This article is based on strategies from Response to Intervention by a Child with Severe Reading Disability. I highly recommend you read this article about “Mike,” a 4th grader who improved his reading with these strategies. The link to the article is at the bottom of the article.

Response to Intervention for Severe Reading Disabilities

You’ve probably heard of RTI before, so this might be review. RTI consists of 3 to 4 levels. Level 1 is general education, and the top level is special education services. The middle levels are interventions for students who are having difficulty in reading to ensure that problems do not persist.

1. Build Confidence

Building confidence in your students reading is of huge importance. Students need to feel successful. Older learners who have struggled to read need your cheer leading. They need to feel successful. Ensure that the material you use with your students sets them up to build on successes, not stay in a state of failure. It’s important we also build grit and help students know that failure is a temporary state, and that it’s through failure that we learn and thrive.

2. Phonics

Direct phonics instruction is key to closing reading gaps for students with severe reading disabilities. Many of these students present with gaps in their auditory processing, and have trouble not just with reading, but also struggle to categorize words in different word families when they hear them. For example, a student might have difficulty in hearing the difference between push and posh. Learning to differentiate these sounds helps students decode words correctly. Before a student can decode a word, they need to be able to differentiate it from other words.

3. Controlled Text

Using controlled text is an important strategy for building reading skills. Controlled texts present students with only words that have been previously taught. Students are not presented unfamiliar words, increasing the students success and confidence.

4. Pacing and Predictability

Intervention lessons for students with severe reading disabilities should be paced based on the student as an individual. In the article, Mike benefited from a fast pace because he also presented with difficulities with attention. A quick pace helped him stay focused. Other students may benefit more from a slower pace to allow for longer processing time. If you are unsure what will work for a particular student, try both and take data. Which works best for your kid?

A predictable routine for intervention helps the brain scaffold for the lesson. When you use a routine for the lesson, students will know what it is expected of them and so they will not need to use as much processing power to respond in the way they need to. Routines also help students feel secure. This helps when students are facing tasks that are challenging for them.

5. Progress Monitoring

Gotta love data. For students with reading disabilities, it is important we are progress monitoring all the time. Get your student involved in graphing their success. Not only will your student benefit from competing with his or her own performance, your student will be gaining math skills in a real world content. How’s that for a win/win?

6. Gamification

As much as possible, turn your learning opportunities into games with other students of the same age who are working on similar material. Learning is sticky when it’s fun.

7. Multi-Sensory

In the article, Mike built reading and spelling skills with his teacher’s multi-sensory approach. When learning to spell in the context of word families, Mike’s teacher would write two words on the board in colorful marker. Then she would have Mike come up with other words in the word family. The teacher encouraged him to sound the words out slowly while he spelled them on the board using colorful marker. You can do this through rainbow writing, shaving cream writing, rice writing, and more. Incorporate as many senses into the learning experience as possible.

8. Accommodations and Modifications

In the general education classroom, Mike’s teacher would read allowed his material. He comprehended spoken material at about the same rate as his peers. This skill allowed him to learn new vocabulary and gain new knowledge. At his age, students were starting to read to learn new material, not just learning to decode and read. He also worked with a peer for partner reading. There are creative ways to support students with severe reading disabilities in the general education classroom.

9. Comics

Using comics isn’t in this particular article, but I have had great success in using them with my students with reading disabilities. You can read more about getting kids Hooked on Comics.

About the Article Response to Intervention by a Child with a Severe Reading Disability

I found the article Response to Intervention by a Child with a Severe Reading Disability using my local library’s online search feature. It’s available online here if you don’t have access to EBSCO through your library. As special education teachers, we are charged with using research based interventions with our students. I summarized this article in an easily digestible way for you, for you to implement researched backed practices with your students.

Legere, E. J., & Conca, L. M. (2010). Response to Intervention by a Child With a Severe Reading Disability. Teaching Exceptional Children43(1), 32–39. https://doi-org.hcpl.idm.oclc.org/10.1177/004005991004300104

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