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Real Moms, Real Kids: All About Reading and Down Syndrome

Real Moms, Real Kids: All About Reading and Down Syndrome

Learning to read isn’t always easy, even under the best of circumstances. But what if you have a child with a significant learning disability like Down syndrome? What’s the best way to teach reading in that situation?

Jennifer and Heidi are real moms with real kids who happen to have Down syndrome. But Down syndrome didn’t stop these amazing moms from believing they could homeschool their boys.

And it didn’t stop them from believing they could teach their sons to read. But both moms knew they would need the support of just the right reading program to help them teach their special kids. Read Jennifer’s story and Heidi’s story below to discover how they are teaching their sons to read.

Here’s Jennifer…

Joseph has Down syndrome. Being the fifth child in our clan, it only seemed natural to us to homeschool him just like his older brothers and sisters. However, the rest of the world doesn’t always agree.

There’s a common belief that children with special circumstances need special education teachers. But we chose to homeschool Joseph because it’s what we know how to do. We’re comfortable with homeschooling, and after living with Joseph for five years, it didn’t seem like it would be much different homeschooling him with Down syndrome than it was homeschooling his siblings.

Real Moms, Real Kids: All About Reading and Down Syndrome

But after teaching four children to read using various methods, I wasn’t convinced that any of those open-ended methods would work for Joseph. And with our history of dyslexia (two out of four children), I wanted to find a reading program that was well laid out, specific in its instruction, multisensory-based, and dyslexia approved, and that still allowed for flexibility.

Real Moms, Real Kids: All About Reading and Down Syndrome

Reading Lessons That Work!

When I first looked through the All About Reading Level 1 parent guide, I immediately noticed the number of lessons—49. Only 49! So many reading programs plan for 180 days, or 36 weeks of lessons. To get through that many seemed nearly impossible. Forty-nine sounded so very doable.

Once we began Lesson 1 and I realized I had to break the lesson up into multiple mini-lessons, I knew I had made the right choice with AAR.

Real Moms, Real Kids: All About Reading and Down Syndrome

Each lesson is divided into multiple segments including “Before You Begin,” “Review,” “New Teaching,” and “Read-Aloud Time.” “Before You Begin” is perfect for the novice parent/teacher; it prepares you, in fewer than three minutes, to teach the lesson. The short prep time means more time actually reading with Joseph.

Real Moms, Real Kids: All About Reading and Down Syndrome

The “New Teaching” section is also comprised of smaller sections. I love that we can sit down for 7-12 minutes and complete one section, such as “Change the Word.” It’s a very short lesson, but anything over 15 minutes and Joseph’s eyes are too tired to continue.

Real Moms, Real Kids: All About Reading and Down Syndrome

The “Read Aloud” reminder is helpful. We all know how important reading aloud is, but with a pile of kids in multiple grades to homeschool, sometimes this cuddly, happy activity gets pushed aside for other, more important subjects. Before we begin the lesson, Joseph picks a book off the shelf and sets it next to him as a reminder to us both that a story will be read once the lesson is complete—a little motivation for him.

The Ease of Scripted Lesson Plans

Homeschooling Joseph takes a lot of my brain power, and having the AAR script ready is such a blessing to my well-being. It’s one less activity I have to plan, and on hectic days it’s so nice to grab the bag, open the book, and begin. I wasn’t sure if I’d like that, but it helps me stay on track and not say too much.

Experiencing a beginning reader read his first sentence out of a book is a joyful moment worthy of celebration. Hearing Joseph read his first sentence from the Run, Bug, Run! reader brought tears to my eyes, and I’m so happy All About Reading helped that happen.

An Update on Joseph’s All About Reading Journey

We were excited to hear from Jennifer recently with an update on Joseph’s progress! Here’s Jennifer…

It’s hard to believe that Joseph is now a teenager! He had his 13th birthday last week and All About Reading is still a part of our homeschool. It took a couple of years to get through Level 1, but it was a success, and he became a reader.

Joseph loves the Beginning to Read books by Margaret Hillert and picked up on the sight words very quickly. We spent a full school year reading through every single one of those books (there are many) before returning to All About Reading Level 2.

Level 2 is slow going, but I’ve always been a believer in progress over perfection when it comes to Joe. To some, remaining on the same level for 3 years in a row might be discouraging, but remember for a person with Down syndrome there can be many challenges to overcome. In addition to AAR lessons Joseph is also learning to write.

