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 Brockman is a real mom with a real child with Down syndrome. But Jennifer and her husband didn’t let the fact that their son Joseph had Down syndrome stop them from believing that they could homeschool him.
And it didn’t stop Jennifer from believing that she could teach Joseph to read.
But she knew that she needed to find the right resources to help her special child, because even though it may be a challenge to teach a child with Down syndrome to read, with the right approach, even children with significant learning disabilities can learn to read.
This adorable little boy and his very determined mom are proof of that!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Did you enjoy Jennifer’s story? Read more stories from Real Moms and Real Kids.
Do you have a child with Down syndrome or another significant learning disability? Jennifer would love to connect with you in the comments below.