The teaching of reading can often be a difficult task when working with students with special needs. Many existing programs focus on learning to read using phonics alone. However, research has shown this approach to be challenging for students with Down syndrome. This research has demonstrated that children with Down syndrome do indeed have specific difficulties in learning from listening, due mainly to hearing impairment, auditory processing and verbal short-term memory difficulties.

However, that same research has revealed that people with Down syndrome also tend to have strong visual memory skills, and therefore will benefit from learning to read using a whole-word approach. Visual learning is a strength of many children with Down Syndrome.

A recent study by Professor Linda Gilmore & Ms Cherry Ko demonstrated the success the Reading OUR Way program can have:

‘Across an average period of approximately 4 months…9 children gained an average of almost 18 reading words…All participants had improvements in receptive language, 7 of the 9 children gained at least 6 months in receptive language with some achieving gains as great as 14 and 16 months. 5 of the 9 also improved in expressive language’.


The ‘Reading Our Way’ program has been developed by the Down Syndrome Association of Queensland, based on the latest research into reading instruction and the learning profile of people with Down syndrome.

Sue Buckley, a Chartered Psychologist with over 30 years of experience in the field of developmental disability and a leading expert in education and development for young people with Down syndrome, states: “Reading is one of the most powerful ways of helping children with Down syndrome to overcome their speech, language and cognitive delays.”

‘Reading Our Way’ gives people with Down Syndrome a proven method to learn to read and improve their reading skills through visual learning.


The significance of early reading for children with Down syndrome-Sue Buckley:

Information Handouts