Are children with Intellectual Disabilities (Mental Retardation) or severe learning disabilities really able to learn how to read? The simple answer is, yes, when the child, parents, and school all seek to make the goal of reading a priority. My personal teaching experience in a self-contained cross-category class taught me all students can read. The reason my first principal hired me was in part, my difficulties learning to read in the primary grades due to my severe dyslexia. My road to literacy was hideously tedious, to say the least, and left me feeling worthless. Endless hours running recorded flashcards through a tape recorder with no chance of reading quality literature.
After twelve years teaching and a Masters in Special Education and I am still learning from my special needs students better ways to teach reading. The methods, structures, and strategies that I use and developed are all in a philosophy I call Reading Boot Camp. The ideas and structures were developed to help the most sever learning disabled students learn to read. The program as an intervention shows most LD students gain two years ability in the twenty days. Please read more about Reading Boot Camp,
Written and spoken English (Morpheme-based grapheme to phoneme) was a bunch of cuneiform squiggles that swam around on the page. My disconnect was the morpheme grapheme to phoneme conversion. I was unable to make a bridge between the auditory and visual patters, rules of reading phonetically. Most of my teachers including special education teachers had no clue what I was experiencing. The schools solution for my dyslexia was modification, accommodation and very infective remediation, that left me illiterate and always two or three years behind my peers.
My special education teacher used a Bell and Howell tape machine that read flash cards to teach me how to sight read, most of my early memories are sitting with that infernal machine running cards through over and over. My grandmother bought me a record player with read along stories like Jungle Book and Journey to the Center of the Earth. This was superior to the flash cards. I would were-out needles and records listening so hard to make sense of the hieroglyphs on the page that I knew made up great stories.
At home I could read high adventure with the help of my record player, at school I was reading books that I believed and thought were for the stupid kids!
For parents and teachers of exceptional learners I would suggest a listening lab with books on tape also lots of music with lyrics. Please stop and get help from a professional before you use or buy software programs, that are just a modern Bell and Howell tape machine, as I said the learning was hideous! Students must learn and practice tracking text with their finger for all reading activities even if they cannot sight read or decode at the beginning! They need to read along out-loud as much as possible. The repetition of the songs and the books on tape will eventually make a bridge. And always the reading material has to be high interest. I was bored to death page flipping my easy read books and using my tape machine.
REMEDIAL READING PROGRAMS ARE BASED ON LEARNING CRITICAL VOCABULARY
PRESCHOOL: a, and, away, big, blue, can, come, down, find, for, funny, go, help, here, I, in, is, it, jump, little, look, make, me, my, not, one, play, red, run, said, see, the, three, to, two, up, we, where, yellow, you
KINDERGARTEN: all, am, are, at, ate, be, black, brown, but, came, did, do, eat, four, get, good, have, he, into, like, must, new, no, now, on, our, out, please, pretty, ran, ride, saw, say, she, so, soon, that, there, they, this, too, under, want, was, well, went, what, white, who, will, with, yes
1st Grade: after, again, an, any, as, ask, by, could, every, fly, from, give, giving, had, has, her, him, his, how, just, know, let, live, may, of, old, once, open, over, put, round, some, stop, take, thank, them, then, think, walk, were, when
2nd Grade: always, around, because, been, before, best, both, buy, call, cold, does, don't, fast, first, five, found, gave, goes, green, its, made, many, off, or, pull, read, right, sing, sit, sleep, tell, their, these, those, upon, us, use, very, wash, which, why, wish, work, would, write, your
3rd Grade: about, better, bring, carry, clean, cut, done, draw, drink, eight, fall, far, full, got, grow, hold, hot, hurt, if, keep, kind, laugh, light, long, much, myself, never, only, own, pick, seven, shall, show, six, small, start, ten, today, together, try, warm
Nouns: apple, baby, back, ball, bear, bed, bell, bird, birthday, boat, box, boy, bread, brother, cake, car, cat, chair, chicken, children, Christmas, coat, corn, cow, day, dog, doll, door, duck, egg, eye, farm, farmer, father, feet, fire, fish, floor, flower, game, garden, girl, good-bye, grass, ground, hand, head, hill, home, horse, house, kitty, leg, letter, man, men, milk, money, morning, mother, name, nest, night, paper, party, picture, pig, rabbit, rain, ring, robin, Santa Claus, school, seed, sheep, shoe, sister, snow, song, squirrel, stick, street, sun, table, thing, time, top, toy, tree, watch, water, way, wind, window, wood