Teaching phonics in special education classrooms

Teaching phonics in special education classrooms

Teaching phonics in special education classrooms has become essential for helping students with intellectual disabilities learn how to read and write. It is an important life skill that, when mastered, can unlock a world of knowledge and opportunities for these individuals. As noted by the National Association of Private Special Education Centers, “[Phonics] allows them to understand and decode words while developing their own reading fluency as well as comprehension”[1].

By engaging students in activities such as rhyming and identifying letters, we are equipping them with a set of lifelong language skills that will serve them far after they leave the classroom. Phonics instruction empowers the student to decode words into syllables or sounds – a critical ability that helps increase vocabulary and improves overall literacy[2]. It also enables them to better comprehend and make meaning out of text they are reading.

Furthermore, research has shown that teaching phonics to students with intellectual disabilities can help improve their emotional wellbeing. By mastering this skill, students feel bolstered by their accomplishments as they gain confidence in their abilities [3]. For those who may have difficulty expressing themselves verbally or finding success in other subjects, phonics instruction offers them a way to gain recognition for what they have achieved – something that can be crucial for someone's self-esteem!

Overall, teaching phonics to students with intellectual disabilities is one of the most important life skills special education teachers can impart. It not only enhances communication and reading abilities but also increases feelings of self-worth – both invaluable outcomes that can profoundly impact someone’s future success and sense of confidence.

Click here to learn more about AdaptEd's Phonics Curriculum. 


[1] National Association of Private Special Education Centers (NAPSEC). (2013). The Benefits Of Teaching Phonics To Students With Intellectual Disabilities. Retrieved from https://www.napsec.org/blog/the-benefits-of-teaching-phonics-to-students-with-intellectual-disabilities/ [2] Dauenheimer, D., Maheady, L., & Bakerm Sauer J. (2004). Effects Of A Phonemic Awareness Intervention On Reading Achievement In First And Second Graders With Mild Disabilities: An Exploratory Study Journal Of Learning Disabilities 37(5), 412–421 Retrieved from http://jld.guilfordjournals.org/content/37/5/412 [3] Blasco Hernando et al., (2018). Enhancing Self‐Esteem in Students With Mental Retardation Through Reading Comprehension Instruction: An Experimenter‐Controlled Study Research In Developmental Disabilities 82 350–361 Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0891422216301698



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