How to Teach a Child with Intellectual Disability to Read

11 Jan 2022
Explore strategies on how to teach a child with intellectual disability to read. Empower minds today!

Understanding Intellectual Disability

Understanding intellectual disability and its impact on a child's learning process is crucial, especially when discussing how to teach a child with intellectual disability to read. This section will define intellectual disability and outline the special education services available for children with this condition.

Definition and Impact

Intellectual disability is defined as "significantly subaverage general intellectual functioning, existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested during the developmental period, that adversely affects a child’s educational performance".

Children with intellectual disabilities often need additional support and modifications in their environment and the type of activities they engage in. This can include using specific spaces for studying, teaching practical skills, incorporating multiple learning methods, providing supplementary aids and services, and creating a structured schedule [1].

Furthermore, students with intellectual disability may need particular adjustments to assessment tasks. Once educators have a clear picture of how the disability impacts on learning, alternative assessment strategies can be considered to provide equal opportunity for students without lowering standards.

Special Education Services

Children with intellectual disabilities may qualify for special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and receive an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) based on their educational needs.

There are more than 425,000 children (ages 3-21) with intellectual disabilities receiving special education services in public school under IDEA. In fact, 7% of children who need special education have some form of intellectual disability [1].

The availability of these special education services plays a crucial role in enabling children with intellectual disabilities to acquire reading skills, which will be discussed in detail in the following sections.

Collaboration with Parents

One of the key aspects when addressing the question "how do you teach a child with an intellectual disability to read?" involves the significant role parents or caregivers play in the education of their child.

Involvement in Education

In early childhood instruction, the involvement of parents can notably impact the educational success of children with disabilities. Collaborating with families is recognized as a best practice, given that parents can contribute valuable insights into their child's exposure to languages at home, their values regarding language learning, and the techniques they use to support their child's learning. Understanding the child's home environment, routines, activities, and cultural practices can equip teachers to better support the child in school.

Parents also play a vital role in developing reading skills by reading to their children and demonstrating the importance of reading in daily life. Quality time spent with picture books and stories can motivate children to enjoy reading.

Support Strategies

The DEC Recommended Practices provide strategies for collaborating with families of young dual language learners (DLL) with disabilities. These strategies stress the importance of building and maintaining rapport with families, learning from families by soliciting their input on their child's needs and routines, and cultivating welcoming classroom environments that involve families. This may include displaying family photos to help children feel connected and reduce separation anxiety.

Parents can foster the development of reading skills in children by creating an appreciation of the written word, developing awareness of printed language, and teaching about the alphabet [4]. Teaching children to spell simple words like their names, stop, or exit, and encouraging children to read these words wherever they see them, aids in developing their reading skills.

Through constructive collaboration, parents and educators can work together to ensure a child with an intellectual disability not only learns to read but also develops a love for reading. Their joint efforts can create a supportive learning environment that meets the child's needs and promotes their academic success.

Individualized Education Plans (IEPs)

In the context of educating children with intellectual disabilities, Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) play a critical role. The process of teaching a child with an intellectual disability to read involves careful planning, implementation, and monitoring of these plans.

Development and Implementation

The development and implementation of IEPs for children with intellectual disabilities is a responsibility assigned to teachers of students with special needs. This is mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). An IEP outlines the educational goals set for a student within a school year and specifies any special support needed to help the student reach those goals.

IEPs are not static; they are subject to change based on the evolving needs of the student. They should be reviewed annually to update the goals and ensure the levels of service meet the student's needs. Further, progress monitoring is done frequently throughout the school year to ensure the student is achieving the goals set in the IEP [5].

Importance of IEP Meetings

IEP meetings serve as a platform for regular classroom teachers, special education teachers, and parents to discuss a student's progress towards the goals outlined in the IEP. These meetings are crucial as they provide an opportunity to adjust the IEP as necessary based on the student's progress and changing needs.

In these meetings, teachers can share insights on how the student is performing in various subject areas, including science, social studies, art, music, library, gym, and health. All teachers involved with the student should be familiar with the IEP and the services and monitoring it requires. This ensures a consistent approach to supporting the student's learning progress.

In conclusion, the development and implementation of IEPs, along with regular IEP meetings, are essential components of the educational process for students with intellectual disabilities. They ensure that the child's unique needs are met and that progress is made towards the individual educational goals set for them. This is particularly relevant when considering how to teach a child with an intellectual disability to read, a task that requires careful planning and specialized instruction.

Teaching Reading to Children with Intellectual Disabilities

Navigating the path of teaching reading to children with intellectual disabilities can be a challenging journey, but one filled with rewarding milestones. The key lies in understanding the unique learning needs of each child and adopting tailored strategies to foster their reading skills development. Equally crucial is the role of parents and guardians in supporting their child's literacy journey.

Reading Skills Development

Recent research has shown that students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) have the ability to learn to decode words, comprehend narrative and expository texts, and write for expression. However, these students may need particular adjustments to assessment tasks. Once educators have a clear picture of how the disability impacts on learning, alternative assessment strategies can be considered to provide equal opportunity for students without lowering standards [2].

Understanding that each child's learning curve is unique, it's important to foster a supportive learning environment that encourages progress at their own pace. Instruction in comprehension for students with IDD can be enhanced through think-alouds and group discussions, where teachers model their thinking and guide students in making predictions, generating questions, clarifying difficult parts, and summarizing what they have read.

