guidelines can be applied to curriculum, used with evidence-based and effective practices, and used to support schoolwide initiatives inclusive of students with ID.

Students with intellectual disability (ID) are predominately placed in segregated self-contained settings across the K-12 environment. If included with typically developing peers, it is often for lunch, recess, or nonacademic learning experiences, and their inclusion is generally focused on being present rather than being meaningfully included in the instructional experiences (e.g., academic, social) and related outcomes of the general education classroom. To address the challenges of these segregated placements, educators and policy makers suggest using the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). UDL is a framework that has the potential to expand inclusionary options for students with ID in general education settings, with its focus on providing flexible pathways that support all students in mastering learning goals. UDL addresses learner variability by delineating the varied ways in which individuals process, express, and engage with information.

The Center on Applied Special Technology (2011) has been instrumental in developing the UDL framework. The framework consists of a set of three principles (i.e., provide multiple means of representation, provide multiple means of action and expression, and provide multiple means of engagement) that are further defined by nine guidelines and 31 checkpoints that were derived from an extensive review of the literature base on effective instructional practices. The checkpoints delineate specific approaches and methods that were identified as effective in reducing barriers to learning. A list of research studies that informed the development of the UDL checkpoints is available on the Center for Applied Special Technology website at http://www.udlcenter.org/research/researchevidence. Although the individual checkpoints are based on practices supported by research, researchers and practitioners will benefit from further understanding how the UDL framework can be applied to instruction to effectively support inclusive practices for specific groups of students, as well as for all students, in inclusive environments.

UDL is an instructional design framework that educators can use as they plan curriculum and instruction. UDL guidelines can be applied to the design of instructional goals, methods, materials, and assessments (Meyer, Rose, & Gordon, 2014) to build in flexible paths for learning. The UDL framework supports inclusion by ensuring that instructional environments include pathways for participation, progress, and success for students with varied abilities and needs. UDL supports inclusion that is meaningful, whereby all students are engaged in the academic, social, and behavioral demands of the general education setting. An essential premise of UDL is that proactive design of instructional experiences, incorporating multiple pathways for representation, action and expression, and engagement, can ensure that a broader range of learner needs and preferences are addressed. In essence, the anticipated outcome of applying the UDL framework is to expand the capacity of general education classrooms to educate a more diverse array of students.

Although various legislative actions and mandates have identified UDL as a framework for inclusive curriculum design, proponents of UDL are still in the process of defining what UDL looks like in the classroom, how it can be effectively applied to curriculum and instruction, and how it can be implemented systemwide to support meaningful inclusion. In an article calling for a reframing of the discourse of inclusion to focus on structures and intervention rather than on student characteristics, Sailor and McCart (2014) asserted that UDL provided a conceptual alternative to fragmentation and a systemwide way to achieve greater inclusion of students with significant disabilities. For individuals with ID, this shift of attitude could promote stronger inclusive classroom experiences leading to better academic, social, and behavioral outcomes. In order to determine whether the implementation of the UDL framework can promote these outcomes, we must examine current research on UDL for individuals with ID. The purpose of this article is to summarize existing research on UDL application and outcomes for students with ID and to consider the essential questions that future UDL researchers should continue to explore.

UDL Considerations for Individuals With ID

In regards to UDL implementation for individuals with ID, Wehmeyer (2006) emphasized that access should focus on consideration of not just where, but how and what students are taught. He stated that “when instructional content is truly designed to be accessible for all students, up-front and not after-the-fact, using both technology and pedagogical strategies, then we can begin to make progress in ensuring access to the general curriculum” (p. 324). Wehmeyer highlighted the need to ensure that students with ID have meaningful learning experiences that allow them to learn content and skills alongside their peers.

In addition to using UDL guidelines to add flexibility to general curriculum, the guidelines can be used to proactively plan for supplemental supports that anticipate the needs of specific learners or groups of learners. For example, students with ID share some generalized learning characteristics that provide useful information when designing curriculum. Educators should incorporate the use of effective practices such as systematic instruction, visual supports, positive reinforcement, individual preferences, strategies of self-determination, and other practices that have research supporting their use for individuals with ID (Browder, Wood, Thompson, & Ribuffo, 2014). Educators should also keep in mind the unique profiles of students with ID to provide individualized supports as needed.

