As most parents are aware, the joy of reading is one of the greatest gifts that we can give our children. Beginning from birth, we relentlessly read to them and finally that joyous day arrives when our children read to us “Dot has a pot, the pot is hot.”

Overwhelmed with pride, we bask in the glory of our child’s success and our patient determination. However, this scenario may be very different if you’re the parent of a child with a learning disability. These joyous reading moments for some may be heartbreaking reading moments for others when your child struggles with “Dot has a pot, the pot is hot” and the frustration intensifies as your child grows and progresses from the “learning to read” stage to the “reading to learn” stage. 

Of course, coming to terms with and identifying the learning disability is the first step in your child’s educational journey and placing your son or daughter in special education classes is next. However, making sure the proper reading resources are in place, so they may achieve the most from their special education classes, is equally important. Today, the amount of reading resources appears to be limitless, but there are three reading resources utilized most often that all parents should be aware of:

Reading Recovery

Developed in 1978 by Marie Clay, Ph.D, Reading Recovery focuses on one-to-one tutoring for low-achieving first grade students, or students who are struggling. Reading Recovery’s components, taught by certified teachers, includes Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. Within each 30-minute lesson, children are taught to “hear” letter-sound relationships within each word, write and record sounds, and work with spelling patterns. Each lesson includes reading a familiar book and a new book, working with magnetic letters, writing a story, and assembling a cut-up story.

The teacher keeps a record of each child’s progress in order to plan future lessons. According to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s report Teaching Children to Read, “Tutoring one-on-one is regarded as the ideal form of instruction for students who are having difficulties because it allows teachers to tailor lessons to address individual students’ needs. One of the best known tutoring programs is Reading Recovery.”

Orton Gillingham

Developed in 1935 by Samuel Orton, Ph.D, and educator Anna Gillingham, the Orton-Gillingham program is used most often with dyslexic students, age upper elementary through adult. The Orton-Gillingham method, which is taught by certified teachers, begins with basic letter-sound connections and blending sounds together. After these basic skills are mastered, students are introduced to non-phonetic words such as was, hear, and light, and basic elements of language are introduced including consonants, vowels, and blends.

Orton-Gillingham utilizes a multi-sensory approach within each lesson by marking  vowels, consonants, and blends in each word with color-coded symbols. This method of utilizing color-coded symbols allows students to visually “breakdown”  the phonetic elements and reinforces the vowel, consonant, and blend connections. The Orton-Gillingham approach reviews material with the student and new skills are only introduced when the previous skills are mastered.

The Wilson Training Program

Developed in 1985 by Barbara and Edward Wilson, The Wilson Training Program is designed for the upper elementary grades through adults. This Orton-Gillingham based program, which is also taught by certified teachers, includes a 12-step program that focuses on decoding (reading) and encoding (writing) words. Steps 1-2 focus on phonemic segmentation, or the separating of sounds in each word. Step 3 introduces polysyllabic words, or the separation of syllables in each word. Steps 4-6 introduce the vowel-consonant –e syllables, open syllables, suffix endings, and the consonant –le. In steps 7-12, complete word structure is taught. Similar to the Orton-Gillingham approach, students must master each step before moving to the next level because this ensures understanding of the material and it also allows students to work at their own pace.

In addition, a multi-sensory approach is also incorporated into each lesson including sight, sound, and finger tapping and using a symbol to “scoop” blends, which enables students to visually breakdown individual consonants and blends. According to Tara Carrell, certified special education teacher and Wilson Program trained specialist at Glen Meadow Middle School in Vernon, New Jersey, “There is a great benefit to the Wilson Training 12-Step program; it is structured well for teaching due to its clear, step-by-step nature. Breaking down each element within each word one step at a time enables students to decode words effectively without the additional stress students may encounter when having difficulty learning to read.”

When your child’s special education journey begins, make sure the programs needed for their specific learning disability is in place. Due to the No Child Left Behind act, public schools are provided with the funding to incorporate these programs into the curriculum along with certified teachers. As for your part as parents, do some research and use the strategies at home. Understand the principles of decoding and encoding; the reinforcement is invaluable and teachers are grateful for the in-home support. The gift of reading is priceless, and makes education a life-long journey.