Explicit instruction in vocabulary and concepts is also beneficial for comprehension. This includes using visual aids, real-life objects, and stories to explain new words and concepts, and providing ample opportunities for students to practice and apply their new skills in different contexts.

Parental Involvement in Literacy

While educators play a crucial role in teaching reading to children with intellectual disabilities, parents and guardians often serve as the first and most influential teachers. Research underscores the importance of parental involvement in promoting literacy skills among children with IDD.

Children with intellectual disabilities may need individualized help and support in the general education curriculum. IDEA does not permit a student to be removed from age-appropriate general education classrooms solely because modifications are needed in the curriculum.

Parents can support their child's reading journey in several ways. This includes creating a literacy-rich home environment, reading with their child regularly, and engaging them in meaningful conversations to build their vocabulary and comprehension skills. Additionally, parents can collaborate with educators to understand their child's learning needs and goals, and reinforce classroom learning at home.

In conclusion, teaching reading to children with intellectual disabilities requires a comprehensive, multifaceted approach that involves educators, parents, and the children themselves. By understanding each child's unique learning needs and leveraging appropriate instructional strategies and technologies, it is possible to foster meaningful progress in reading skills development among children with IDD.

Assistive Technology for Literacy Learning

Harnessing the capabilities of today's technology is a key approach in teaching children with intellectual disabilities to read. Assistive technologies, in particular, play a significant role in overcoming literacy obstacles.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

One such technology is Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). AAC refers to methods of communication that supplement or replace speech or writing for those with impairments in the production or comprehension of spoken or written language. AAC is a beneficial tool in literacy learning for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities who have complex communication needs or limited speech. AAC supports, such as communication devices and software options, can enhance their ability to communicate and participate in literacy instruction [6].

Benefits of Assistive Technology

Assistive technology refers to devices and services used to increase, maintain, or improve the capabilities of students with disabilities, including those with intellectual disabilities. This can include computer programs and tablet applications that provide text-to-speech, speech-to-text, word prediction, and graphic organizers [7].

Assistive technology may have a significant effect in helping students with disabilities progress towards their Individual Education Plan goals. It can help students learn how to complete tasks and bypass areas of difficulty. For example, listening to a digital version of a book can help bypass reading difficulties while still allowing the student to learn unfamiliar words by following along with highlighted words on the screen.

Furthermore, laptop computers and computerized devices are beneficial for students with learning disabilities because they are portable, lightweight, and can improve note-taking, organization, and spelling accuracy compared to handwritten work. However, training on how to effectively integrate these devices into academic contexts is essential.

Finally, computer-assisted instruction, including software and applications, can provide immediate and dynamic feedback and benefit students with learning disabilities in spelling, expressive writing, reading, and math skills. Computer-assisted instruction can also reduce distractibility and increase motivation in students with learning disabilities.

In conclusion, assistive technology provides a considerable advantage when teaching children with intellectual disabilities to read, providing tools and support that can adapt to their unique learning needs and promote literacy development.

Strategies for Literacy Instruction

Teaching a child with intellectual disability to read requires a tailored approach, taking into account the child's unique learning needs. Two key areas of focus in literacy instruction are explicit instruction techniques and comprehension and vocabulary development.

Explicit Instruction Techniques

Explicit instruction is a research-backed approach that has been shown to be effective in teaching students with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) a range of literacy skills, including phonemic awareness, phonics, comprehension, vocabulary, and fluency.

Traditionally, students with IDD were taught using a functional skills curriculum, which often did not equip them with the skills needed for reading and writing beyond a limited number of sight words. However, recent research has shown that these students have the ability to learn to decode words, comprehend narrative and expository texts, and write for expression, when provided with appropriate instruction.

Explicit instruction techniques involve clearly modelling skills, providing step-by-step guidance, and offering ample opportunities for practice. This approach allows the child to grasp concepts more effectively and apply them in real-world contexts.

Comprehension and Vocabulary Development

Comprehension and vocabulary are crucial components of literacy instruction for students with IDD. Instruction in comprehension can be enhanced through think-alouds and group discussions, where teachers model their thinking and guide students in making predictions, generating questions, clarifying difficult parts, and summarizing what they have read.

Explicit instruction in vocabulary and concepts is also beneficial for comprehension. Techniques may include teaching new words in the context of a story or text, using visuals and realia (real objects) to illustrate meanings, and providing opportunities for students to use new vocabulary in their speaking and writing.

Incorporating these strategies into literacy instruction can help students with IDD to develop a range of reading skills, making the question "how do you teach a child with intellectual disability to read?" a less daunting one to answer. By using explicit instruction techniques and focusing on comprehension and vocabulary development, educators can provide effective literacy instruction that meets the unique needs of students with IDD.

References

[1]: https://epicspecialeducationstaffing.com/strategies-teaching-students-intellectual-disabilities/

[2]: https://www.adcet.edu.au/inclusive-teaching/specific-disabilities/intellectual-disability

[3]: https://iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu/module/dll/cresource/q2/p04/

[4]: https://www.readingrockets.org/topics/about-reading/articles/literacy-tips-parents-children-learning-disabilities

[5]: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/iep-teachers.html

[6]: https://milnepublishing.geneseo.edu/steps-to-success/chapter/9-literacy-instruction-for-students-with-intellectual-and-developmental-disabilities/

[7]: https://www.ldatschool.ca/assistive-technology/

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