Although children do develop at different rates, attributing a struggling reader to immaturity is risky and usually unhelpful. Children, who are poor readers at the end of first grade, are most often still poor readers in fourth grade.
Early signs of reading problems should never be ignored or passed off as a developmental lag. It is never a good idea to “wait and see” if a child grows out it. The safest assumption is that early, direct teaching designed to help a struggling reader will minimize risks later on. If a child is taught the sounds, letters, words, and language comprehension skills necessary by the end of first grade, most of these children will avoid failure.
Reading intervention in kindergarten and first grade is more effective than intervention in fourth grade and older. This is because early intervention takes less time and resources to close the reading gap than using remediation strategies in reading later on. According to The National Institute of Child Health and Human Department, 90% of poor readers can increase reading skills to average reading levels with prevention and early intervention programs that combine instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, spelling, reading fluency, and reading comprehension provided by highly qualified and well-trained teachers. It takes four times as long to improve the skills of a struggling reader in fourth grade as it does to do so between mid-kindergarten and first grade. In other words, it takes two hours a day in fourth grade to have the same impact as thirty minutes a day in first grade. If intervention is not provided until nine years of age, approximately 75 to 88 % of these children will continue to have reading difficulties throughout high school and their adult lives.
Although there is a crucial window of opportunity (kindergarten to middle of first grade) parents need to know that it is never too late to help a struggling reader. Older children can be taught to read but the instruction may be harder to arrange, it will take more time, and it will require an intensive effort from the teacher, the student, and the parent.
On the whole, delayed intervention is costlier to everyone, including the child. These children will be more likely to develop confidence, enjoy reading, read more, and read better if they get off to the right start.
Karina Richland, M.A., is the Founder of PRIDE Learning Centers, located in Southern California. Ms. Richland is a certified reading and learning disability specialist and speaks frequently to parents, teachers, and professionals on learning differences. She is also the author of the PRIDE Reading Program, an Orton-Gillingham approach to teaching reading, writing and comprehension. You can visit the PRIDE Learning Center website at: www.pridelearningcenter.com
Any parent of a child with reading difficulties will undoubtedly be able to catalogue a whole host of approaches and methods they’ve tried over the years to encourage and develop their loved one. There are many successful methods out there, but as we know, every child is different – and sometimes a combined approach can be a good idea. If this sounds like you and your child, then perhaps you should consider investigating reading with dogs.
Paws for thought
Well known for their ability to assist those with physical disabilities, dogs are also increasingly being used for those with mental difficulties. Research has been conducted which shows that interaction with a friendly therapy dog reduces levels of stress hormones and blood pressure; and that this is more effective than interaction with a friendly human. Reading with dogs helps to create a calming and relaxing environment for the development of your child’s reading skills.
Dogs are non-judgemental, and not being able to read themselves means they do not appear superior to the child, as an adult might. Reading with dogs allows the child to dictate the pace and progress of a session, and does not react to minor mistakes of pronunciation that an adult reflexively might.
They provide unconditional support and love, which is valuable for children with self-esteem issues connected to their reading ability. The focus of the session becomes the dog, rather than the child themselves; many parents report that their child is much more motivated and excited to read because it means spending time and reading with the dog.
This means that your child has the opportunity to create new, positive memories associated with reading and speaking aloud, which can help to overcome previous bad experiences of embarrassment or bullying they may have encountered. A growing confidence in themselves and their abilities also shows in their overall self-worth, as well as their social skills and ability to interact with others calmly and patiently and respectfully; skills they pick up from reading with the dogs.
If this sounds like something which would benefit your child, then look into where you might be able to access a therapy reading dog locally. Reading to dogs is growing in popularity, but is still not necessarily available everywhere. In this situation, think about what the key benefits are and how you can achieve these in a different but similar setting. As long as you have an animal happy to sit quietly while the child reads, it doesn’t need to be a fully trained therapy dog: ask neighbors or friends with calm and sensible cats or dogs if you can visit with your child for a reading session.
Learn more about the New PRIDE Reading Program
Jocelyn Brown is a professional freelancer writer and mother. She loves the freedom that comes with freelancing and the versatility it allows her in covering many different topics and themes. When not at work she enjoys running, hikes in the country and making the most of family time.
Following directions is one of the most difficult tasks for a child with ADHD to master. Children with ADHD are easily distracted and have a tendency to get sidetracked a lot. With a lot of patience and support, you can help your ADHD child learn to follow directions using these very simple tips and strategies.
1. Organize and simplify the directions:
Keep the directions as simply stated as possible so that your child with ADHD can remember them easily and not get lost in your words. Make the most important information stand out. “Sara, I want you to get your jacket, get your backpack and put on your shoes, then come back here to me. Got that? Jacket, backpack, shoes. Go!”
