Multiple articles and books are available on how to help struggling readers increase their overall reading achievement through research-based strategies and activities. These focus mainly on improving fluency and comprehension skills. But what about the kids that have true learning disabilities (LD). What is the most effective way to help them with their reading problems? As a Reading Specialist, I encounter these children often during the school year.
According to the National Institutes of Health, about 15 percent of the population has some LD. It is more common than most people think. The most common learning disability problem centers around reading and language skills. The main LD for reading and language are dyslexia, dysgraphia, and auditory and visual processing disorders.
H Lee Swanson, Professor of Educational Psychology at the University of California, led a group of researchers from 1996 to 1998, analyzing 92 research studies to determine the best instruction for LD students. One or two of the findings surprised the researchers compared to existing practices.
Small Group Instruction
Students struggling with their reading skills usually will work individually with the teacher. The one-on-one attention is needed to help them improve. However, Swanson determined that LD students learned better in small groups instead. “Traditionally, one-on-one reading instruction has been considered optimal for students with LD. Yet we found that students with LD who received reading instruction in small groups (e.g., in a resource room) experienced a greater increase in skills than students with individual instruction.”
Teacher-Led Instructional Core
Children with LD also benefit from a core Reading curriculum. Most strong Reading programs are composed of similar areas. They include guided practice, a stated objective, daily review of phonics and sight words, new material presented by the teacher, and an opportunity for independent work. If the daily Reading Program offers these lessons, the students will be off to a great start. Each of these teaching concepts is essential for learning Reading skills.
Direct Instruction for LD
Another interesting strategy Swanson felt helped LD students with phonics and decoding is teaching them through direct instruction. Direct instruction in teaching means using straightforward lessons that incorporate drill and repeat. This instruction involves constant repetition, and it should be used with one child at a time or in a small group. You will quickly lose their attention if you try to do drills and repeat them constantly with a full classroom of students. A small group will be able to do drills and repeat better since they will all be active learners.
When helping any struggling reader, you always want to remember to use research-based strategies. Kids with LD are no different. Use a strong systematic phonics and decoding program every day. Learn the most frequently used sight words. Practice independent reading with books at their current reading level. When reading with a parent, the child can pick a book that is a bit harder as long as the adult is there to coach them. The main thing to remember is just to be patient. The parent must exhibit proper behavior and a good attitude, and the child will.
If you are an educator and want to learn more ways to help your students with literacy problems, iAchieve can help with valuable professional development. Perhaps you are a parent feeling overwhelmed with helping your struggling child improve their reading skills. This is something that iAchieve can also remedy with tutoring focused on their weaknesses. Do not give up hope. With proper instruction as a child, I went from being the worst reader in the class to one of the top. Your child can make the same progress!