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Teaching Reading to Nonverbal Students

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Helping nonverbal students learn to read can be an exciting endeavor, but it is also challenging. This lesson discusses some key tools and strategies involved in teaching nonverbal students to read.

Reading and the Nonverbal Student

As a second grade teacher in an inclusive setting, one where students with disabilities learn alongside their typically developing peers, Susan knows that it is important to meet her students where they are.

This year, she has one nonverbal student in her class. The child does not speak at all, and Susan is slowly beginning to gauge his capacity with receptive language, or understanding of other people's language.

Susan knows that many nonverbal students have autism, while others have past traumas or severe mental retardation. She is starting to do research into whether it is possible for nonverbal students to learn to read.

Susan discovers that there are some strong strategies out there for teaching nonverbal students to read, but she also realizes this is going to be complex and challenging. She starts to learn as much as she can about how to help her student.

Working on Decoding

One of Susan's first questions is how she can teach a student decoding, or sounding out the words on the page if he does not make sound out loud.

She learns that first, she has to establish an RMR, or reliable means of response with her student. This means they need to mutually agree on a nonverbal cue, like a smile, a set of winks, or knocks on the table, that the student can use to show he understands what Susan is teaching him.

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