2. Use multisensory strategies to help the memory:
You can sing and dance the directions with your ADHD child. “jacket, backpack, shoes, yee-hah!” You can have your child clap his hands or tap the table for each step he needs to do.
3. Teach your child to repeat the directions:
Have your child repeat each direction a few times. “get out a piece of paper, a pencil and write my name at the top of the paper. Paper, pencil, name. Paper, pencil, name.”
4. Make charts for procedures or routines that are repeated:
This is especially helpful for organizing and keeping a routine. For example if you have a list of items that need to be done each day before school you can create a checklist.
1. _____ make my bed.
2. _____ put dirty clothes in the hamper.
3. _____ feed the dog.
As your child completes a step, he/she can check that step off the list. This will give your child some direction and keep the attention on the task at hand.
5. Be supportive and stay positive!
Nagging your ADHD child is not going to assist them in learning strategies and skills to follow directions. You can provide support for your child by:
- prompting your child for listening skills. “I am going to give you the directions, I would like you to please look at me so I know you are listening.”
- asking your child how you can provide a reminder for them without nagging them. They might suggest a hand gesture or a tap on the wall, a wink of the eye, etc.
- offering understanding when your child feels frustration. ” I understand it is hard to keep track of doing so much at once. Would you like me to help you put together a list that we could start checking off after each step?”
- praising your ADHD child often. If they don’t complete the task praise them for making an effort. If your child fails to complete a task, encourage her/him to try to get it finished. Use positive encouragement.
Learn more about the New PRIDE Reading Program
Karina Richland, M.A. is the owner of PRIDE Learning Centers, located in Southern California. Ms. Richland is a reading and learning disability specialist. Ms. Richland speaks frequently to parents, teachers, and professionals on learning differences, and writes for several journals and publications. You can visit the PRIDE Learning Center website at: www.pridelearningcenter.com
Many students require extra help in reading. When evaluating remedial reading programs for your child, be aware that not all programs are effective and many can be a waste of time. I made a list of 5 important questions to ask before enrolling your child in this extra reading help.
1. Will the reading help my child receives be provided by a trained teacher, paraprofessional or a parent volunteer?
In many schools parents are trained to work as parent volunteers and aids to help the students who are struggling. If your child has been diagnosed with a learning disability, or you suspect a more severe issue than the school is acknowledging, then you will probably want to decline any reading help that is not from a highly trained reading therapist or reading specialist. A child with true learning difficulties will need instruction delivered by an experienced expert using an effective method for sufficient time for the child to catch up to grade level.
2. What specific reading help will my child be receiving?
A child with a reading disability will need a multisensory, systematic, very structured and cumulative reading program with direct and explicit instruction in phonemic awareness and followed by synthetic and analytic phonics with lots of repetition and practice. It will need to integrate the teaching of listening, speaking, reading, spelling, vocabulary, fluency, handwriting, and written expression. Also, remedial programs differ from “mainstream” programs in the extent to which phonology and language structure are explicitly taught. For best results, avoid reading help that teaches your child the material in the same way he or she was taught the first time around. That didn’t work. Also avoid programs that allow too many kids in the group. The idea is that your child needs more individualized attention.
3. What kind of training in this reading help does the teacher delivering the instructions have?
Although the choice of reading program is important, the expertise and training of the teacher are even more critical. Attendance at a 2 day workshop is probably enough to gain an overview of an approach, but to be truly competent at using this approach, a teacher or therapist should have completed at least 20 – 30 hours of training as well as plenty of experience teaching the program.
4. What will my child miss in the classroom while he gets this reading help?
Being pulled out of class can be challenging for students, especially in the middle school years, since they might have to make up material that they miss in class and might receive lower grades in subjects in which they normally do well.
5. Can I come and watch a session?
Check out the teacher, the program and the other students. See if this is the right fit for your child and if the reading help is working and delivering results.
Learn more about the New PRIDE Reading Program
Karina Richland, M.A. is the Founder and Director of PRIDE Learning Centers, located in Southern California. Ms. Richland is a certified reading and learning disability specialist. Ms. Richland speaks frequently to parents, teachers, and professionals on learning differences, and writes for several journals and publications. You can visit the PRIDE Learning Center website at: www.pridelearningcenter.com
Learning to read is a gradual and sequential process that is developed with explicit instruction and exposure. In the late preschool years, children begin the reading process by listening to stories and chanting nursery rhymes so that they can hear the similarities and differences in the sounds of words. Through this process, the children begin to manipulate and understand sounds in spoken language and proceed by taking the next step of making up rhymes and words on their own.
As the children get older, they begin to learn the names of the letters in the alphabet and the different sounds each letter represents. Subsequently, they begin to write the letters and numbers that they already recognize by their shapes. Finally, the children associate the letters of the alphabet with the sounds of the words they use when they speak. At this point, they are on their way to learning to read!