The UDL guidelines provide a menu of options that can be applied in various ways. This flexibility is a strength of the framework, but can also pose a challenge to those seeking to define effective models of UDL application and measure outcomes for students. The current research based on the UDL framework illustrates that researchers define and apply UDL in a multitude of ways and examine a range of academic and affective outcomes (Rao, Ok, & Bryant, 2014) for various groups of students.

Current Research on UDL for Individuals With ID: What We Know

Several reviews of empirical studies on UDL at a K-12 and postsecondary level (Crevecouer, Sorenson, Mayorga, & Gonzalez, 2014; Ok, Rao, Bryant, & McDougall, in press; Rao, Ok, & Bryant, 2014: Roberts, Park, Brown, & Cook, 2011) summarized the varied ways in which researchers have designed studies on UDL application. Researchers have examined student and teacher perceptions of UDL-based instruction, digital environments that include UDL-based supports, and classroom practices that align with UDL. Studies of UDL application have addressed a range of dependent variables (e.g., performance in academic subject areas, student engagement, social and behavioral outcomes) and included various student profiles (e.g., students with learning disabilities, autism, reading difficulties) and settings (e.g., inclusive classrooms, resource settings, fully self-contained settings). The ways in which researchers describe their application of UDL has also varied widely, with some providing only broad contextual information to demonstrate how their practices are based on UDL, and others providing more detailed information on how their interventions align with specific UDL guidelines and/or checkpoints.

Although several articles address the potential of UDL as a framework that can provide access to curriculum and instruction for students with ID and other severe disabilities, very few empirical studies exist on the application of UDL for students with ID. Of the empirical studies on UDL, we identified six studies at a PreK-12 level that specifically listed students with ID in their participant sections. These studies were identified by searching EBSCOHost databases (ERIC, Academic Search Complete, and Professional Development Collection) and PsychInfo. and using combinations of the following keywords: Universal Design for Learning, universal design, K-12, preschool, elementary, secondary, intellectual disability, and special education.

Table 1 provides an overview of the studies that included students with ID, noting the citation for the study, research design used, participant and setting information, and a summary of the way UDL was applied. Of the six studies that included students with ID, three studies were specifically focused on developing interventions for students with ID (Browder, Mims, Spooner, Alghrim-Delzell, & Lee, 2008; Coyne, Pisha, Dalton, Zeph, & Smith, 2012; Dymond et al., 2006). One study focused on preschool students with developmental delays and varied cognitive needs, including ID (Lieber, Horn, Palmer, & Fleming, 2008). The two remaining studies included a small number or percentage of students with ID (or severe cognitive disabilities) who were part of an intervention or study designed for students with and without disabilities. Below, we summarize information on the studies that had specific interventions for students with ID and describe the extent to which researchers made connections to UDL principles, guidelines, and checkpoints. We also highlight the implications of these studies to foster the inclusion of students with ID.

Table 1

Research Studies of UDL and Students With ID in PreK-12 Settings

Research Studies of UDL and Students With ID in PreK-12 Settings
Research Studies of UDL and Students With ID in PreK-12 Settings

Note. UDL = Universal Design for Learning; ADD = attention deficit disorder; ASD= Autism Spectrum Disorder; BD = behavior disorder; DD = development delay; DV= dependent variable; ED = emotional disturbance; ID = intellectual disability; LD = learning disabilities; MCD = mild cognitive disability; N = total number OHI = other health impairment; SCD = severe cognitive disability; SLI = speech or language impairment.

Browder, Mims, Spooner, Ahlgrim-Delzell, and Lee (2008) conducted a single subject study with three students with ID in a self-contained setting. After conducting a task analysis for each child, they created adapted books aligned with each child's specific needs. They examined how the adapted books could be used to foster active responding and comprehension during story reading. These researchers addressed UDL in the design phase of creating adapted books, asking questions about how to provide multiple means of representation, action, expression, and engagement. All three students showed increases in their independent responses. The researchers noted that, although this intervention was conducted in a special education setting, the process of planning and designing this type of read-aloud experience with a team has potential for engaging students with severe disabilities in inclusive settings.

Coyne, Pisha, Dalton, Zeph, and Smith (2012) designed a quasi-experimental study to compare outcomes of using a Literacy By Design (LBD) technology-based learning environment that aligned with the three principles of UDL to a control group of traditional reading instruction. The study included 16 students with ID in grades K-2, with eight in an intervention group and eight in a control group. The LBD environment addressed the five core areas of literacy (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension) and included features that provided scaffolding and fostered engagement in reading activities. Features included digital text, interactive vocabulary, and embedded supports for reading comprehension. Researchers described connections between features of the LBD environment and the three UDL principles, clearly denoting how each principle was addressed. Noting that results should be interpreted with caution due to the small sample sizes, researchers concluded that the students who received the LBD intervention made significantly higher gains in comprehension than the students in the traditional reading group.

