Learning Disabilities and Reading: Helping your Child

"Sound it out." "Break the word into syllables." These are the last things that children with learning disabilities want to hear when they ask you for a word, while they are reading. Please, in the interests of building readers, just give the word, without a sigh, or gesture that makes the child feel badly for asking.

Reading is rocket science. It is difficult, and for children with learning disabilities it is more difficult. This does not mean we do not teach strategies and reading practice to kids. We do. There are sight word banks, echo reading, repeated reading, phonics teaching, key sounds, related words--many strategies that may work with practice. But these strategies are teaching decoding, lifting the words off the page and putting all the codes of vowels and consonants into syllables and then words and phrases. These are decoding exercises, not to be confused with reading comprehension, and may be a necessary part of the child's practice. Do this, in short bursts, and then move to reading comprehension to show how reading can be enjoyable, and practical.

If a child is reading for meaning (and why else would you read?), she wants to understand the ideas. Give the hard words as she needs them, and then talk about the ideas. If fluency is needed, read it again with her, dropping in the words she is stuck on and then go back and do it again. A child with disabilities can use her intelligence to get those difficult words, because they are needed to make sense of the author's thinking. The more she reads, the more she will encounter those difficult words and start to use or guess at them in context.

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