Reading to Children with Development Delays

by Elle McCann

Developmental delays in early childhood may include problems with language and speech, cognitive, motor, and social and emotional skills. It may be hard for your child to engage in everyday activities like reading because of these developmental delays.
Nonetheless, reading is one of the most important activities in early childhood because it benefits a child's development and overall well-being in a variety of ways. For example, reading to your child daily strengthens ties with parents/caregivers, provides a sense of security, fosters creativity, social-emotional and language skills, and much more.

So, here are a few reading ideas for children with developmental delays to help you nurture reading in your house in a relaxed and comfortable environment.


Reading with Children Who Have Speech and Language Delays

Speech and language delays are among the most prevalent developmental delays in toddlers and preschoolers. Delays in speech development can be caused by a number of factors, including exposure to more than one language, a learning disability, hearing loss, or autism spectrum disorders, among other things.
A speech-language pathologist might advise you to talk to your child and read to your child every day to help them improve their speech.
  • So, when reading aloud to your child with a speech/language delay, choose the time of the day when your child is most relaxed. 
  • Although they may not understand every word you read, your toddler will enjoy cuddling while sharing a book, which provides a sense of security and confidence.
  • Young children thrive on repetition; read the same rhyme, song, or story many times to help your child learn a language.
  • Reading should be divided into smaller chunks, just a few minutes at a time because younger children become easily distracted.
  • Encourage your preschooler to fill sentences with words, point to pictures, talk about them, and ask questions.
  • Be patient.



Reading with Children with ADHD

Children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have difficulty sitting still, waiting, and following directions. However, they may also enjoy spending time with you, so reading together can be a great way to help your child calm down, focus, and relax.

  • Reading before bedtime helps your child relax.
  • Read in a quiet spot.
  • Find books and stories on topics that your child is interested in.
  • Take turns often while reading with your child with ADHD.
  • Sing along while reading.
  • Combine reading with imaginative play.
  • Keep reading even if your child starts playing on their own.
  • Ask questions about the story and encourage your child to make up their own stories.
  • Praise your child for their efforts.



Reading with Children Who Have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

When your child with autism is overwhelmed or has difficulty controlling their emotional reactions, reading with them can be a wonderful, relaxing pastime.

  • Choose books with a lot of pictures or drawings.
  • Select books with many photos or illustrations of people's faces to encourage emotional recognition.
  • Tell the same story, sing the same song, or recite the same rhyme many times.
  • Select sensory books and sound books.
  • Read during the times between daily transitions (e.g., after breakfast or before bed).

Most children are naturally drawn to video games and technology. So, take advantage of educational internet apps and games for kids that encourage development and learning. However, to get the most out of it, limit your child's screen time according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations.

Keep in mind that children with developmental delays may struggle with daily routines. So, be patient and supportive to help your child achieve their developmental goals while remaining happy and healthy.

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