Thursday, January 27, 2022

“My child hates reading. Whenever we have to sit for reading homework it becomes such a power struggle as a full-on temper tantrum begins. I can’t do it anymore so I just stop pushing. Tears and screams go on for 20 minutes and I just can’t bear it each night.” That is the struggle of a parent trying to help a child read.

That struggle can easily be turned into a productive situation with the right instruction for struggling readers. “My daughter was struggling in her kindergarten class with her sounds, letters, reading and writing. It was impacting her performance in the classroom and her confidence. We decided to begin private speech/literacy lessons. She always looked forward to her sessions because it made her feel successful and confident. She recently expressed that she loves reading and would like me to buy her more books. That is truly all a parent can ask for. Her confidence has blossomed and she is approaching grade level in such a short period of time. She recently read 11 books in her 45-minute session and felt so proud.”

Speech therapists such as myself also specialize in literacy to help children improve their ability to read and their relationship towards reading. It is very important to identify reading difficulties at a young age and begin intervention immediately because the gap between strong readers vs. poor readers widens very quickly. Children who begin to struggle with reading begin to develop a difficult relationship with reading. A negative view towards learning can cause a buildup of frustration in all areas of academics, because from first grade onwards your child is not learning to read but reading to learn.

If your child is struggling to read it may be an indication of an underlying learning disability and that your child is in need of systematic reading instruction. Reading disabilities are more common than many people think; between 15% and 20% of people struggle with some level of dyslexia. Dyslexia is the most common learning disorder, affecting about one in five people, regardless of age or gender. Reading difficulties can cause trouble in other areas of learning, including writing, spelling, fluency and comprehension. Learning why your child is struggling can help him or her develop the skills needed to become a more skilled and confident reader. Waiting too long can cause children who require additional help to fall behind, which makes catching up more difficult, putting them at a major learning disadvantage.

The profile of a child who would benefit from reading remediation is a student in grades two through 12 in the lowest 30th percentile in decoding and spelling; students with a language-based learning disability; slow, labored readers who lack fluency; students who may know many sight words but have difficulty reading new words, and students who guess at words. Reading does not only consist of phonics (sound-letter awareness) but also fluency (independent reading of connected text with ease, expression and meaning), vocabulary and comprehension. Under the right conditions, intensive and skillful instruction in basic word-reading skills can have a significant impact on the comprehension ability of students and can close the gap in reading skills for struggling readers. A child with a reading disability who is not identified early may require as many as 150-300 hours of intensive instruction (at least 90 minutes a day for most school days over a one-to-three-year period) if they are going to close the reading gap. The longer the identification and effective reading instruction is delayed, the longer the child will require catch-up. Although reading fluency may be learned in 100 hours, it requires more like 50 months to gain sufficient knowledge to bring students to grade level in reading when they fall behind.

Not only what is taught is important but how it is taught. Effective reading programs are taught not only systematically, but explicitly as well. The National Reading Panel found the children who are taught phonics systematically and explicitly make greater progress in reading than those taught with any other type of instruction and that beginning the teaching of phonics in kindergarten or first grade produces the best results.

Ashley Small is a proudly practicing speech-language pathologist licensed in New Jersey and New York. She works for the department of education where she treasures her role as a therapist helping children reach academic success and educating parents about the laws regarding special education. In addition, she has a private practice where she works with a variety of children with articulation disorders, apraxia, autism, language difficulties, reading disorders, stuttering and other health impairments, as well as adults with Parkinson’s disease. Ashley is currently offering virtual speech sessions. Visit ashleysmallslp.com, call 973-486 4122 or email [email protected]

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