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Reading Programs for Children with Special Needs

Updated on January 16, 2010


There are many children with special needs who have difficulties reading. This article looks at reading programs that benefit children who are struggling to read. I've also included some links to products you may find to be useful.

Which Children Experience Reading Difficulties?

 Any child can experience problems when learning to read. They may have a diagnosed disability or disorder, or they may not. Regardless of whether they have a specific disorder or not, it is still important they get extra attention and help to ensure their reading skills can develop.



1. Be Aware of the Individual

Before implementing any reading program, it is important to be aware of the needs of the individual student. A student may be diagnosed with, for example, dyslexia, but that doesn't mean a program designed for children with dyslexia will necessary work. Not all children with dyslexia will benefit from the same techniques and programs. Choose or design a program based on the individual's needs, not on a diagnosis or label that has been given to him/her.

Ediger, (2009), highlights the importance of the individual in a reading program, stating, "an effective program of reading instruction must meet the needs of students individually" (pg. 119). This is because all children are different; they all learn differently from one another, and this always needs to be taken into account to ensure they receive the best reading instruction possible.

The best way to determine the needs of an individual student is through assessment. Assessment is important, so teachers can design a reading program based on the specific needs of the student (Ahrens, 2005). There are many assessments commercially available to assess students, or you can use more informal methods. The list of books on the right are a good place to start.

2. Research the Program

Before choosing a reading program, it must be researched. Research could include finding peer-reviewed journal articles discussing scientific research that has been carried out on the specific reading program, or it could include reading reviews written by teachers and parents who have actually used the program.

If you are designing your own program, you still need to research the principles you are basing it on. For example, if you want to specifically teach phonics, read the current literature available on phonics instruction.

Ediger, (2009), highlights the importance of conducting research before implementing a reading program. He also explains that, "Outdated ideas and opinions need to be discarded." (pg. 119). When conducting your research, make sure you focus on literature that has been written recently. If an article is more than ten years old, it may not be as useful as research that has been conducted more recently.

3. Determine what Motivates the Student

In order for a reading program to be successful, it needs to be determined what motivates the student to learn. Wigfield et al., (2004), state that "motivation is crucial to reading engagement" (pg. 299) as reading requires participants to make an effort. If a student is not motivated to make an effort to improve his or her reading skills, it is unlikely there will be much development.

Students are more likely to read if the text is about something that interests them (Ediger, 2009). They need to be taught that reading is something that is enjoyable, and is not a task you "have to do" to get some kind of reward. Reading, and being able to read, should be a reward in itself (Small et al., 2009). You can teach students this by giving them texts on topics that interest or excite them, and by showing enthusiasm for the topics yourself.

Current research provides evidence that students are more motivated to learn if they have choices in the things they read about. This is because they actually begin to enjoy reading (Pachtman & Wilson, 2006). Generally, students should be given a voice when a reading program is implemented, so that they can make choices, and be motivated to read.

Reference List

Ahrens, B.C. (2005). Finding a new way: Reinventing a sixth-grade reading program. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 48 8 (642-654). Retrieved January 16, 2010, from Academic Search Premier.

Ediger, M. (2009). For an effective reading program. Reading Improvement 46 3 (119-122). Retrieved January 16, 2010 from Academic Search Premier.

Pachtman, A.B., & Wilson, K.A. (2006). What do the kids think? Reading Teacher 59 7 (680-684). Retrieved January 16, 2010, from Academic Search Premier.

Small, R.V., Angelastro, E., Bang, S., Bainbridge, S., Brindamour, C., Clark, J., et al. (2009). Reading incentives that work: No-cost strategies to motivate kids to read and love it! School Library Media Activities Monthly 25 9 (27-31). Retrieved January 16, 2010, from Academic Search Premier.

Wigfield, A., Guthrie, J.T., Tonks, S., & Perencevich, K.C., (2004). Children's motivation for reading: Domain specificity and instructional influences. Journal of Educational Research 97 6 (299-309). Retrieved January 16, 2010, from Academic Search Premier.


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    • sasanqua profile image

      Sophie 7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thank you! We do not have a a big enough emphasis on early intervention here unfortunately. It is completely inadequate in my opinion. There is very little funding available, and if parents want more they have to pay themselves. Most can't afford the high prices. The early intervention classes normally consist of around a dozen (or more) kids with a teacher or two and a couple of teachers aides. It's pretty pathetic actually. I'm hoping to eventually go to the UK and see what they do there. Apparently their system is much better.

    • advocateforchild profile image

      advocateforchild 7 years ago from Orange, CA

      Great hub! I would love to know how the educational system in Australia deals with students with special needs. Is there a pro active approach towards identification of (in this case learning disabilities) and early intervention? This is unfortunately an area we here in the US struggle with-it's much more of a wait until the last minute and then we'll see how things go-and we certainly won't volunteer information for the parents (we in this case being the school/school districts). I would love to hear back from you.

    • sasanqua profile image

      Sophie 7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thank you! I always appreciate getting feedback.

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 7 years ago from Canada

      This is a great hub! I look forward to reading more of your work!