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Reading Fluency Disability in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What is a reading fluency disability (RFD)?

An RFD is a learning disability that prevents your child from being able to read well. A learning disability means your child has trouble with an academic skill even though tests show he or she is intelligent. Fluency means the speed and accuracy of reading. Your child may read accurately but very slowly. He or she may have trouble recognizing words and spelling correctly. An RFD may develop because of problems with timing and processing information quickly. It may develop because of problems storing and recalling letters that form the words. Your child may develop an RFD if he or she has trouble concentrating long enough to read accurately.

What are the signs and symptoms of an RFD?

  • Spelling phonetically (sounding out the word) but not accurately
  • Reading slowly, with a lack of comprehension (understanding) of what was read
  • Making mistakes when reading aloud
  • Trouble remembering the meaning of words he or she already learned
  • Trouble recognizing written words

How is an RFD diagnosed?

Your child's teachers may notice that your child reads slowly. Your child may need to sound out words as he or she reads aloud, and your child may make mistakes as he or she reads. Your child may also have trouble answering questions about what he or she read. Healthcare providers may show your child a list of words and ask him or her to name as many as he or she recognizes in a certain amount of time. If the number of words your child recognizes is lower than expected for his or her age, your child may have an RFD.

How is an RFD managed?

  • Language experts such as a speech therapist or reading specialist may work with your child. The experts will help improve your child's word recognition skills by having him or her practice naming words he or she sees. They will also give your child more practice reading to help improve his or her speed and accuracy. Other specialists can help your child improve his or her ability to concentrate and strengthen his or her memory.
  • An individualized education program (IEP) may be used through high school graduation. The IEP identifies your child's learning needs and helps his or her teachers understand how to help him or her learn. The IEP may help your child build skills he or she will need after high school. Your child may be able to use other accommodations in college to help him or her continue to succeed. For example, he or she may be able to take tests without being timed. This will give him or her more time to read test questions and write the answers with correct spelling.

What can I do to help support my child?

  • Always encourage your child. Do not tell your child reading is easy or that he or she should be able to read quickly and accurately. These types of comments may make your child feel anxious or ashamed about having trouble.
  • Help your child practice word recognition. Be patient as your child learns new words. Your child may need to read a word more than 10 times before he or she can remember and use the word easily. It might be helpful to have your child write words on paper that you hang up around the house. Hang the words at your child's eye level. When he or she has learned a word, remove it from the wall. Save the words and show them to your child a few days later to make sure he or she can still recognize them.
  • Read often with your child. Read stories with your child every night before bed. Have your child sit where he or she can see the words as you read them out loud. Point at words as you read them. Ask your child to tell you what he or she thinks will happen next in the story. This will help your child with word recall and story comprehension.
    Read with Your Child
  • Have your child read to you. As your child reads, try not to correct mistakes he or she makes. Give your child a chance to read slowly and sound out words he or she does not recognize. It may be helpful to have your child read sentences 2 or more times in a row if he or she made mistakes the first time. Repetition will help build word recognition and accurate spelling. Have your child stop often and tell you what he or she read. Ask your child questions about characters, plot, or facts. Questions will help him or her build comprehension skills and strengthen reading fluency. Have your child read outside of school and home. For example, have him or her read road signs and names of familiar restaurants or stores as you drive past them.
  • Do not focus on grades. Praise improvement, such as an improved test score. It is okay to praise a good grade on an assignment or test, but do not make grades the goal.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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