The other day a caller expressed her delight at watching a child with special needs, (one she helps with our reading program each day), approach the word-plastered classroom wall and touch all over it with understanding for the first time that the words actually could speak to him. The awe was evident in his eyes. He at that very moment knew he was empowered, as did his helper know it. The empowerment would be huge in his lifetime!
I can relate to this. Our 16 year-old daughter has Down Sydrome, and her ability to read has made all the difference for her. I don't remember exactly when she had that ah-hah moment about words; it was definitely a process and it took a good phonics program. But this story reminded me of a time when our daughter was very young and was fit for a new pair of glasses. Even though she had glasses since age 1, she was without them for a time, and this particular new pair was a different prescription. When we walked out of the optometrist's office she caused quite a stir by her look of awe at the walls and everything seen through "new eyes". The staff and I stood back and marvelled at her awareness of details, her obvious appreciation of the gift of literacy.
Providing the way for a child with special needs to see more clearly is vital. So is providing a way to read. Research shows that phonemic awareness and phonics are essential for struggling readers. The explicit, systematic and sequential program called Discover Intensive Phonics for Yourself ages 4-9 offered by Reading Horizons at Home as proven to be of great help. it is slow-paced, provides immediate correct feedback, and is entertaining. one thing a special needs child does for a family is cause us to look at life through different-colored glasses, so to speak. I consider these different glasses to be a beautiful gift in my own life and that of my family, a gift that came unexpectedly and continues to provide many moments of wide-eyed wonder for us.