Reading Curricular Options

Children with Down syndrome can learn to successfully read when provided with certain accommodations. Decades of research tells us that phonics-based instruction is the most effective way to teach reading to typically developing children. In contrast, research also tells us that learners with Down syndrome most often begin their successful reading journey through a whole language approach.

Whole language reading instruction relies on a child’s visual memory. Children learn to read entire words all at once. In other words, the whole language approach teaches that “CAT” represents a 4-legged furry animal that says ‘meow’. A phonics approach, on the other hand, teaches a child to string together the sounds /c/ /a/ /t/ to sound out the word “cat“. Phonics will also teach a child to substitute out different sounds to change the meaning of the word. Children with strong phonics skills can sound out and read complex words without knowing what the word means.

The drawback of whole language is that reading is limited to words that have been specifically memorized. For this reason, many schools will eventually teach phonics to a child with Down syndrome. Children with Downs’s who have higher IQs, as well as those with stronger receptive language skills, and larger vocabularies, tend to learn phonics skills best.

Should you wish to try a phonics reading program with your child with Down syndrome, you may find the following options helpful.

  • So Happy to Learn
    A unique approach to teaching nonverbal children who have the capacity to learn and develop reading, writing, and math skills.
  • Gemiini
    A play-based learning approach that breaks down information into understandable and digestible bites to teach speech, language, reading, social skills, and life skills. Instruction is delivered through videos and designed especially for children with Down syndrome and autism.
  • Five Senses Literature Lessons
    A comprehensive program that includes hands-on activities, watching videos, and engaging discussions that covers social studies, history, science, art, health, language arts, and math. Check individual levels to see what phonics skills are taught.
  • Explode the Code
    Multisensory, research-based phonics system that provides direct, systematic instruction. Widely used in schools across America. Available in print and online format.
  • All About Reading
    Scripted, no-prep planning, multisensory, book-based phonics program. Uses the research-based Orton-Gillingham approach for teaching reading.
  • Touch-Type Read Spell
    Students learn to touch-type and develop spelling, decoding, and sight-reading skills at the same time. An audio track reinforces sound-letter correspondence.
  • ABC See Hear Do
    Book-based program that combines visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning styles to help increase phonemic awareness
  • TouchPhonics
    Supplemental phonics instruction that utilizes 3D tactile letters to reinforce decoding concepts by using visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile modalities.
  • Headsprout
    Online adaptive learning program that automatically adjusts to a child’s learning needs.
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