Dealing With Reading Disabilities in Children While Teaching
Sep 28, 2009 Reading 1969 Views
The competitive nature of modern society makes it imperative for all people to be well versed in three very basic constituents of education-reading, writing and mathematics. In fact, these are the foundation stones on which people build their careers and craft their stories of success. Yet, statistics prove that as many as 80% of students with Learning Disabilities have their problems in reading.
The evolution of psychology and the study of the human mind have opened new avenues of understanding problems affecting and afflicting human behavior and finding effective solutions to them. Yet, more important than studies, it is a person's own observation, understanding and attitude that can help find the right solution. The same principle applies to finding appropriate ways to deal with reading disabilities in children.
Identifying the reasons for reading disabilities
To effectively deal with reading disabilities, as a teacher, you should understand that at the surface all reasons for the problem may seem similar but delve a little deep and you will find that they vary from child to child. In a nutshell, the reasons are the same but at the same time, different. They are same in that reading disabilities can, based on symptoms, be characterized into certain groups. For example, some children may have difficulty in reading rhyming words, others may struggle with words that start with the same sound and yet others may not be speaking at the level of their peers. Yet, each problem is different because all individuals are unique; their ways of looking at things are different and their reactions to a situation also reflect individualistic traits.
Talk to the parents
To deal with reading disabilities, you must talk to the parents to get a better perspective of why their children are facing the problem. If the parents are observant enough, they would be able to discover signs of reading disabilities in their children at a very early stage. In fact there are many indicators that point to the things to come in this direction. For example, children may have difficulty in manipulating sounds in words or they may not be comfortable with rhyming words. Then again, children who have had repeated ear infections or speech delays in the early stages of their lives may face reading disabilities making it difficult to cope with their peers in their class.
Observe the children in class
While talking to parents will definitely help, your own observations will make all the difference in dealing with the situation. Listen to the children when they read aloud in the class and watch out for the tell-tale signs. What do they do when they reach a word they cannot pronounce-skip over it or ask you how to pronounce it correctly? When you correct them, do they stop to pronounce it or continue reading? Do they guess at the word rather than read it?
Then again, you can also base your observations on their writing abilities. It is an accepted fact that children, by the time they reach the end of kindergarten, they are comfortable with all consonants in the alphabet though they may make mistakes with the vowels. Your observations will help you identify the problem and decide on the direction to take to overcome it.
Dealing with reading disabilities
All children have unique behavioral and emotional patterns and their own way of dealing with situations. You should keenly observe the children, identify the reasons for their disinclination to read, delve deeper into their emotional patterns, and then decide on the approach to take. Studies have shown that the majority of children who enter kindergarten and elementary school at-risk for reading failure can learn to read at average or above levels, but only if they are identified early and provided with systematic, explicit, and intensive instruction in phonemic awareness, phonics, reading fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension strategies.
Select the right topic
Studies have proved that there is a strong link between understanding or gaining familiarity with something and then reading about it. In other words, if the children are familiar and interested in a subject, they will put in extra efforts to read about it. So it is important to find a topic that would interest the children and motivate them to read. For example, children in the kindergarten stage are fascinated by birds and animals so giving them topic such as 'Animals in a Zoo' may catch their fancy and motivate them to read.
Learning, or rather informal learning is a process that begins much before the children enter preschool. It has generally been observed that children from economically or socially weaker sections are less exposed to new words and situations in the early stages of their lives. This is all the more disadvantageous considering that this is the stage when the children have a keen perception and are more than eager to know, understand and identify the sounds and colors of the environment that surrounds them. Yet, owing to circumstances, parents may not have the time to indulge the curiosity in their children.
So by the time they enter kindergarten, their vocabulary is much less than that of the children from middle class backgrounds or with parents who have spent quality time with them. Studies have shown that children from an average middle class child is exposed to approximately 500,000 words by kinder-garten; an economically disadvantaged child is exposed to half as many, at best.
You can teach new words to children through Phonemes or sounds that represent the letters of the alphabet. The children enjoy blending sounds to make words; they are also more comfortable reading words they are familiar with.
Guided or contextual reading
Rather than introducing new words in isolation, it is better to introduce them in the right context so that the children are able to associate the word with a situation. For example, take the children for a walk in the garden to identify the flowers there. Tell them the name of the flower, let us say rose, when they see a rose. You can at this time also play a spelling game and ask the children to spell the word rose. Now when the children go back to the class and read about flowers, they would be able to associate the picture of a rose with the word rose and read it correctly.
Appreciate the efforts of children
According to the a report of the Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children, National Research Council, "as in every domain of learning, motivation is crucial."
Appreciation is a great motivating tool that can work wonders and bring about the best in both adults and children. A word of praise can raise the confidence level of the children and build their self-esteem. It is equally important to have patience with them. In the beginning, when they read they are bound to make mistakes and mispronounce words. You may find their reading hesitant with frequent starts and stops. Keep in mind that a class will always have children from varying backgrounds and performing at different levels.
Sensitize children in the class
It is equally important to sensitize the children so that they do not mock or laugh at the kids who cannot equal their level of reading or performance. It is a known fact that nature has a way of compensating for disabilities; a child with a reading disability may be extremely good at something else, for example, he or she may be very talented at drawing. So if children laugh at a child's effort at reading, you can point out his or her talent in drawing and explain to them that every human being is gifted in one way or the other. This will not only sensitize the children to respect each other but will also help to build bridges between them. Once children feel that they are not outcasts but accepted members amongst their peers, they will be all the more willing to learn and conquer their disabilities.
Communicate with parents
The time of the children is divided between home and school. There should be no gap in communication between the parents and the teacher, as they collectively have the maximum influence on a child's crucial developing years. Keep them in the loop about the policy you are following and ask them to follow the same at home for maximum impact. If need be, counsel them to be appreciative of any progress their children make and also emphasize that they should never lose their calm in front of them.