Teaching Children with Special Needs Reading with the Glenn Doman Method

Teaching Children with Special Needs Reading with the Glenn Doman Method:

Five Ways the Doman Method Revolutionized the Teaching of Reading

Concerns about cognitive development are common for parents of children with special needs. It is common for kids with special needs to have difficulties with reading, math, following instructions, and speech. Glenn Doman realized over 50 years ago that children with autism, cerebral palsy, trisomy 21, ADD/ADHD and other special needs often failed to learn to read in school. Instead of new methods being pioneered that were tailor-made for teaching the children how to read, it was assumed these children were failing because of their learning problems, and the school system often gave up on them.

Glenn Doman did not agree that certain children were “uneducable”. In 1964, he wrote “How to Teach Your Baby to Read”, a landmark book that taught parents how to teach their children how to read. While this book was written primarily for parents of neurotypical children, Glenn explains that he learned about the potential of young children when he saw a 3-year-old brain damaged boy, Tommy, read aloud for him. He realized that children were much more capable (especially kids with special needs) than the educational system was giving them credit for.

He developed a system for teaching reading that is ideal for kids, and especially children with learning difficulties. What makes the Glenn Doman Method of teaching reading so special? There are various elements to the method that are important:

  1. The Glenn Doman Method involves the teaching of words on flashcards: By teaching children how to read words, instead of teaching phonics, this method made reading easier for kids with reading difficulties. First, it did not require children to read aloud — a great difficulty for kids with speech problems. The vast majority of children with special needs have speech difficulties, and so requiring them to read aloud makes reading more difficulty and frightening for them. Having the children passively learn to read the words as the adult reads them aloud makes it a relaxed and easier way for the children to learn.

  2. The method emphasizes short teaching sessions, done frequently: Many children dislike having to sit for long periods of time while being taught, especially hyperactive children who are easily distracted! This method keeps sessions short (less than 10 seconds), but frequent enough throughout the day that children can learn how to read. Often, words are shown up to 15 times daily. This high frequency helps the children learn to read, but the sessions are short enough that they enjoy the sessions.

  3. The method focuses of joyous learning: Glenn’s reading program is tailor-made for each child. The words that the child learns to read are based on their favorite things — names of family members, favorite foods, their favorite activities, and their most beloved animals and places! Who wouldn’t love to learn if it’s based on their favorite things? The method also avoids testing, something kids often hate. By personalizing the program and reducing stressors (like reading aloud and testing), the child’s enjoyment and commitment of the program is greatly enhanced!

  4. Glenn Doman realized large print size was essential: By making the size of the print of words large and bold, it made it easier for children with visual problems to learn to read. It is very common for kids with special needs to have poor vision, and to have difficulty reading tiny print. Making the words large eliminated this issue and made reading easy!

  5. Text and pictures are separated: Glenn Doman pointed out that well-meaning authors of kids books often include text and pictures all on the same page, and that sight words in school are often coupled with pictures. The problem with this is that images distract the child from the text. Separating text and pictures was crucial for helping kids learn to focus on the text and learn how to read it.

There are many reasons that Glenn Doman’s Reading Program was a landmark achievement in early reading and literacy. These five advantages to the Glenn Doman Method are some of the many reasons why this program is ideal for children struggling to learn to read. In addition, it allows parents to educate their own young children before they are even school age. This can create great developmental changes for a child with special needs, and provide a lasting impact for that child’s education and future.