Reading Programs

“How do I get Wilson Reading Program added to my child’s IEP?” That’s a question that comes up a lot in the Facebook group. And several reading programs come up in the discussion. So how do you know? What reading program will help your child?

This is one area of IEPs where I see a ton of problems. And one area where parents really just need to dig in, learn it, and be relentless in your pursuit of appropriate programming. Too many kids are getting through school without being taught to read.

Reading Literacy Programs

Here are some of the things I see, as an advocate. If your child is a struggling reader, you must do a deep dive on this and learn it. Otherwise, your child will get left behind.

Common IEP Problems with Reading

  • Inappropriate or insufficient evaluations being done to assess reading ability; difficult to determine baselines.
  • Underlying reading issues being attributed to something else like ADHD, non-English speaking families or other disabilities.
  • One-size-fits-all approach in reading instruction, even with an IEP.
  • Parents are told that a “famous name” reading program is being used, but it is not being used consistently or with fidelity.
  • IEP goals for reading are often worded poorly and confusing to parents, difficult to monitor progress.
  • Goal posts are always moving-different assessments used every grade, so difficult to monitor ability and progress.
  • Dyslexia and other reading disorders are often genetic so many times the parent cannot adequately assist their child.
  • Inappropriate programming chosen just because that is what the district has. (IE-Read 180 says Grade 4 and up, but child only reads at 1st grade level.)

Where to Begin

Always begin with your Present Levels section of the IEP. It should be a thorough and accurate description of your child. If not, you need to request more IEP evaluations, or perhaps even an IEE. Remember that they must evaluate in all areas of suspected disability, so in your request letter, accurately and thoroughly describe what you are seeing.

Once the issue has been accurately identified, the team needs to find an appropriate intervention. Below I have listed the more popular options. At the bottom of the post, you’ll see a much longer list from Reading Rockets.

Please note, I am NOT a reading specialist or teacher. There are literally dozens, if not hundreds, of different reading programs out there. Anecdotally, as a Special Education Advocate, these are the programs I hear talked about the most often. I am providing a brief description and link to more information so that you can help make the most appropriate decision for your child. I am neither recommending any of these programs nor am I discouraging you from other programs by neglecting to include them on this list.

Please note: I have labeled these as “popular” reading programs and most educators agree that they are popular. I am not endorsing any specific program nor labeling it appropriate for any SLD. Parents still need to do their research and due diligence on whatever the school offers you, which is why I provided links to the programs.

Teachers and Staff
28 Free PDF Pages of IEP Data Collection Sheets 
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I have F&P listed (number 8) because it is popular.

However, I strongly suggest you read this article if your child is being given F&P.

  1. Wilson Language-Wilson is a provider of research-based reading and spelling programs for all ages. Its multi-sensory, structured curricula – Fundations®, Wilson Just Words®, the Wilson Reading System®, and Wilson Fluency®/Basic have been proven highly effective. With Wilson, the path to meeting literacy objectives is all mapped out. The best way to achieve literacy success is to identify the individual student’s needs and then implement the correct teaching strategy. Each model differs in practice, intensity, and duration, but all have been designed to help students master the appropriate level of literacy.
  2. Orton-Gillingham-The Orton-Gillingham Approach is a direct, explicit, multi-sensory, structured, sequential, diagnostic, and prescriptive way to teach literacy when reading, writing, and spelling does not come easily to individuals, such as those with dyslexia. It is most properly understood and practiced as an approach, not a method, program, or system. In the hands of a well-trained and experienced instructor, it is a powerful tool of exceptional breadth, depth, and flexibility.
  3. Read 180READ 180 is the leading blended learning intervention program building reading comprehension, academic vocabulary, and writing skills for struggling students in Grades 4 and up.
  4. SRA-SRA Reading Laboratory programs work by color-coding portions of reading materials according to the reading ability level required. It emphasizes the role of the student in directing his own learning, assessing his own skills as he works his way up through the levels. The age range runs from kindergarten age through to grade 12 and beyond.
  5. Barton Reading and Spelling System-A great tutoring system for children, teenagers, or adults who struggle with spelling, reading, and writing due to dyslexia or a learning disability.
  6. Read Naturally-​The Read Naturally Strategy combines the three powerful, research-proven reading intervention strategies to create an effective tool that individualizes instruction and improves reading proficiency. Using audio support and tracking their progress, students work with high-interest material at their skill level to improve fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.
  7. Lindamood Bell-Lindamood-Bell programs focus on the sensory-cognitive processing necessary for reading and comprehension.
  8. LLI-also known as Fountas & Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention; Leveled Literacy Intervention provides effective small-group instruction for students who find reading and writing difficult. With engaging leveled books, fast-paced systematically designed lessons, and a high level of built-in professional development, LLI empowers both teachers and students as together they work toward attaining reading and writing proficiency. THIS IS NOT APPROPRIATE FOR DYSLEXIA.

The school said they’re doing Wilson, but won’t put it on the IEP.

Yep, not surprised. This is where it can get ugly and contentious. And I really don’t understand why. If nothing else, I expect our schools to teach our kids to read and write. Really, it’s the main two! If nothing else, reading and writing.

“They said they can’t put it on the IEP.” You’re being gaslighted. Yes, they can. They have just been instructed by higher ups not to, as it increases their level of accountability. See, most of the reading curricula described above have well defined parameters. Start poking around those websites. Listed is what they expect of instructors, how they get and stay certified, and what it takes to implement the program properly and with fidelity. This is what you need to stay on top of as a parent. If they are going to provide the program, why wouldn’t they name it? Ask them to show you where it says in IDEA or state regs that you cannot name a specific curriculum on an IEP.

Because what I find as an advocate is that many schools use the “spirit” of the program, but are not doing the program to the letter. And then, what’s the point? It’d be like me giving my son only half of his daily seizure meds, and expecting them to control seizures. No! These programs have been found to help children read under the guidelines and parameters given, not under a “DIY” option! The evidence-based programs are only evidence-based if you follow the instructions.

Strategies for Parents

  1. First, make sure that your child’s needs are appropriately identified.
  2. Then, you’re going to have to research reading programs. Ask which programs the school uses, and do in-depth research on the specifics of each program.
  3. Decide if the offered program is appropriate for your child’s age and reading ability. If not, as a team you have to choose something else. (This may get contentious and stressful, they want to just use what they have.)
  4. Ask that it get put on the IEP. If they decline, ask for that information on a PWN. From there, you’re going to have to decide how far you wish to pursue this.
  5. You’re going to have to learn the progress monitoring system that the school uses, and how to track it. You absolutely must stay on top of progress monitoring.

Lastly, if you have the means to do it, the path of least resistance may be to just pay for this privately. There are private tutors out there that provide these programs. No, you shouldn’t have to. I get it. But like I said, path of least resistance.

Here is that other list I mentioned above: