Auditory Processing Difficulties

Auditory Processing Difficulties

The video below is a terrific link to send to your child’s teacher. As parents, we are hard pressed to explain WHY best practice for teaching reading to our kids with Down syndrome is SIGHT WORDS FIRST.

Canada to the Rescue!

Canada’s Down Syndrome Research Foundation has produced a wonderful line of YouTube videos. Here is a link to a video which focuses on my topic today: WHY we put sight words first.

Successful Strategies: Memory, Phonological Awareness, and Beginning Phonics

“What did you say? I can’t hear you.”

What you and your child’s educators will find there will be enormously clarifying. We all know that the vast majority of our children with DS are strong visual learners, right? And that their auditory learning skills tend to be weak. But why? How can we support our statement that “sight words first” is best practice? The video from the DSRF will explain, among other things, that our children typically have:

  • ——Fluctuating hearing loss throughout life
  • Poor auditory memory
  • —Poor short term memory
  • —Difficulty discriminating sounds
  • —Deficits in auditory processing which impact phonological awareness, as:
  • Difficulty in discriminating —blended sounds
  • —Difficulty keeping the order of sounds in short term memory

Can these deficits be worked with and strengthened? You bet. Does it take a great deal of patience and time, and including a visual approach to phonics? You bet.

Leading Examples of Doing It Right

Are there highly reputable institutions which have a decades-long history of tremendous success with targeting our children’s visual learning strengths, using sight words first, and teaching them to read at a phenomenally early age? Of course. To name a couple, the National Association for Child Development (NACD) and the Institute for the Achievement of Human Potential (since 1955). Not to mention the DSRF and DownsEd in the UK.

Having this knowledge, the obvious question would be: if we know about these auditory processing weaknesses (and visual learning strengths), why in the world would state education codes insist that phonics be taught first to our children? Why would teachers be held to that? Why would parents have to bow to those codes and sit by and watch their children become discouraged?

Into Battle With a New Awareness…

So I hope that, starting with the link I’ve given above, you’ll be on the road to educating your child’s educators, and in the process, taking the pressure off of everyone: child, parent, and teacher. Let’s hear it for a New Awareness!




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Showing 2 comments
  • Deepa Garwa

    Hi Natalie
    My name is Deepa and I am a mother of a 6 year old girl with down syndrome. I live in New Delhi, India and I am a teacher. I also write at “www.aarshiandmama.blogspot.in”. I have always endorsed the visual learning method and I even did the same with my typically developing son and he was a fluent at 3 plus. I also tried the same method with Aarshia, the flash cards, matching to reinforce and she surprised everybody around her by being able to identify, read and match fruits, colours, animas, modes of transport, family names etc by the time she was 4. I am continuing with the same strategy and she can read Peter and jane and lot of other stuff now. Though it is extremely difficult to convince other parents and her teachers about the same but I showed them some videos of her reading but they say that this method would interfere in her reading later. what do you have to say?another question is that i am teaching her blending now and though she knws her phonics really well, blending seems to be taking a lot of time. She knows her “at” words but gets a little confused with other blended words. What is your suggestion and also if there is anything more I can do to help her.
    You can see her reading here…


    • Natalie Hale

      Hello, Deepa!
      How awesome that Aarshia has done so well with reading!
      What some other parents and your daughter’s teachers have said, that “this method would interfere in her reading later,” is totally untrue. Quite the opposite is true: the foundation you are giving her through sight words will serve her well throughout her life. Research by Downs Ed in the UK tells us that, even in those cases where our children with DS never learn phonics because of either hearing deficits or cognitive delays, the ability to decode happens naturally once the child reaches a certain level of reading proficiency. In other words, specific training in phonics is not necessary. Auditory recognition of blending is difficult for our kids, as you have discovered! I would not worry about Aarshia mastering blending, etc. Please just continue expanding her sight word vocabulary, and building personal books for her, and modifying her favorite “trade” (popular) books for her, and she will do well. I now have a “search feature” on my blog page, so if you want to find a topic quickly, you can. http://www.specialreads.com/. I will try to post this on your blog page as well to make sure you get this response.
      All the best,
      P.S. When I was a child learning to read, phonics was “out;” it was not taught in schools at that time, as it had fallen out of favor with educators! Did I and many thousands of others learn to read well? Guess!