Reading is an important first step on a child’s path to success in life. A child that is an excellent reader is a confident child, has a high level of self -esteem and is able to easily make the transition from learning to read to reading to learn. For many of us reading is a natural process and we can read with ease and pleasure. Unfortunately, for a child with a reading disability, the reading process can become a frustrating and negative experience and is often very difficult to master.
What is a Reading Disability?
A reading disability is an inherited condition that makes it extremely difficult to read, write, and spell despite at least an average intelligence.
Learning to read is a sequential process. Each new skill a child learns builds on the mastery of previously learned skills. First, a child learns to break down words into their most basic sounds, which we call decoding. Later on, the child begins to comprehend the meaning of words and sentences, which we call reading comprehension. Decoding is an essential step in the reading process since it forms the foundation of reading. For a child with a reading disability, decoding does NOT come naturally and is NOT an automatic process. Most reading experts will agree that decoding problems is the basis of most reading disabilities.
Does my child have a reading disability?
Some signs of a reading disability:
- Child has difficulties sounding out words
- Slow laborious reading
- Reads without expression
- Ignores punctuation while reading out loud
- Guesses based on first letter of word
- Puts extra sounds into a word
- Drops syllables
- Reverses sounds
- Struggles with spelling
- Substitutes small common words
If your child is struggling in reading and showing the above symptoms, there may be good reason for you to request an immediate assessment. As a parent you want to be certain that you are providing what is needed for your child to succeed in school. To know what is necessary, an assessment is the first thing to do in order to identify the issues to remedy.
What is an assessment?
An assessment is simply a standardized test performed by someone trained and licensed to understand how to give the test and how to interpret the results. Specialists trained to do psychological testing and result interpretation are:
- Clinical psychologist
- School psychologist
- Educational psychologist
- Developmental psychologist
- Speech and language therapist
How do I get help?
A child with a reading disability will take in and process information differently and needs to be taught by specialists. Students with a reading disability will need to work with a specially trained teacher, tutor, or reading specialist to learn how to read and spell. Students who have been assessed and diagnosed through the school district might qualify for Special Education Services. Children with a reading disability progress best with a sequential, repetitive, systematic and cumulative structured reading program. Fortunately, with the proper assistance and help, most students with a reading disability are able to learn to read and develop strategies to become successful readers.
When is the best time to get help?
Effective early intervention is the key to helping a struggling reader learn to read. This training needs to begin sooner rather than later for the bet results. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), 95% of children who have trouble learning to read can reach grade level if they receive specialized help early on. Kindergarten to the middle of first grade are the “window of opportunity” to prevent long term reading problems. Without early intervention, the “reading gap” might never close.
There is no reason why a child with a reading disability cannot learn to read and comprehend well. It is important that we never lower the expectations of a child with a reading disability. Children need to feel that even though they are struggling, they are loved and not being judged. So be encouraging and patient and praise often.
Karina Richland, M.A. 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 reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Pride Learning Center website at: www.pridelearningcenter.com