Dymond et al. (2006) conducted a qualitative case study to examine how general education algebra and biology courses could be redesigned in alignment with UDL principles in order to be more inclusive for all students. The study included 99 student participants, including eight students with severe cognitive disabilities. Researchers used a participatory action research approach to examine how a team of teachers could design UDL-based curriculum to be flexible for all learners and to ensure support for students with disabilities. The team identified five areas of design: (a) curriculum, (b) instructional delivery/organization of learning environments, (c) student participation, (d) materials, and (e) assessment. They then undertook a process of developing lessons that included flexible options that supported the whole class and took into consideration additional needs of specific students. The special education teachers provided input on modifying curriculum in alignment with IEP goals for the needs of students with severe cognitive disabilities. This study highlighted ways in which students with severe cognitive disabilities might benefit from UDL-aligned instruction that also includes additional modifications for their individual needs.

Lieber, Horn, Palmer, and Fleming (2008) conducted a mixed methods study to examine how a preschool curriculum can be designed to enhance educational outcomes for children who are at risk for school failure, including students with disabilities, English language learners, and students who live in poverty. Their study had 58 children with various disability conditions (e.g., developmental delays, ID, and autism) for whom individualized education programs (IEPs) had been developed. They developed the Children's School Success (CSS) curriculum to address two areas of competence that students would need in kindergarten and beyond, which included academic and social competence skills. The research team consulted with experts in the areas of competence, designed the curriculum with a consideration of UDL principles, and provided examples of ways in which the curriculum addressed the three principles. The curriculum also included a component of individualization for students who needed extra supports. Teachers received training on curriculum modifications. Training was also provided on how to reflect on and modify CSS for specific students as needed. Data indicated that outcomes for students with disabilities were favorable, with significantly higher means on post-tests in academic and social skills. This study has interesting implications for young children with ID because it examined ways in which curriculum can be designed to be inherently more inclusive for students with various disabilities, while taking into consideration the individualization needed for specific students. This can provide a model for the development of inclusive and responsive curriculum for students with ID, who have varied and individualized profiles and needs for supports.

The two remaining studies noted in Table 1 included students with ID but did not focus specifically on issues for students with ID. These studies took place in high school settings (Kennedy, Thomas, Meyer, Alves & Lloyd, 2014; Kortering, McClannon, & Braziel, 2008). Kennedy et al. (2014) noted that their study was focused on students with learning disabilities; however, they did have two students with ID in their participant population of 141 students in total. Kortering, McClannon, and Braziel (2008) also include two students with ID in a study that examined perceptions of 290 students.

Setting a Research Agenda: What We Need to Know

Based on this set of existing research studies on the application of UDL for students with ID, it is clear that the research base is limited to a small number of studies that examine a variety of interventions in different settings. The current body of research illustrates how UDL is being applied to instructional activities for students with ID to examine a variety of interventions (e.g., adapted stories for individual students, inclusive general education curriculum) and outcomes (e.g., interaction, perceptions, knowledge gains). The existing studies included one in a preschool setting, two in elementary settings, and three in high school settings. Research designs included one single case study, two quasi-experimental studies, two mixed methods studies, and one qualitative case study. Some of the studies were conducted in segregated self-contained settings and others in the general education classroom. Likewise, some examined the creation of additional access to learning, content, and/or instruction, while others concentrated on altering the way we design and plan for instructional interventions. Although subtle differences, these are important as we continue to determine ways to provide access to appropriate and meaningful inclusive opportunities through effective design and proactive planning using the UDL framework.

Without a larger body of studies in each setting and replication of practices that appear to be effective, our knowledge base on what types of UDL-based interventions and curriculum work for students with ID will remain disparate and fragmented. Although current research indicates that curriculum designed using a UDL framework can have promising results when flexibility is built intentionally and proactively into design, there is a need for research that more directly and specifically demonstrates how UDL can be applied to ensure inclusion of students with ID.

