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Reading Strategies for Students with Disabilities

written by: Janelle Martel • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 1/5/2012

Students with reading disabilities often feel frustrated when they have difficulty understanding, making learning difficult. Luckily there are many reading strategies for special education that can make the learning process easier for both student and teacher.

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    Encourage Reading

    Students who have dyslexia, or another reading disability, often struggle integrating reading into their day-to-day lives. Teachers and parents need to find fun and exciting ways to get the students to read without the student worrying that they will struggle. There are several great reading strategies for special education students.

    The first and easiest way to help struggling readers and improve reading comprehension and fluency is to find reading material that they enjoy reading. This may be something as simple as a magazine on motorcycles or a book about dancing. Ask your students what they really like to read about. Once you find an interest, take advantage of this. Students will be more interested in reading something that they like, rather than reading a book that they are forced to read. There are also books known as hi-lo reading books. This means they are for students who have high interest levels yet low reading levels. Magazines and newspapers are also great for this because they have short articles, but make the student feel grown-up.

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    Reading Strategies

    Having students track their reading progress is often a great strategy. If students see that they are increasing their reading fluency, they will be more interested in reading. I suggest students do a weekly reading prompt in which the teacher can see how many words they can read correctly per minute and track it on a graph. You may find that the students frequently ask to see this graph, as they are usually interested in watching their progress. It is a small motivator that really means a lot to the students.

    Another strategy that can be useful for struggling readers is to have them track while they read with their finger so they don’t lose their place. You can also have them use a ruler. This helps them to keep their focus on where they are in their reading.

    When students are struggling with a particular word, there are a number of different strategies. You can determine which works best for each student. The first step is to sound it out phonetically. The second is to read through the sentence leaving the unknown word out and have the student use context clues to determine which word might fit.

    A final strategy that I would like to recommend is having the students record themselves reading. Have them read a story, then playback the story and read as they are listening to themselves. This will help with fluency and comprehension.

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    Reading Games

    Reading games are another one of the reading strategies you can employ for special education students. Something as simple as word bingo or Scrabble are excellent games to play with students to enhance their reading skills. The more fun reading becomes for students that struggle with reading, the more interested they will be in reading.

    In elementary grades, a Word Wall can help as well. Students need to be exposed more often to words, especially words that they struggle with. A word wall can be something as simple as a bulletin board with words of the day on it, or words from a lesson. As you progress through lessons, add more words to the wall and review them frequently. In secondary grades, a word wall can be used, but you could have the students keep a word journal instead. This journal could also be where students record words they get stuck on when reading.

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