Learning is tiring for Joe and so I like to keep his reading lesson times short. Each year I add about 2 minutes of instruction time; this year he’s up to 15-18 minutes of AAR time. He loves the AAR readers and keeps those at his bedside—well, technically strewn about his bedroom floor—but they are treasures to him and when I say it’s time to read, he always grabs his Level 1 readers, sits down and begins to read. I enjoy seeing his confidence build as he adds another completed reader to his pile. And now that the new readers are in full color and the pages are glossy, it’s even better for him!

down syndrome boy reading a book with a big smile on his face

Read more on Jennifer’s blog about how she is using All About Reading to teach Joseph how to read:

Watch as Jennifer teaches Joseph in the videos below:

And Here’s Heidi…

Our third-born son *Matthew has Down syndrome. We knew that Matthew’s Down syndrome would make learning to read much more difficult for him than it had been for his older brothers, and we were nervous about purchasing a “formal curriculum” for him. But a friend encouraged us to look into All About Reading, and after reading about how Jennifer taught Joseph to read, we decided to jump right in! It’s pretty exciting to now be able to share our story right alongside Jennifer’s and Joseph’s!

boy with down syndrome doing school work with mother

As expected, teaching Matthew to read is proving to be a S-L-O-W process. I have to constantly remind myself not to compare him to other children. We work on things very, very slowly. It took more than 2 1/2 years for us to work through pre-reading. That may sound extreme to some people, but when we look at how long it took Matthew to learn to walk (or do just about everything), slow is just fine! What seems extreme for some kids is right on track for Matthew! We’re in Level 1 now and after nearly 1 1/2 years, we’re up to Lesson 25. Slow and steady wins the race, right?!

boy with down syndrome reading word cards

Here are a few things that make All About Reading the perfect curriculum for Matthew!

  • Matthew LOVES Ziggy the Zebra. Sometimes it just takes someone (or in this case something) besides Mom or Dad to get through to my child. Ziggy does that. (In fact, Matthew loves Ziggy so much that he doesn’t refer to the curriculum as “reading,” he just calls it “Ziggy”!)
  • Marie’s recommendation to spend no more than 20 minutes/day on reading lessons has been a game changer for progress and retaining what’s learned. Reading isn’t overwhelming for Matthew (or for us!)
  • We love the repetition that continuously builds throughout AAR. Repetition is KEY for a child with Down syndrome. But with excessive repetition, everything takes much longer to master. And although that’s perfectly fine, sometimes Matthew gets frustrated because he can’t see that he’s making progress. This is another area where AAR changed the game by providing so many different ways to learn and practice the same concept or skill. The repetition required to achieve mastery never makes Matthew feel like he’s stuck and not making progress. We just practice and keep working on skills with different & fun activities for as long as necessary. We’ve even found that sometimes the games and activities are so much fun that he doesn’t want to change, which is just fine too!
  • As he has begun to recognize his progress, Matthew’s confidence has grown by leaps and bounds…thank you All About Reading!
  • And last but not least, AAR is super affordable! Considering all the things we have tried and spent money on, affordability was a big factor in our decision-making process. Honestly, it was the one-year guarantee that made my husband finally say, “How can we go wrong?” I am SO thankful we took the leap!
boy with down syndrome doing schoolwork and celebrating with his mother

If you’re teaching a child with significant learning differences, maybe it’s time for you to take the leap! You can’t go wrong with All About Reading!

Here’s what Heidi has used to teach Matthew…

Do you have a child with Down syndrome or another significant learning disability? Jennifer and Heidi would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Did you find Jennifer’s and Heidi’s stories helpful? Read more stories from Real Moms and Real Kids.

_________________________
*Some names have been changed to preserve the privacy of the families featured in these stories.

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Jana Laverman

says:

I have a four year old with Down Syndrome who knew all her letters by 2.5. At 4.5, she is learning their sounds, but progress is slow. I was concerned AAR would be a poor fit for her, but these practical, real life experiences are inspiring! Thank you!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m pleased you found this helpful, Jana!

I think you may find our Reading Readiness: The Top 5 Skills blog post helpful as well, as learning letters and their sounds are just one of the five readiness skills necessary for reading success. Our Pre-reading Level works on all five comprehensively and with fun.

If you have questions about All About Reading or anything else, please let me know.

Kathryn E.

says:

Thank you for sharing these inspirational stories! Having a frame of reference of how long it may take to get through a single level is encouraging to me, and has given me a renewed hope.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m very pleased to hear this was inspirational and helpful for you, Kathryn!

Casey

says:

We used another program for my now 8 year old to read in kindergarten, but looking forward to our second using this program in a few years!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Wonderful, Casey!

shannon

says:

Looks awesome!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Shannon!

