Like you, I am an educator. Perhaps unlike you, I am the parent of an adult with Down syndrome (Jonathan, 34, with DS, ADHD, and ODD [Oppositional Defiant Disorder]). The reading materials you find on this site are the result of experience with both roles: discerning what works and what doesn’t, and providing materials that will achieve success with both efficiency and engagement.

My love for reading ignited into a passion when I taught my son to read as a five-year-old, basing my approach on the work of Glenn Doman/Heguru/Schichida as well as the gold standard available to us through Down Syndrome Education International in the UK.

I was lucky; Jonathan was a reading sponge, absorbing quickly and retaining easily. Seeing this five-year-old sitting and reading his homemade reading books aloud (with no pictures to cue off) to friends, teachers, strangers—literally anyone who would listen to him—totally defined my purpose. I wanted every child with Down syndrome to have the same joy and ease in reading that he did.

Many years later, in founding Special Reads for Special Needs, I developed a reading program specifically designed to both engage an easily distracted student as well as accommodate the learning strengths and weaknesses of those learners with Down syndrome, autism, and other developmental delays.

“I purchased your Emergent Reader Bundle, and my students made huge progress quickly…Since using your materials, they suddenly started blending and decoding…The parents are thrilled! Some of them cried when they first heard their child read. Thank you!” -C.M., Texas

“My kids (K through 2nd) are learning so much faster now. I had kids I had almost given up on for learning sight words. It just wasn’t sinking in, after a year and a half of trying to teach them any sight words. After attending your workshop, I made the flash cards large, in red, flashed them quickly like you showed us, and used your program. In a month and a half, every one of the kids learned 15 sight words. It’s amazing. This is an incredible, incredible program!” -L.L., Oklahoma

Special Offer for Schools and Educators:

Any order from a school or educator which includes our 3-in-1 Reading Bundle will be accompanied by an hour of complimentary staff training with Natalie. 


There are two keys to teaching success when it comes to Down syndrome and other developmental delays, as you and any educator who works with this or a similar population knows:

1. The materials have to work for visual perception, brain processing, retention, fluency, ability to generalize the material learned, and school system requirements.

2. Secondly—or arguably first—the reading material, no matter what it is, has to engage the student’s motivation, regardless of age. If a student isn’t engaged by the material you put in front of him, none of his voluntary learning systems will be in gear. Door shut, end of subject. Typically, reading for our learners is hard work; offering them a reading system that speaks to their interests and learning needs gets them started with early success.

Across this country, dedicated educators are asking for the information you’ll find on this site; it is my hope that Special Reads materials and my workshops will spread the reading ripples far so that, indeed, no child, teen, or adult is left behind.

Many of my students are teens who fell through the reading cracks in the system and come to me still not reading. These are students who, not surprisingly for Down syndrome, could not learn through systems that were already in place. Historically, most educators are not specifically trained in best practice for teaching learners with Down syndrome; I hope this site will begin to change that.



Special Reads for Special Needs offers an effective, affordable reading program with full teaching instructions. In the classroom, it will most often outpace large, expensive reading programs in terms of quick success. Why is this? Two reasons: design and content.


In teaching reading, I view materials from the viewpoint of the brain; its process of perception is one of my primary concerns. If the child’s brain can’t easily grasp the material visually, we’re putting unnecessary stumbling blocks in his reading path.

Special Reads materials are designed with unparalleled clarity: large type, double spacing between words, sans serif fonts, abundant white space to assist focus, and at the emergent level, no juxtaposed pictures competing for attention (at this beginning level, pictures are a distraction rather than a “cuing aid” and are ideally placed on the page following the text.)

As an educator of students with Down syndrome, I know firsthand that if the materials don’t interest them, we lose their cooperation, focus, and in the end, we slow their reading progress. Motivation, buy-in, interest—by any name—is essential for our students.

Special Reads tries to cover that high interest need for you by using humor and keeping many of the books favorite-food-centered: pizza, ice cream, spaghetti, peanut butter are headliners.


Using the twin tools of brain-friendly design and motivating content, as well as best practice methods, Special Reads can successfully reach students who have not been able to respond to other reading programs.


Please use email or snail mail to send us your Purchase Orders:

  • 1421 N. Catalina St., Los Angeles, CA 90027

Educators will be interested in our 3-in-1 Bundle, which will supply them with Emergent Reader, Primer, and First Grade levels of teaching material, including an Educator’s Guide and the book Whole Child Reading: A Quick-Start Guide to Teaching Students with Down Syndrome and Other Developmental Delays.

Special Offer for Schools and Educators: 

Any order from a school or educator which includes our 3-in-1 Reading Bundle will be accompanied by an hour of complimentary staff training with Natalie. 

Why it works



Natalie Hale - Special Reads


girl with Down syndrom reading

boy with Down syndrom reading

Down syndrom reading student

boy with Down syndrom practices reading