How Common are Reading Disabilities?

February 24, 2023

Reading Disabilities

Parents of children who struggle to read might not know where to find help for their child. Learning about the child’s reading struggle could be a shock to parents, but others might have noticed their child was falling behind grade level expectations. While children could receive additional reading intervention and instruction at school, not all children will fall far enough behind peers to qualify.

When a child struggles or is diagnosed with a learning disorder or reading disorder, parents might want to find other parents of children who also struggle with reading. How common are reading disabilities? This struggle is quite common; in fact, about 5 to 15 percent of children and adults (in the U.S.) have dyslexia, one of the most widely-known reading disorders.

Not all children who struggle with reading will be diagnosed with a learning disorder or have a medical diagnosis that can help parents understand why their child struggles. Reading below grade-level expectations is, unfortunately, also very common; the majority of fourth grade students don’t read at a proficient level. Reading is Fundamental reports that two out of three fourth graders (67 percent) are reading below grade-level expectations.

Reading Disabilities

A Reading Disorder Might Require Specialized instruction

Children who have been diagnosed with a learning disorder or reading disorder like dyslexia could benefit from specialized instruction. However, these diagnoses are not always made when the child is young. If a child is diagnosed with dyslexia late in elementary school, they might already be reading far below grade level. Children diagnosed with dyslexia could benefit from a reading program designed for this specific diagnosis

Programs that are used to help children gain reading proficiency when they have been diagnosed with dyslexia include the Wilson Reading System, the Orton Gillingham Approach and other methodologies. However every school and/or school district could have a different preferred reading intervention program.

Reading Disabilities

Helping Children with Reading Struggles

For children who need more specialized instruction because of a reading disorder or learning disorder diagnosis, parents might need to contact their child’s teacher, reading instruction or clinician to discuss the best ways to help their child at home. A professional who is experienced in helping children with dyslexia would be the best resource for parents. In addition, organizations like the International Dyslexia Association and the Learning Disabilities Association of America also could be beneficial resources for parents, especially if their child has recently been diagnosed.

Some children might struggle with reading or might be falling behind in reading, and there could be no underlying medical cause for the struggle. Their child might not have a medical diagnosis that can help parents understand the struggle, or parents might not have the means to have their child assessed by a clinician or professional who could help to diagnose a learning disorder.

A child could struggle with one aspect of reading or with multiple aspects. Some children who are on the Autism Spectrum, for example, could have received another reading-related diagnosis called hyperlexia. While children with dyslexia struggle to decode, children with hyperlexia can decode at a level beyond their age or grade level. Some children with hyperlexia might intuitively know how to read without being taught.

However, hyperlexia could be associated with comprehension struggles; children might know how to decode, but they could struggle to retell the story, make predictions or explain the basics of the story (who, what, where, when and how).

Not all children with hyperlexia are on the Autism Spectrum, though; there are actually three different subtypes of hyperlexia, with the second denoted by the Autism link. In addition, some children with hyperlexia might not struggle with comprehension. Again, every child is different. Hyperlexia could be perplexing to parents as the child could read beyond their maturity and understanding; a child might be able to read a novel at a 12th grade reading level, but they might not have the experience to fully grasp every concept of that novel.

For a child diagnosed with hyperlexia who struggles with comprehension, parents could focus on asking questions about the book after the child reads. In addition, tools like reading comprehension bookmarks, graphic organizers and even sticky notes could be used to provide prompts about the plot of the book, the characters or specific themes. Reading comprehension bookmarks can be found online, and some sites allow parents to download these reading tools for free. Teachers could provide parents with worksheets that also help the child work on comprehension-related reading lessons.

Helping a Child without a Medical Diagnosis

Not all parents will know why their child is struggling to read. For some families, a medical diagnosis is a privilege; they might not be able to access healthcare providers or clinicians who could help diagnose a child’s struggles. Other children might simply fall behind for other reasons.

During the pandemic, for example, children could have regressed in reading or math skills. The summer slide also is an unfortunate reality for many children; this term denotes learning loss that occurs during the long summer break. If children don’t read regularly during the summer, their reading skills could decline.

At home parents could use different strategies and activities to help their child gain reading proficiency. If a child struggles with decoding, parents can work with children to master sounds and blends. Younger children could use game-based apps to practice letter sounds and other phonics skills.

Older children might not read at a proficient level for their age. Parents can use reading programs at home to provide tutoring and reading lessons after school. To find the best reading program for their child, parents should research options and focus on programs that focus on the science of reading—this refers to a phonics-based reading approach.

Parents also might wish to focus on reading programs like Readability that are appropriate to use throughout elementary school and into sixth grade, too. Readability provides level-based instruction to help children advance in their reading journey.

When using Readability, children have access to a library of books at their reading level. Lessons require children to read these books aloud. Readability is designed with a built-in AI tutor with voice recognition software that guides the reading lessons; the tutor learns the child’s voice and understands when the child is struggling and needs help. The tutor also reads stories aloud to help children who can benefit from this auditory guidance. At the end of each book, the tutor also asks the child questions about the story to gauge their comprehension.

Parents can set the appropriate baseline reading level for their child. If parents are unsure about their child’s reading level, the tutor can work with the child to determine the best level to begin lessons. Children advance to more difficult reading levels when they demonstrate mastery with reading fluency and comprehension.

While comprehension quizzes help the tutor identify and measure how well the child understands what they read, the AI tutor also measures fluency when the child reads aloud. Fluency is measured in words read per minute (less any errors).

Vocabulary knowledge also impacts reading success and comprehension. Every book in Readability includes a list of vocabulary words. Children also can tap any word in a story to hear the definition read aloud or hear it used in a sentence.

Since Readability moves at the child’s pace and is aligned with their abilities, parents can use the program even if children have more pronounced reading struggles. Parents also can sign up for a free trial period to explore the program and introduce it to their child. A free trial period provides children with all features of the program; they can work with the reading tutor and parents can determine if Readability is a good fit for their child’s reading struggles.

Interested in learning more about Readability? Sign up for a trial period today!