TEACH READING TO TEACH TALKING? YES!
the gift that gives twice
We all know that we open the world to our children when we teach them to read. I felt that wonder first-hand when I taught my son Jonathan to read 29 years ago. And I have watched it with my students as their ability to read unfolds with the Special Reads program. But there’s more to the “reading gift” than meets the eye…
we teach reading to teach talking
Few things thrill me more than a mom reporting this to me about her child with DS and speech delays: “He’s putting three words together now! For the first time ever!!” It’s because he now has the experience of reading many words strung together, “For the first time. Ever.” He didn’t know he could do that…and then he did.
Downs Ed International weighs in
One of my favorite quotes from Sue Buckley and Gillian Bird (of Downs Ed in the UK) 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.”
Amen to that! I have found it to be absolutely true in my teaching.
Struggling with language and articulation
When I’m working with a student who has significant articulation problems, I find I can’t separate teaching reading from teaching talking. I keep a large hand mirror nearby to help the student shape his mouth to match what he sees me do with my own. For many of my students, it’s the first time a favorite word they love to use sounds absolutely clear. It’s a thrill.
When a child sees what he’s trying to say, in print, right in front of his eyes, a light bulb begins to glow softly. And when he knows his letter sounds (and works on those sounds with apps like Starfall ABC [it’s a free app]), and progresses with reading, that articulation light glows brighter just because his understanding evolves.
What about apraxia (CAS)?
Certainly the challenges are greater, depending on where a child is on that broad spectrum of CAS (Childhood Apraxia of Speech). Specialized speech therapy is a must for our children with apraxia, and that’s a fact I preach in every single workshop I give because it’s so important. But what about reading? To my delight, several of my students with DS + severe apraxia have become some of my best readers.
I’ve wondered why some of my students with CAS have excelled at reading. I can’t answer that definitively, but my theory is that perhaps they take the energy they would normally channel into fluent language and instead focus it laser-like on understanding the printed word. Whatever the reason, I am in awe of these young readers. And if you’re wondering how to test them–and how to prove to educators that they’re actually reading–I’ve devoted a whole chapter to that in my book Whole Child Reading. We can prove it!
Videos are worth more than 1,000 words…
Here are two super short videos of one of my reading 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, as is the gift of learning to talk by also learning to read!
Absolutely, the Gift of Reading gives twice!