We can teach reading to teach talking.

“She’s putting four words together now! For the first time ever!!” Mom is thrilled. And this happened because her child is now reading many words strung together, “For the first time. Ever.

DS Education International weighs in

One of my favorite quotes from Sue Buckley/Gillian Bird (DSEI) is this: Teaching reading to teach talking is probably the single most effective intervention for helping children with Down syndrome to overcome their learning difficulties…Teaching them to read may be the most effective therapy for developing their speech and language skills from infancy right through school years.”

Well said. I have found it to be absolutely true in my teaching.

How does this work?

  1. For the first time, a child is stringing together 4, 5, 6 words by reading them aloud in sentences. He experiences that.
  2. He’s using correct grammar. Books don’t contain “key word talking,” leaving out prepositions, articles, etc. He’s learning grammar.
  3. He’s learning language. Have you ever noticed young adults with DS using very expensive, top-drawer words? They quickly absorb favorites from the material they read. “How’s your day going, Shawn?” “Spectacular!” 
  4. Reading those words and phrases naturally segues into speaking them.  This is when Mom and Dad get seriously excited: they have never heard  him talk like this before.

I have seen this happen again and again with students and their parents, and it’s thrilling.

Imilee reads our Special Reads “I SAID” Book

Worth 1,000 Words…

Here are two short videos of one of my students “before and after”. In the first video, you’ll hear mostly echolalia and poor articulation. The second video was taken 3 years later…she’s amazing, and so is learning to talk by learning to read!

Imilee talks

Imilee Reads

What about apraxia (Childhood Apraxia of Speech)?

Building a sentence to prove reading ability

The spectrum of CAS is a broad one, from mild to severe, and the challenges will match where the child falls on that spectrum.

Specialized speech therapy is a must for a child with apraxia. But what about reading? We teach reading in the same way; we test differently. To my amazement, several of my students with DS + severe apraxia have become some of my best readers.

I am in awe of these young readers. And if you’re wondering how to test them–and how to prove to their teachers that they’re actually reading–I’ve devoted a whole chapter to that in my book Whole Child Reading. We absolutely, positively can prove it!





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