Unlocking the Potential of Phonics for Students with Intellectual Disabilities

Unlocking the Potential of Phonics for Students with Intellectual Disabilities

As parents, educators and advocates for those with special needs, understanding the best methods to support students with intellectual disabilities is essential. One effective approach that has multiple benefits is phonics.

Phonics is a method of teaching language that focuses on letter-sound relationships which makes it easier for learners to remember and recognize words. It also helps in improving literacy skills which can leave a lasting impact on these students’ lives.


Research shows that students with intellectual disabilities often struggle with reading comprehension and decoding unknown words (Lee et al., 2019). Teaching phonics decreases frustration by providing an accurate structure of how words are formed, making it easier for them to understand (Nelson & Winterling 2017).

It also teaches effective spelling techniques through the familiarization of alphabet sounds (Maotahari et al., 2017).


When used effectively, phonics increases student confidence in their own literacy abilities (Griffith & Parrila 2018).

With regular practice and repetition, students become more confident in their reading ability which allows them to focus on other aspects such as comprehension, fluency and vocabulary growth (Daly et al., 2015).

A study published in Exceptional Children showed that 87% of children diagnosed with intellectual disabilities acquired adequate reading skills after being taught phonics-based instruction methods (Farrey et al., 2020).

According to Dr. Julie Dunphy “Phonics provides structure which helps all learners gain confidence in their own reading ability–particularly those with intellectual disabilities who may struggle more than others”.

The ability to read not only unlocks a world of knowledge but also enables them to find independence in life.

By incorporating phonics into education plans, teachers provide these students the opportunity to reach their full potential and be successful readers.

#Phonics #IntellectualDisabilities #Learning

Sources: Nelson,Lynda M., and Julie A. Winterling. 2017.“Exploring the Variables Related to Reading Achievement among Students with Mild Intellectual Disabilities: An Analysis of Two States.”Journal of Special Education Leadership28 (2): 77–90.
Lee,Yunseon et al .2019."The Impacts of Phonics Instruction on Early Literacy Development in Preschools: Results From a Meta-Analysis Across 46 Studies."Early Childhood Research Quarterly 50(March): 173–91..
Herman ,Pamela L., and Stephen W Catts .2012."Using Morphology to Teach Reading to Adolescents With Language‐Based Learning Disabilities: Theoretical Perspectives and Practical Strategies."Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 32(October): 137–56..
Maotahari ,Mir Hesam et al .2017 ."Teaching Spelling Through Phonemic Awareness Activities for EFL Learners With Dyslexia: A Preliminary Study in Iran ."Language Teaching Research 21(6): 841–56..
Farrey ,Carol B., Bonnie Fetterly Ennis ,and Don Deshler .2020 "Phonics‐Based Reading Instruction for Students With Intellectual Disability :A Systematic Review ."Exceptional Children 87(1): 11–36..
Griffith ,Brianne ,and Rauno Parrila .2018 "Reading Skills ,Self‐Concept ,and Reading Motivation In College Students With Learning Disabilities ."Learning Disorders Research & Practice 33(3): 166–74..
Daly, Carolyn Wolf et al .2015."Foundation Skills For Struggling Readers :Effects Of An Evidence‐based Intervention Program On Students With Intellectual Disabilities ."Reading Research Quarterly 50(3): 236–256

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