(Remember that if your child has other “special needs,” the adaptations suggested in these posts may also be helpful for your child’s particular issues.)
Things to Avoid:
- Some of the reading “helps” often used in teaching reading actually have negative results for children with visual-spatial processing issues, as accurate reading methods are very important and should be the focus. It is better to read shorter materials and to focus on fluency and understanding than to expect the child to read more and more, which will lead to inaccuracy, frustration, and failure to understand the material. Reading orally is very important. Thus, the following should be avoided:
- Attempts to read new words by “guessing” at the words in the context of the sentence may actually negatively impact comprehension (understanding of the written material).
- Depending on memorised word recognition likewise should be avoided.
- Don’t allow the child to just skip words he/she doesn’t know.
Some Tips for Reading
- A child with these issues will often have difficulty using punctuation. It is important to really focus on recognition and use of punctuation. Lots of oral reading practice is essential to develop this skill.
- Finger tracking and other tracking methods, such as using a ruler or bookmark (the plain side, not the marked side) or a paper “frame” may be helpful.
- Encourage home reading on a regular basis–but for short periods of time. These reading sessions should be interactive and one-to-one with a helper.
- Before reading, look together at the book or other reading material. Discuss the title, author, back cover blurb, and illustrations. Look at chapter titles. “Guess” what the book might be about.
- Look for highlighted headings and vocabulary in non-fiction words and discuss them before reading.
- Use a variety of methods such as choral reading (read together), I read–you read (modeled reading), reading of alternate sentences or paragraphs, or Reader’s Theatre (taking “parts” with materials that include dialogue).
- Encourage and model slow reading with expression, pointing out the punctuation, and modeling expressive reading.
- Choose reading materials that are entertaining yet at a level that does not require too much challenge.
- When coming across an unfamiliar word, keep a pencil and paper handy, and write the word, then break it into syllables, and practice sounding it out.
- If a child is at early reading stages, use flashcards with pictures and words, then graduate to cards without pictures.
- While encouraging the memorization of the common sight words such as those in the Dolch sight word lists, don’t encourage memorization of other words. Use of phonics is very important, as most children, even those without visual-spatial difficulties, are quite limited in the number of words they can memorize.
- Check the “reading tips” articles linked to from my Home Education Tips page for lots of ideas on helping with reading–emphasize patterns such as word families, blends, chunking, rhyming words, etc.).
- If the child is “stuck,” have her “guess” the word from its beginning sound matched with the context/meaning of the sentence and paragraph–but avoid “just guessing.”
- Decrease reading demands–focus on the most important information and on the context of the main ideas to improve both reading fluency and comprehension.
- For spelling and vocabulary, make sure the words are in context of a sentence or paragraph rather than a list of words.
- Consider trying software tools for spelling and reading, like ACT Spell and Phonics Made Easy
What other ideas have you found helpful for reading with a child who has visual-spatial processing issues? Please share them in the comments, and we’ll add them to the list! Thank you!
In the posts in this series, we look at: