3 Ways to Encourage Your Special Needs Child to Read


Photo Credits: Alec Couros

1) Use all their 5 senses: Make reading time more interesting by stimulating more than one sense. One way to do this is by adding different textures to your child’s books! Use felt, cotton balls, pipe cleaners, fur, sandpaper, or any other material that can turn a story into a fun sensory experience. For example, when reading a book with animal characters, glue a different material for each animal and encourage your child to touch and describe what they are feeling as you read the story. You can also stimulate their sense of smell and taste using food, candy, tree branches, leaves, and much more. Get creative! It’s also a great idea to incorporate sound while reading when appropriate (i.e. animal noises, car and train sounds, etc.). If that’s too hard, consider using an audiobook to incorporate sound. Some special needs children may find it easier to hear the story being read to them via audiobook while they follow along with a hardcopy.


2) Less is more: Many children may find it difficult to read or listen to an entire story. Try breaking up the story into small sections. After reading a small portion of the story, talk to them about what happened in that scene and have them describe it in their own words. Also, ask questions about the characters, location, and what they think may happen later on. This will help them improve their reading comprehension. Having them act out several scenes in a book after they’ve been read may also help them retain the material better. Use a DVD movie so they can act along with them for these moments. Don’t feel bad if you can’t get through a whole story with your child in one sitting! It may take time and practice for your child to get more engaged in reading stories.


3) Use art and visual aids: Allowing kids to retell the story through art materials is a fun way to help them retain the story’s plot. Have them draw and color out their favorite scenes or make the characters out of play dough or paper. You can also make cardboard cut outs for each scene of a story by drawing, painting, and gluing various materials (i.e. felt, stickers, etc.) on them. That way you will have your own visual aids for your child’s storybook! You can read the book with them over and over again using these as tools to help them engage with the story and build their reading comprehension skills.


Photo Credits: Melanie Holtsman

Photo Credits: Melanie Holtsman


What other ways do you encourage your child to read? Let us know in the comments below! And don’t forget to share this article with your friends and family! :)


About the author

Natan Gendelman has written 135 articles for Enabled Kids.

Natan Gendelman is licensed as a physical therapist in Russia and Israel. After moving to Canada, he was certified as a kinesiologist and osteopathy manual practitioner. Natan has more than 20 years of experience providing rehabilitation and treatment for conditions such as cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome, pediatric stroke and acquired brain injury. He is the founder and director of Health in Motion Rehabilitation, a Toronto-based clinic whose main objective is to teach their patients the independence necessary for success in their daily lives.

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