Unlocking Literacy Skills for Children with Intellectual Disabilities through Compound Word Instruction

Unlocking Literacy Skills for Children with Intellectual Disabilities through Compound Word Instruction

Reading is an essential skill that opens up a world of knowledge and opportunities. Unfortunately, many children with intellectual disabilities struggle with developing literacy skills. However, research in the science of reading has shown that compound words can be a valuable tool for improving phonological awareness and vocabulary knowledge in these students.

According to a study published in the Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, teaching compound words was found to be effective at improving phonological awareness skills in children with intellectual disabilities. The researchers noted that "compound words offer an opportunity to break down longer words into smaller units and practice blending these units together" (Cologon et al., 2014). This process of breaking down and blending sounds is fundamental to developing strong reading skills.

Furthermore, learning about compound words can also help students with intellectual disabilities develop their vocabulary knowledge. As explained by literacy expert Dr. Karen Erickson in her book "Literacy Instruction for Individuals with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, and Other Disabilities," "Compound words provide opportunities for expanding vocabulary knowledge by building on familiar base words" (Erickson & Koppenhaver, 2007). By learning about the meaning of each individual part of a compound word, students can better understand how new words are formed and expand their overall vocabulary.

So how can educators incorporate compound word instruction into their teaching strategies? One effective method is through the use of task cards or other visual aids. These tools can help students visualize the individual parts of a compound word and practice blending them together. For example, educators could use our Compound Word Task Cards which feature engaging visuals along with common compound words such as "raincoat" and "sunflower."

It's important to note that while compound word instruction can be beneficial for students with intellectual disabilities, it should be tailored to meet each student's individual needs. Educators may need to adapt their teaching methods based on each student's level of understanding and communication abilities.

In conclusion, incorporating compound word instruction into special education curriculum can improve phonological awareness skills and expand vocabulary knowledge for children with intellectual disabilities. By using targeted teaching strategies such as task cards or visual aids, educators can help unlock literacy skills that will benefit these students throughout their lives.


  • Cologon K., Cupples L., & Wyver S. (2014). A Systematic Review of Phonological Awareness Intervention for Children With Intellectual Disabilities: Evidence from Single-Case and Group Studies. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 58(2), 103–120.
  • Erickson K.A., & Koppenhaver D.A. (2007). Literacy Instruction for Individuals with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, and Other Disabilities. Brookes Publishing Co.



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