Why Children with Down Syndrome Struggle, and Why Raising Robust Readers Works

Down Syndrome Reading

The developers of Raising Robust Readers know, through first -hand knowledge and experience, that going beyond whole word memorization is essential for independent reading.

The developers have carefully analyzed conventional, traditional methods of teaching phonics and determined there are three highly probable reasons that learners experience confusion, frustration, and failure. (note: The Nation’s Report Card reveals 68% of 4th graders, nationwide, read below proficiency. That’s ALL 4th graders not 4th graders with Down syndrome! Something’s wrong here!!)

Raising Robust Readers therefore combines research-based best practices from the National Reading Panel, the National Right to Read Foundation, the International Dyslexia Association and the National Center for Learning Disabilities with decades of real life experiences working with individuals who have Down syndrome to create an alternate approach.

Building on data-proven Orton-Gillingham methodology, the developers have crafted a child-centered approach that enables students, their families and teachers to experience the English reading code as logical, sensible, predictable and easy to decode.

English is made up of approximately 72 phonograms (26 single letters and 46 multi-letter combinations that show some 44 sounds of our English language), 6 syllable types, and spelling/writing guidelines.

If we think of English in the same way we think of math, we can put the pieces (sounds) together and be successful.


Example:         1 + 3 + 1 = 5

r + igh + t = right

Generally speaking, individuals with Down syndrome work, learn, and live best when they experience routine, structure, predictability, and trust. With that in mind, the program itself and the sequence of instruction has been carefully crafted to align with the these personalities traits of many of our learners.

We teach to the visual strength of our learners. Early on, we teach our students (families and teachers) to see sounds in words, not just letters.


For instance, the word ‘eight’ has five letters but only two sounds (/a/ and /t/). (Sound out “e-i-g-h-t” one letter and one sound at a time and see what happens.)

Knowing that phonemic awareness is one of the greatest predictors of effective readers, we begin with auditory instruction as well. In fact, all modalities—visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile—are embedded in all our instructional pieces.

Multi-Sensory Learning Modalities

We use song, gestures, and clue box items to begin instruction in a simple and fun-filled manner.

One of the hallmarks of Raising Robust Readers instruction that sets our program apart (and we believe above) other phonics-based programs is our sequence of instruction. It is carefully crafted to go in small successful steps from simple to complex; from sounds to syllables and beyond to practical applications in real life.

Though the program is phonics-based and phonogram-specific, our "8 Exciting Components of Literacy" are embedded in instruction at all levels so that true reading is achieved.

Raising Robust Readers is child-centered, not curriculum-driven. Because a main goal of our instruction is instilling the philosophy and principles of this approach--as opposed to filling in worksheets and completing workbooks--the program can be used with all ages and all stages using environmental print on the go wherever they go (from classroom to restaurants to grocery stores; in the car, in the doctor’s waiting room, and beyond.)

Our video instruction of the six syllable types and their effect on the sounds of vowels, along with guidelines for syllable division, takes the guesswork and insecurity out decoding longer words.`

With a strong, solid foundation built on simplicity, clarity, repetition, and predictability, students develop critical thinking and self-correction skills. Guessing and giving up are no longer the default choices when encountering unfamiliar words.

Since ‘generalization’ does not occur automatically for our learners, we teach and support activities that takes place on the go wherever you go.

Adults with Down Syndrome

In short, the ability to read, and comprehend, unfamiliar words increases academic success for students. But, even more important, being a functionally literate adult broadens options and opportunities for independent living, competitive employment, and a richer social/emotional life.

English is Logical, Sensible and Predictable

Teach Reading the Right Way

We teach it that way... through play.


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