Sheree

says:

OH MY!!!! I LOVE THIS!!! From a Applied Behavior Analyst Therapist this is amazing to see and I will definitely refer some of my families to this program!! ❤️❤️❤️

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for referring families, Sheree! It’s wonderful to hear you appreciate this blog article.

Cheyenne

says:

I know a few family members who could benefit from this program. Thank you for sharing and the free resources as well!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Cheyenne.

Shala

says:

I love reading these stories. It gives me hope. I love this program

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m so pleased you found this hopeful, Shala.

Carol

says:

I have been using the All About Spelling Program with two of my upper elementary students. I have seen such an improvement in their decoding and encoding skills.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Wonderful to hear that your students are making such progress, Carol! Thank you for sharing.

Isableue

says:

Thank you for this valuable post !

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Isableue!

Cheri

says:

I love how success comes in so many packages! I am using AAR1 with my youngest now, and she loves it!

Jessica

says:

What a great story. I love the follow up.

Jessica Moras

says:

Looks like a really good multisensory curriculum!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Yes, it is a multisensory program, Jessica! You may want to check out our Multisensory Teaching for Reading and Spelling blog post for more details about this aspect of All About Reading and All About Spelling.

brina

says:

What a great article, so informative!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Brina!

Jess

says:

Wonderful article with some great advice ❤️

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Jess.

Eileen N

says:

These are such rewarding stories about AAR and AAS and how engaging the programs are for a diverse student populations. I am thrilled to have found such an awesome teaching tool.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Eileen.

selah martin

says:

wow.wow! very informative.will be reccomending this for sure

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Selah!

Linda

says:

This is great! Thank you for sharing! I stumbled across this website and will definitely peruse it more often – lots of interesting information and a wonderful story.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Linda. It’s great to hear that you found this interesting!

Whitney

says:

I’ve been using All About Reading with my Kiddo and love it! He is learning so much and I’m being guided on what to teach him in the correct order! Big fans of All About Reading!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m so pleased to hear that All About Reading is working out so well for you, Whitney!

Bharathi

says:

Its Nice to read all these stories, A great Websites, to give all kinds of ideas on reading skills.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Bharathi!

Melissa

says:

I’ve been using AAS for 2 years now. Love the program! User friendly and children really learn rules to spelling and apply them!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Melissa. I’m happy to hear that All About Spelling is working out so well for you!

Tammie

says:

Y’all are so creative

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Tammie.

Kristin

says:

This is such an amazing story

Apolonia Sanchez

says:

I am a mother to 10, and 2 have special needs. My son has autism, several other problems, and my daughter has dyslexia, I’d, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia, and other problems. So I am hoping this year, we can get her through this with the spelling and reading.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Apolonia,
We have some articles and resources I think you may find helpful.

Teaching Reading and Spelling to Children with Autism
Dyslexia Resources
Dysgraphia: How can I help my child?
10 Tips for Reaching Your Struggling Learner

If you would like more information about All About Reading and All About Spelling, or need help with placement or anything else, please let me know.

Lindsey Skiffington

says:

How fun! This looks awesome!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Lindsey.

Bernadette

says:

Both my kids have learning disabilities. I am really inspired by Joseph’s story. I am preparing to move my kids from school to Home School and would love to use All About Reading and Spelling products with them.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m so pleased to hear that Joseph’s story has been inspiring for you, Bernadette! If you have questions about placement or anything else, just ask.

Daniela Chioibasu

says:

Hello, I have a reluctant reader. Not sure if I tried too many methods or pushed too hard. I am excited to try all about reading

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Let me know if you have any questions about placement or anything else, Daniela. We have a nice overview video of All About Reading here (scroll just a bit).

Jim

says:

Nolon 9 y.o. boy. Kindergarden reading/writing level. Dandy-Walker Syndrome. We were told by a child psychologist that there is one book/program that will catapult him to 5th grade level. We need help , seriously!

BARBARA CRAIN B

says:

Thank you for your encouragement,
Robib E. !!!
Barbara

*This website and the encouragent will really help me & my friend!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are so welcome, Barbara! It makes me happy to be an encouragement. ?

BARBARA CRAIN

says:

Excited about helping a friend with a down syndrome 11 year old child who is struggling to learn to read!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

How wonderful of you to help your friend, Barbara! Definitely take a look at Jennifer’s blog and YouTube channel as well, as she has more information about teaching her son Joseph and she is very helpful.

Lisa Miller

says:

I am SO excited to try this with our two children with Down syndrome.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

We’d love to hear how it goes, Lisa!