Thursday, June 12, 2014

Teaching Reading to a child with Down Syndrome

Teaching reading is not one of my favourite home schooling tasks. While it is not one of my favourite ones, it is one that I feel is critical and one that we do spend quite a bit of time. This is a critical skill.

Here is an article on phonics vs. sight words. I thought this was interesting in two areas one if that fact that we have moved from an audio world to a visual world. I don't know if we are trained to listen and absorb as in the past. The other interesting bit is the digit span that is needed for learning phonics.

I began teaching Miss K sight words using the principles from Teach your Baby to Read by Glenn Dorman when she was about 11 months old. She needed that for the brain stimulation. We continued with sight words until she was about 6.

Then it came time to add phonics. As we got started, I used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I am not sure what phonics she learned through that program. It is good in the sense that it is scripted so you know what to say. For Miss K it was good to work on speech. We had lots of cards that we used with that.

I wasn't ready to give up on phonics so we pulled out Scaredy Cat and have worked with that. There are parts of that program that is sticking. It has lots of hands-on activities which she enjoyed.

We are also using Classic Phonics from Memoria Press. This just has simple word lists. We are using it for review and reinforcement.

After about three years of teaching phonics, I really don't know if I would say she is sounding words out. If you ask her what sound a letter makes, she will give you the sound but to do it on her own and put the word together, I don't think so.

So the debate continues with phonics or sight words here with Miss K. Do we keep pushing phonics or just skip it and do sight words? At this point we are still doing both. I do think we need to add some activities to increase digit span.

I don't have the answer on how to teach reading. I am sharing some of what we have done and some of it has worked and some has not. In some ways it is try and see what happens, adjust, try again and see what is happens, push a bit, encourage, see improvement, keep going.

Here is a bit more that I wrote about teaching reading.

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  1. I read the phonics/sight word article and I am surprised it didn't mention songs, rhymes, and reading aloud as the main source of early pre-phonics for toddlers and preschoolers. Even though we are more a visual society now, these mother/child or parent/child interactions are hopefully still taking place. Kids who have been read to, sung to, and who have heard nursery rhymes recited do better when letters and sounds are introduced. They have had the oral filling that lays the groundwork for phonemic awareness and learning to read. Kids who haven't had this prefilling tend to need more systematic, explicit phonics and it takes a lot more time for them to learn to read. Of course I don't know how Down Syndrome would figure into this, but filling her with lots of rhymes helps the brain with the different phonemes. Does she like nursery rhymes and can she recite many of them? Kids who can rhyme tend to pick up reading easier.

    I agree it is so hard to ascertain what each child needs. They are all such individuals and trial and error is often all we have. Each of mine has learned to read (one left to learn to read) somewhat differently.

    1. You have given me something to think about -- I don't think Miss K "gets" rhyming words. Maybe we need to go back and review some of those things just for fun.

  2. Beth, this is interesting and the link was useful, too. We have spent about three years with phonics, too, with only moderate success, in a child who is otherwise developmentally normal. Using part sight words and part phonics is probably the way ahead for us.

  3. I am a retired elementary school teacher and, now, homeschool my grandchildren. Some children never really grasp the concept of "sounding out" words. They see the word in its entirety and not in parts. Keep up what you are doing but do not "wait" for the phonetic word attack to kick in. Give her the word and move on in her reading. She needs to keep the flow of the reading or she might lose the meaning of the passage/sentence.
    Myra, from Winnipeg, Canada.



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