Podcast Season 2, Episode 25: Vocabulary and Learning Disabilities

When we understand why our children are struggling with reading comprehension, we can be far more effective in helping them to overcome their struggles.


Vocabulary as a skill is essentially about understanding the meaning of the words being read.  A strong vocabulary allows children to understand the meanings of higher level texts.


Some learning disabilities will hinder a child’s vocabulary development or retention, causing them to struggle to understand what they are reading.


When we help them overcome this difficulty, we help them to find more reading comprehension success and enjoyment.


So what can we do to support vocabulary development in those struggling?

First, just use a variety of vocabulary and when you notice a word that is confusing to your child, make a point of adding it to your vocabulary and helping to make neural connections by using it as frequently as you can.


The natural follow up to this is to then reinforce vocabulary as you are reading with your child.  Give reminders of words that have previously been practiced.


Next, make building your child’s vocabulary intentional.  Play games with vocabulary words, grab a word-a-day calendar, create a vocabulary log/journal where they can record the words they are learning and practice using them a few times.


What to avoid

The old dictionary copying is REALLY bad teaching practice!  The kids don’t really learn anything from this approach unless they are able to overcome the tedium to gain interest in the meanings of the words.


I would also recommend avoiding completing vocabulary worksheets.  These are similarly boring most of the time, and kids wind up “doing” the worksheet, not learning the vocabulary.


Additionally, keep in mind that almost no one can learn a word after having it explained once.  Some kid with memory challenges, will need A LOT of repetition before they actually remember the meaning of the word.  Don’t be too eager to constantly introduce new vocabulary, unless you are able to also constantly practice the previously “mastered” vocabulary words.


More TO DO

Develop your own vocabulary and use new words around your kids!  Modeling is a great teacher and the more a child hears a particular word in use, the more they will truly understand the word wherever they come across it.


Next, model curiosity around new words and their meanings.  Demonstrating that you don’t know every word can be encouraging for kids.


For some kids

For some kids, intervention with a speech and language specialist may be your best choice.  You may reach out to your local school district for an evaluation.  Medical insurance also covers speech and language services in some cases, so talk to your doctor/insurance about how to have your child evaluated.  If you’re up for paying out of pocket, you can research private practices in your area.



A strong vocabulary leads to improved reading comprehension and should be fostered intentionally.


If you need some help in figuring out more specifics around the HOW to help educate your own child, or to provide your child some extra support, reach out to me (Kimberlynn@DecodingLearningDifferences.com) for more information, or to schedule a call.  You can also check out the Available Services page for more information on some options that may work well for you and your family.


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