In this section, we present some key considerations for future research on the application of UDL for students with ID. We identify the gaps in our knowledge base and attempt to prioritize what needs to be examined in relation to UDL for students with ID. If UDL's promise to reduce barriers and create access to inclusive environments for students with ID is to be fulfilled, educators will need effective models for applying UDL that are inclusive of students with ID. There is a need to know what works for individuals with ID, how to design and implement effective instructional activities, and how to describe what this instruction looks like in the inclusive classroom and at an individualized level for each student.

Some key questions for future UDL research include:

  • 1.

    How can UDL be applied to (a) the design of curriculum and instruction and (b) the provision of individualized supports in order to support the inclusion of students with ID?

  • 2.

    How can UDL be used in conjunction with existing effective and evidence-based practices (EBPs) to support academic, behavioral, and social objectives for students with ID?

  • 3.

    How can UDL be effectively applied within schoolwide inclusion efforts and multi-tiered systems of support for students with ID?

Each of these questions can be addressed using different approaches and research designs. In the subsections below, we provide some key considerations for each question.

Question 1

In order to create models for inclusive education that provide meaningful learning opportunities for students with ID, we ask “How can UDL be applied to (a) the design of curriculum and instruction and (b) the provision of individualized supports in order to support the inclusion of students with ID?” This question has two components, because UDL-based inclusive lessons will also need to take into consideration the individualized supports that will be necessary for students with ID. As researchers and practitioners design interventions, it will be important to delineate how curriculum and instruction is both inclusive and individualized in accordance with UDL. By defining the changes in curriculum and instruction, the type of interventions developed and the focus of the research should expand beyond simple access or seeking to identify ways to further place a student in a specific setting. The application of the UDL framework needs to be investigated from the perspective of altering the design and planning of curriculum and instruction in such a way to reduce barriers and empower the strengths of the individual with ID to foster effective inclusion.

Future research on inclusion in general curriculum instruction for students with ID can examine specific strategies that promote learning in key content areas. Over a decade ago, Wehmeyer (2006) stated:

With regard to important next steps, we need research to inform us what instructional strategies work to teach students with severe disabilities core literacy, numeracy, and science facts, knowledge, and skills. The truth is, we have not really tried many existing strategies with this population and we need to try them with the newly emerging universally designed materials that actually ensure access, as well as to develop new methods and strategies. To develop effective models of a formal curriculum for an individual student's needs, researchers can design general education curriculum and instruction with UDL from the outset to provide flexible access points and opportunities for engagement and include components to individualize the curriculum and instruction as needed for specific students with ID. (p. 325)

From the set of six studies identified, it is evident that varied strategies have been examined, yet much is left to be studied in regards to developing effective models. Two studies examined literacy outcomes, one study examined individualized adaptations, and three studies examined student outcomes and/or perceptions of UDL-based curriculum modifications for inclusive settings. Some of these interventions focused on specific strategies and provide a start for further investigation of what works, when, for whom, and how. To continue to build this base of knowledge, future studies should continue to examine specific strategies that are effective for students with ID and replicate practices that identify promising strategies at all levels.

In the current set of studies, some provided information on ways in which their interventions aligned with the three UDL principles, whereas others denoted practices that were based on UDL without specifying which principle, guideline, or checkpoint aligned to the practice. Because UDL is a framework that provides various ideas for reducing barriers for students, there are many ways in which the guidelines and checkpoints can be applied for students with ID. Students with ID have widely varying characteristics and needs. UDL's flexibility allows for different permutations and combinations of checkpoints to be applied for individuals as they are relevant. We recommend adding specificity and delineating how practices align with UDL. To develop a more nuanced understanding of how UDL is applied and what components are effective, researchers can further delineate how their interventions align with the specific guidelines and their 31 checkpoints. This level of detail will allow researchers to replicate and adapt interventions as we build the body of knowledge on how UDL can be used effectively for students with ID.

To examine the efficacy of these strategies, researchers can conduct single case studies (focused on a few specific students with ID), quasi-experimental studies (examining outcomes for students with ID within larger groups), and/or mixed methods studies. Mixed methods studies can integrate a qualitative component to examine the experiences of the stakeholders in an intervention, including the students who participate and their teachers and service providers. Qualitative data can provide critical information for replication, adaptation, and future implementation of practices that are promising, shedding light on issues of implementation and social validity of practices. Information on how and where the study is conducted can foster further understanding of inclusionary opportunities and the essential attributes for its success. Identification of settings as inclusive or segregated may help the field better understand the differing contexts of those settings and the limitations that may occur when trying to generalize research done in segregated contexts to inclusive settings.