The key to the entire reading process is phonological awareness. This is where a child identifies the different sounds that make words and associates these sounds with written words. A child cannot learn to read without this skill. In order to learn to read, children must be aware of phonemes. A phoneme is the smallest functional unit of sound. For example, the word ‘bench’ contains 4 different phonemes. They are ‘b’ ‘e’ ‘n’ and ‘ch.’
Some examples of phonological awareness tasks include:
1. Identifying rhymes – “Tell me all of the words you know that rhyme with the word BAT.”
2. Segmenting words into smaller units, such as syllables and sounds, by counting them. “How many sounds do you hear in the word CAKE?”
3. Blending separated sounds into words – “What word would we have if we blended these sounds together: /h/ /a/ /t/?”
4. Manipulating sounds in words by adding, deleting or substituting – “In the word LAND, change the /L/ to /B/.” “What word is left if you take the /H/ away from the word HAT?”
Through phonological awareness, children learn to associate sounds and create links to word recognition and decoding skills necessary for reading. Research clearly shows that phoneme awareness performance is a strong predictor of long- term reading and spelling success. In fact, according to the International Reading Association, phonemic awareness abilities in kindergarten (or in that age range) appear to be the best single predictor of successful reading acquisition.
Learn more about the New PRIDE Reading Program
Karina Richland is the Founder and Director of Pride Learning Centers, located in Los Angeles and Orange County. Ms. Richland is a certified reading and learning disability specialist. Ms. Richland speaks frequently to parents, teachers, and professionals on learning differences, and writes for several journals and publications. You can visit the PRIDE Learning Center website at: www.pridelearningcenter.com
Parents teach their children lessons every day. Parents of children with special needs often feel like there are even more lessons that their children need to learn because they face special challenges. These parents sometimes feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to begin teaching their children, which makes it difficult to choose an education path for them. Any lesson that is suited to a child’s ability and engages him is appropriate for a parent to teach, and we share a few of our favorites here.
- The Importance of Organization
Organizational skills are important for kids with special needs not only because they need to be able to access their belongings but because they need to keep orderly thoughts so they can retrieve their knowledge and use it effectively. Children who lack organizational skills struggle when it comes to handling information logically and effectively; the result is they face challenges when they have to set priorities, make plans, and see a task through to completion.
Parents can help kids build organizational skills in several ways. For example, creating a family calendar where parents and children keep track of tasks and plans is one way to teach the importance of having a schedule and meeting deadlines. Assigning chores that involve sorting and categorizing is another way to boost your child’s organizational skills. Guide your child through sorting and folding clothing or using containers and bins to keep toys and belongings in their designated spaces.
- To Take Pride in Being Independent
Kids with special needs should be as independent as possible. Independence gives the kids a solid foundation on which to build confidence and prepare for a future without parents and siblings being available to help them at every turn. As with any child, your child with special needs should be given the opportunity to reach his potential.
There are a few strategies you can use to support your child’s independence and show him to take pride in achieving it. First, give your child as many choices as possible. Help him understand the importance of transitions. Guide your child through setting realistic education and career expectations and make sure the educators and other caregivers are well aware of his goals and support them.
- To Ask for Help When It Is Needed
Of course, your child with special needs also needs to learn to ask for help when he needs it. Independence is critical to his happiness and success, but so is understanding that there is nothing to be ashamed of when he does need help. Children with special needs often remain silent when they need help the most, so showing them how to ask questions is vital to their success, safety, and independence.
Adults often assume kids who don’t ask for help are doing well when, in reality, the opposite is often true. You may want to meet with a teacher to come up with strategies for how your child will ask questions. Kids with dyslexia especially need to know when to ask for help in the classroom. For example, when he is reading, he may place an index card on his desk to signal the teacher he needs help during quiet work time.
Help kids identify when they have a problem and when they need help. Work through knowing the difference between problems and needing help, and between needing help and wanting help. Walk kids through who can help them and when, and how to communicate with those people when they need help.
- To Stand Up for Themselves
Teaching your child with special needs how to stand up for himself boils down to teaching him to self-advocate. Work with your child to align his actions to his feelings and to have a strong set of values so he is trustworthy. It’s also important to model with your child so he understands how to be assertive rather than aggressive. Teach your child to respect himself and others and to create healthy relationships with others.
One of the best ways to teach your child these self-advocate concepts is to model them through various play-acting scenarios. Create situations for practice at home and work with your child until he feels comfortable to handle the situations on his own at school and in other settings.
Children with special needs can learn life lessons and critical skills from their parents at home. Parents should consider their goals for their child and use engaging activities to help them grasp concepts and reach those goals.
Learn more about the New PRIDE Reading Program
Jenny Wise is passionate about giving her children the best education possible, and by doing so from home. She put up specialhomeeducator.com to help her fellow parents who are just starting out with homeschooling.