If you teach young children to read, you are a hero. Learning to read is a complex process. Twenty-six squiggles work together to make over 40 different sounds, many of which can be spelled several different ways. Not to mention the groups of letters that can make several different sounds. These sounds come together to make words. The words come together to make thoughts. From there, great works of fiction and non-fiction open up whole new worlds to for each reader. But for young children who are at the beginning of this journey, it can be a very daunting task.
How do I know if the struggling student has a learning disability?
Diagnosing a learning disability in young children can be difficult. Children develop at their own pace. A lot depends on state laws and school district guidelines. When we are dealing with a struggling child, knowing what to look for can help.
Early indicators of reading weakness
- Not remembering words to songs or getting them wrong
- Struggling to learn letter names and/or sounds
- Inability to rhyme
- Inability to segment and blend sounds
- Not recognizing one’s own name
- Not recalling a word that has been decoded already on the same page
So, you have a student that is struggling and you are seeing the warning signs that the problems may be more than just a developmental lag. Now what? If you are able to, start the referral process for an educational evaluation through the local public school district. If this not an option, seeking a private evaluation through a university, child development center, or psychologist is another option. However, there is a lot you can do in your classroom to help struggling students.
Specifically teach phonemic awareness using a systematic approach. If you do not have one, the Heggerty Phonemic Awareness program is inexpensive and user-friendly.
Make sure that your reading program uses a systematic, multisensory approach to teaching phonics. If your reading program does not have enough phonics, check on-line for materials. “This Reading Mama,” is a good blog that often offers free materials if you subscribe.
Be positive. Even young students are very aware of what they cannot do and try to hide it. Focus your praise on what your student can do. Remind her of how awesome she is at that thing. Make sure it is obvious that your love and care for him is not connected to how he does at reading. Tell him that God made his amazing brain and you will work together to help it learn to read.
Above all, pray for that student and for yourself. God loves you and your students and wants what is best for both of you!