In This Section

Reading Disorders


A child might be diagnosed with a reading disorder if they are having significant difficulties with sounding out words, recognizing sight words, reading aloud, or comprehending text. Sometimes, this is called dyslexia. In school, or in an assessment, the term "specific learning disability" (SLD) will more likely be used to refer to the same thing. With regard to reading, a student may exhibit a specific learning disability in basic reading, reading comprehension, and/or reading fluency.

Why it Matters: Having difficulty with reading can make school very hard, especially as children grow older. After third grade, instead of learning to read, children are expected to read to learn. Difficulties with reading can make it very difficult for children to participate and learn in language arts and English classes, and also in math, social studies, science, etc. Even math sheets require one to read instructions! Reading helps develop vocabulary and expose children to a wide variety of ideas, helping them to build upon their existing knowledge base. Reading also can help children see things from another point of view, building empathy and problem-solving skills.

How It is Diagnosed: Learning disabilities are identified using either the severe discrepancy model or the response to intervention (RTI) model. Please see the related article entitled "How are learning disabilities diagnosed?" for more information (link below).

Treatment: There are different kinds of treatments for reading disorders. If your child has a reading disorder, the type of treatment your child will need will depend on his or her particular strengths and weaknesses. For example, treatment suggestions for children with phonological processing difficulties (they cannot sound out words) might include a multi-sensory approach, such as the Wilson Reading System, Orton-Gillingham Training Program, or Lindamood-Bell Reading and Comprehension Program. Other basic reading strategies may include explicit teaching of sight words through a rapid word recognition chart (or flashcards), using manipulatives to help teacher letter-sound relationships, and having children match pictures to the letters they begin with. Practicing rhyming words and common beginning and ending patterns can also be helpful. For children struggling with comprehension, use graphic organizers to help outline important points. Work on making predictions, visualizing, questioning, inferring, making connections, clarifying, and summarizing. Students having difficulty with reading fluency (reading quickly and accurately) may benefit from reading along with audiobooks, tracking print with a finger, and repeated oral reading of passages or words. With oral reading, keep track of the child's errors and then make flashcards for unknown words. It can also help to pair a student with a younger child to read to, so that the student experiences success while reading. For any type of reading disability, incorporate daily reading practice into your child's routine, providing support and feedback as needed. Use high-interest reading material to maintain interest and attention.

Additional Resources:

The Center for Autism Research and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia do not endorse or recommend any specific person or organization or form of treatment. The information included within the CAR Autism Roadmap™ and CAR Resource Directory™ should not be considered medical advice and should serve only as a guide to resources publicly and privately available. Choosing a treatment, course of action, and/or a resource is a personal decision, which should take into account each individual's and family's particular circumstances.