Reading is an essential component to an individual’s academic and recreational life. Being able to Read the entire trilogy of the Lord of the Rings or The Harry Potter Series is excellent, however reading plays it’s most important role in helping us function in our daily lives. The ability to read street signs, food and product labels , instructions, menus and clothing tags far outweighs the importance of reading a novel.
For individuals with moderate to severe intellectual difficulties and disabilities a functional route to reading is the way to go! Some students will never be able to fluently identify and effectively use letter sounds or sight words or they may ceiling at Level 1 in the Jane and Peter Lady Bird books, perhaps the Dolch sight word list.
I personally love teaching reading and there are some FANTASTIC reading programmes available (some of which I swear by) However when do we make the decision that it’s just not happening or at least not at the level it should be – When should you take the step into functional reading?
My definition for functional reading is the ability to recognize and comprehend a specific word or symbol. Notice I say “recognize” and “comprehend”. The ability to verbally call a word is not reading. Comprehending is the true definition of reading.
For an individual who is a non reader being able to identify objects and products that they use by name as well as those that they shouldn’t use must be a primary goal and target. Being able to complete rudimentary tasks such as following a grocery list, using a washer and dryer, following the instructions on a precooked meal and staying away from harmful substances is a level of independence. This should be objectives for moderate to severe learners who cannot read. This is an achievable level of independence that should be requested and and not be taken for granted. An individual’s reading programme should be built around his or her unique daily life and environment!