Question 2

To more clearly understand how UDL can be applied to effective instruction of students with ID, it is necessary to consider this question: “How can UDL be used in conjunction with existing effective and evidence-based practices (EBPs) to support academic, behavioral, and social objectives students with ID?” By developing studies that address this question, we can gain a more nuanced understanding of how UDL can be applied to practices that we know to be effective for students with disabilities, building our base of knowledge both on how to use UDL effectively and how to adapt EBPs and effective practices.

In the field of special education, researchers have emphasized the importance of identifying and using EBPs that have a body of high-quality research that support their efficacy. EBPs are identified by systematic reviews that evaluate the quality of the body of research using specific criteria developed for various types of research designs such as group experimental, quasi-experimental, and single case designs. Special educators are also encouraged to use effective practices that have methodologically sound research studies to support their efficacy but have not yet have been identified as EBPs (Cook, Smith, & Tankersley, 2012). These effective practices can include promising practices that result in positive outcomes for students with ID. Courtade, Test, and Cook (2014) have identified several EBPs and effective practices for students with ID.

By designing and conducting high-quality research studies on effective practices and systematically replicating studies, we will gain insight into practices that increase the likelihood of improving learner outcomes for students with ID. When implementing EBPs and effective practices, practitioners are encouraged to make adaptations to ensure relevance to classroom contexts and for individual students (Johnson &McMaster, 2013). Adaptations should be made with an understanding of the core components that are critical to ensuring implementation fidelity of the EBP or effective practice. By maintaining implementation fidelity to the core components, a researcher retains the elements that were crucial to the positive outcomes reported in prior studies. Peripheral components of the practice can be adapted to ensure relevance for localized settings and student needs (Leko, 2015).

As an instructional design framework, UDL provides a structure that researchers and/or educators can use as they consider how to adapt evidence-based and effective practices for students with ID in inclusive settings. After identifying the overall instructional goal for the class and for individuals within, researchers and practitioners can apply UDL to practices for the whole class as well as those that have been identified by high-quality research studies to be effective for students with ID (e.g., systematic instruction). By using UDL to reduce barriers and ensure that all students, including students with ID, can engage meaningfully with classroom activities, researchers can clearly denote which checkpoints were used to adapt the practice(s) they are using. Outcomes of using the adapted EBP or effective practice can be measured for the entire class and/or for individual students.

An argument might be made about whether an EBP adapted with the UDL framework remains an EBP. This logic would assume that the practice is effective and, thus, no need to further examine the practice, now aligned with the principles of UDL, for the initial audience (e.g., students with ID). Yet, this statement would assume the practice is identical pre- and post-UDL alignment. When an EBP or effective practice is reconsidered through the lens of multiple means of representation and expression and action, it alters the intervention. The essence of the practice remains, but the manner in which the learner interacts with the practice, the potential role of the learner, further independence on the part of the learner, the efficiency of the practice, and the potential efficacy of the practice (e.g., further improvement) may be impacted. Thus, the outcome of the UDL-tailored practice needs further scrutiny. Research may find that the practice is further improved in reducing barriers, expanding the manner in which the intervention can be applied, and similar variables particularly relevant to students who require intensive support in their overall development.

The outcomes of these UDL-adapted practices can be examined using single case designs. Because single case designs can establish causality, such studies will allow us to build a research base on the efficacy of evidence-based and effective practices that have been adapted with UDL. By making clear connections of how UDL checkpoints were applied to the core components of practices we know to be effective, researchers can contribute to the knowledge base on specific ways that UDL guidelines can be applied, when it works, and for whom. Mixed method studies that include a qualitative component in conjunction with single case designs can delve into questions of how and why the practices were adapted and provide insights on issues for adaptation and implementation.

Question 3

Researchers and practitioners can use more information on systemwide supports that promote inclusion for students with ID. We ask “How can UDL be effectively applied within schoolwide inclusion efforts and multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) for students with ID?” Increasingly, district and schoolwide initiatives direct classroom instruction, behavioral programs, and the overall learning experience across students and grades. These global initiatives are somewhat aligned to our second question and the effort to further identify and integrate evidence-based and effective practices into the instructional experience for all students. If something is effective, district leaders and classroom teachers are increasingly urged to apply it across classrooms and buildings. In other words, if students with ID are to have meaningful access to the general education curriculum as well as social and emotional learning in the classroom, efforts—like the use of UDL—must be considered and integrated in the context of general education schoolwide initiatives.

