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Reading to a Child with Developmental Disabilities: Literacy Tips for your Preschooler

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Every child is different. And reading to every child is a different – and special – experience.

However, for parents of children with developmental disabilities, reading together can sometimes be a challenging experience. To help, the school readiness experts at Reach Out and Read have developed a guide to provide support, advice, and resources for doctors and parents of children with developmental disabilities.

The guide contains information on reading to children who may have one or several of the following developmental disabilities: speech and language problems; Autism Spectrum Disorder; intellectual disabilities (mental retardation); Inattention and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder; Cerebral Palsy; and vision and hearing impairments.

Here are some tips from the guide to make reading to your preschooler with a developmental disability easy and enjoyable:

  • If your child has challenges with speech and language, read the same story again and again. The repetition will help her learn language. Also, point to the pictures and talk about them. (“Look at the silly monkey!”) You can also ask your child to point to certain pictures. (“Where’s the cat?”)
  • If your child is affected by autism and likes routine in her day, try reading her favorite book to help move her from one task to another. For example, reading can set the stage for nap time and bedtime. Work with your child’s behavior and/or occupational therapist to learn how reading can help with social skills, new activities, and transitions.
  • If your child is visually impaired, sit your child next to you. If your child has low vision, make sure there is plenty of light to help him see the page. Buy books or borrow books from the library that have textures your child can touch.
  • If your child has Cerebral Palsy, buy books or borrow books from the library that have thick, sturdy pages. Clap your hands and help your child clap her hands along to the rhythm of the words.
  • If your child has hearing loss, make sure she can see your face and the pictures. This will help your child follow the story, even if he doesn’t catch all the words. Also, use simple sign language as you read.

You’ll find sharing books together is a great way to bond with your son or daughter and help your child’s development at the same time. Give your child a great gift that will last for life – the love of books.

Doctor-Recommended Books for Children with Disabilities
  • Kids Like Me…Learn ABCs by Laura Ronay (Woodbine Books, 2009)
  • Kids Like Me…Learn Colors by Laura Ronay (Woodbine Books, 2009)
  • I Can, Can You? By Marjorie W. Pitzer (Woodbine House, 2004)
  • My Friend Isabelle by Eliza Woloson (Woodbine House, 2003)
  • Susan Laughs by Jeanne Willis Henry (Holt, 2000)

To view Reach Out and Read’s full Developmental Disabilities Literacy Promotion Guide, click here.

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