How Do I Help My Child with Learning Difficulties?

How Do I Help My Child with Learning Difficulties (1)

Learning to read is a fundamental building block upon which much of a child’s educational success is built. Often, children who are learning to read will struggle with certain skills, such as reading comprehension or word recognition. Not only does this impact their education, it can also play a role in a child’s self-image. Children who have reading difficulties are at a higher risk of dropping out of school, as well as developing low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. To decrease these risks, early intervention for struggling or at-risk students is very important.

Three Main Types of Reading Difficulties

Early intervention is the key, but first, we must consider what type of difficulty the child faces. Three main types of reading difficulties are with decoding, fluency, and comprehension.
  • Word Decoding - Readers who struggle with word decoding have trouble sounding out words, matching letters to their sounds, and word recognition.
  • Fluency - When a child reads slowly, takes frequent pauses, ignores punctuation, and fails to use expression while reading, they most likely need help with fluency.
  • Reading Comprehension - Readers who consistently fail to recall or understand what they read need assistance with reading comprehension skills. These children often demonstrate trouble with following directions, too.

What Can Parents Do?

Understandably, parents become concerned when their child has trouble reading. However, there is no need to panic as there are several ways parents can help improve their child’s reading skills.

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If your child struggles with word decoding, they can benefit from the following:

  • Practice Sound Skills. Developing your child’s ability to produce sounds will help with decoding. Common strategies include sound repetition & sound substitution. Parents can also help children identify sounds by matching letters to images that start with the same beginning sound. For example, match the letter D to a picture of a dog.
  • Practice Blending. As students learn individual sounds, they can begin blending them together into words. Start with words that contain a simple vowel and consonant, like the word “up”, then move on to words with a consonant- vowel- consonant, such as the word “cup”. Rhyming words are another fun way to practice words with common blended sounds.
  • Count Syllables. Syllable recognition is also important when decoding words. To assist your child, have them place their fingertips on their chin and then repeat a word. The number of syllables in the word equals the number of times their chin moves down.

If a child’s reading difficulty is with fluency, a parent can try the following strategies:

  • Modeling. Reading aloud to your child on a regular basis and providing them with audiobooks are effective ways to model fluent reading.
  • Flashcards and Word Lists. These are great for practicing word recognition. The Dolch List, or the more modern Fry List, are common sight word lists used for emerging readers. These can be found on many online sites.
  • Increased Opportunities for Reading. Help your child pick out books that interest them and create a special reading time with the family. Some fun reading activities include reader’s theater, echo reading, popcorn reading, and choral reading.

Children who struggle with reading comprehension can also benefit from increased opportunities for reading, as well as these other strategies:

  • Journaling. Children can use journals to summarize what they read, as well as to make predictions, connections, and reflections.
  • Book Talks. Hosting a Family Reading Night or creating a Family Book Club are great ways to get the whole family talking about what they read. These meaningful discussions will also give them practice with reading comprehension skills.
  • Reciprocal Reading. This strategy helps the child practice comprehension skills of summarizing, clarifying, predicting, and questioning. Reciprocal reading does require a small group, however.

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Keep Calm and Read On!

Helping our struggling readers overcome their reading difficulties is important for their educational success and self-image. However, the task does not have to be overwhelming. There are many things a parent can do to get the help their child needs to overcome any reading gap. Start by seeking the help of your child’s teacher to determine the difficulties your child faces, and try some of the strategies mentioned above. A quality online education service, like 98thPercentile, can also help you identify the gaps and provide you with excellent tutors to help improve your reading skills. Book your child's free trial classes with 98thPercentile today!

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