Today, tier-based support is a primary schoolwide effort intended to offer universal supports. The two most recognized tiered systems include behavior and instruction. Positive behavior interventions and supports (PBIS) is a tier-based approach involving the application of positive behavior supports to all students focusing on proactive steps to prevent inappropriate behavior through the reinforcement of appropriate behavior. Likewise, response to intervention (RTI) has emerged as the academic tier-based model promoting high-quality individualized academic supports for all students. Often organized across three tiers, both the PBIS and RTI models feature a Tier 1 that represents universal supports, a Tier 2 with more intensive supports, and a Tier 3 that offers more individualized and high-intensity supports in either behavior or academic needs.

As a schoolwide model, interventions and supports organized within a tiered framework where the initial tier concentrates on universal supports would appear to have considerable alignment with the UDL framework, in that Tier 1 supports are proactive, preventative, and designed to benefit all students. The goal is to prevent problems in learning or behavior by addressing potential barriers and to provide opportunities for desired learning or behavior by using evidence-based interventions and reinforcement of appropriate behavior. If done correctly, Tier 1 is meant to support approximately 80% of students. As an instructional design framework, UDL aligns closely with elements of Tier 1's universal supports. If further integrated, UDL combined within a Tier 1 structure might extend the number of students who will be able to respond to and benefit from the evidence-based practice. Likewise, the critical elements of the UDL framework will be further implemented as part of an existing schoolwide inclusionary initiative.

After identifying alignment to Tier 1 practice, researchers and practitioners can extend this work of including EBPs in specific academic, behavioral, and social emotional supports to Tiers 2 and 3. In addition to providing a framework that can be used for whole class lesson design, the UDL guidelines and checkpoints have the potential of promoting individualized, more time-intensive, and longer duration of practices for specific students. Although Tier 3 is not reserved for students with disabilities, in reality, schools and teachers often envision the most intensive interventions being reserved for special education. UDL can be a valuable component of all three tiers. By defining how UDL can be applied to tier-based practices to support specific learners, outcomes can be measured for the student with ID as well as their peers with or without disabilities.

The outcomes for tier-based interventions incorporating the principles of UDL can be examined using a variety of research methods. Building upon our discussion with evidence-based practices introduced in question two, investigations in how to potentially improve the universal nature of Tier 1 might be an area of initial study. If we could expand the number of students served in Tier 1 from 80% to 85% or 95%, the nature of the Tier 2 and 3 practices might alter; the numbers served in their tiers would change; and the duration, intensity, and location where the practice might be introduced might change as well. By making clear connections between a schoolwide initiative like tier-based interventions, UDL can be further incorporated into systematic inclusionary efforts, research on its applications, and further understanding of the outcomes associated with various applications of UDL.

Teacher professional development is an important facet for schoolwide implementation of UDL implementation. Both general and special education teachers will need to understand what practices are effective across the tiers in order to ensure that students with ID are meaningfully included and engaged in learning through a variety of strategies. Researchers should continue to develop models for training general and special education teachers, both at pre-service and in-service levels, about how UDL can be used to support inclusion of students with ID in the general education classroom and in the provision of more intensive services as needed.

Final Thoughts

Despite the fact that UDL is acknowledged as a means to further inclusionary practices for all students, UDL—and its potential outcomes for students with ID—has yet to be systematically considered and applied within current UDL reform efforts. The purpose of this article was to consider how UDL has been applied to increase meaningful inclusion of students with ID, examine the current research that has investigated the impact of UDL on students with ID, and offer suggestions and considerations for further research specific to UDL's ability to further include students with ID in the general education setting and become meaningfully engaged in the general education curriculum. Purposeful planning and curriculum design for all individuals, the hallmark of the UDL framework, can be integrated into instructional, behavioral, social-emotional, and adaptive skill development for learners with ID. The principles and guidelines of UDL are a natural fit to boost inclusionary practices for all students, particularly those that are often the last to be meaningfully involved in general education outcomes. Further research is needed to explore the possibilities of such an approach to include students, with or without disabilities, in their learning to promote academic, behavioral, and adaptive school and post-school outcomes. We believe furthering research where the UDL framework is at the center of inclusionary interventions for students with ID will increase the impact of UDL, demonstrate its relevance to students with ID, and show how thoughtful and purposeful planning and subsequent instruction for all students can further meaningful inclusion in general education curriculum and classes.

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