Teaching Children with Reading Disabilities

Helping kids with learning disabilities to readSolutions for Reading Disabilities

When a child can’t read, it’s frustrating and a challenge not only for the child but also parents and teachers. However, with the right strategies for teaching children with reading disabilities, they can succeed in school.

Learning disabilities are neurologically based. Children with learning disabilities do not necessarily have low IQs. Many are as smart or smarter than other kids in their class. They simply learn differently because of the way their brains are “wired”

Before working with a child who struggles with reading and you suspect a learning disability, the child will need to be tested.  The test will show if a child has a reading disability and specifically what it is. Although dyslexia, a well-known reading disability, is common not all children who struggle with reading are dyslexic.

In addition children with signs of a reading disability should have a complete physical exam including having vision and hearing tests. It’s possible that the child being tested doesn’t have a reading disability but needs glasses or a hearing aid.

Signs of Reading Disabilities

Difficulty recognizing words (decoding):

  • consistent difficulty sounding out words and recognizing words out of context
  • confusion between letters and the sounds they represent
  • slow reading rate when reading aloud (reading word-by-word)
  • reading without expression
  • ignoring punctuation while reading

Lack of understanding what’s been read:

  • not sure what words and sentences mean
  • not able connect different parts of the story
  • misses details
  • can’t tell what’s important and what’s not important

Inability to remember what’s been read:

  • unable to summarize a story or chapter
  • doesn’t connect what’s read to what they already know
  • doesn’t connect what’s read to personal experiences

Boy with reading disabilitiyTypes of Reading Disabilities

Dyslexia usually comes for a deficit in the phonological part of language. Children with dyslexia have a difficult time recognizing and decoding words. Dyslexia is an auditory problem rather a visual problem. Dyslexic kids have a hard time hearing the phonemes. Practice with phonics is often the solution for these kids.
For more information, see the International Association for Dyslexia

Visual Processing Disorder can affect students’ decoding skills if they miss or reverse letters and reading comprehension if they skip words or lines. They may also be unable to judge depth and distance. Children with visual perception problems usually have poor eye-hand coordination. Visual processing disorder can affect not only reading but math and motor skills. 

Auditory Processing Disorder (also known as central auditory processing disorder or CAPD) refers to the way in which the central nervous system interprets auditory stimuli. In other words, this neural processing deficit causes children to misunderstand words and their meanings. It’s not deafness, a  symptom of ADHD, or a cognitive problem although the symptoms are similar. To find out if a child has an auditory processing disorder, testing must be done by an audiologist.

Children with APD have a hard time hearing how sounds are similar and different, can’t relate the words or syllables they see to how they sound.

Working Memory Deficit prevents struggling readers from remembering what they read long enough to talk or write about the story. Working memory allows us to remember something while we’re working on it. Young readers with a working memory deficit often can’t remember what happened on the page before the page they’re currently reading so they aren’t able to put the story together in sequence.

Dyspraxia (Sensory Integration Disability), a common disorder, affects fine and/or gross motor coordination. Dyspraxia also refers to kids who have problems planning, organizing and putting tasks and movements in the right order. It can affect a child’s articulation, speech, perception, and thought

Dyspraxia can make reading and spelling difficult. Children may read well but not understand some of the concepts in the language. They often interpret language literally. Others may not want read aloud because of speech difficulties or lack self-confidence.

ADHD children are often dyslexic or have other reading disabilities. Even if they don’t have reading disabilities, these kids usually have problems with reading because of a lack of focus and poor working memory.

Strategies for Teaching Children with Reading DisabilitiesBoy struggling with reading disability

Reading disabilities (and all learning disabilities) often overlap with children having more than one disability. For example, kids with ADHD often have poor working memory, dyslexia, and poor motor coordination.

 Kids with all reading disabilities will benefit from

  • interactive, multi-sensory reading material
  • fun stories and books
  • being read to by adults and other children
  • stories and books they can connect to things in their own experience
  • instructions given slowly one at a time, repeated, spoken and written
  • short periods of time reading interspersed with breaks, standing up, and moving around
  • frequent acknowledgement of progress to help kids increase self-esteem
  • reading games (Playing and having fun is always the most effective way to learn.)
  • reading plays with props. (For lots of children, imagining they are the character in the play boosts reading.)
  • repetition
  • a quiet reading space with as little noise and disruption as possible

Kids with dyslexia and auditory processing problem often improve reading skills with phonics. Phonological awareness gives struggling readers essential decoding skills.

For specific strategies for teaching children with reading disabilities, see blog posts on dyslexia, ADHD, comprehension, and fluency.

The Tiger Tuesday Reading Program improves reading skills for children with these reading disabilities in through the variety of activities offer including books, phonics, games, plays, a weekly newspaper, even two dolls that go home with the child who then writes a report for who they met and what they learned..

Phonics Centered — Consistent with Orton-Gillingham — Multisensory