Happy news: At 7 my son is starting to make real progress with reading. He has cognitive and mild physical delays stemming from hypotonia and global apraxia. At times we all got pretty frustrated on the journey to reading, but now here we are! I wanted to share a few things that worked for us and would love to hear what you’ve been doing with your kids.
Hang letters and words around the house.
The key for us turned out to be writing letters on paper and taping them around the house. He would get upset when quizzed on the letters, so instead I just told him what they were. We would greet the letters with “Hi Mr. N!” or whatever. This way there was no pressure and he was able to name the letters on his own before too long. Then we added sounds.
My son didn’t say any words until after turning 3, so we didn’t have some of the usual aids like reciting the alphabet together. He also has been DXd with convergence insufficiency, meaning his eyes don’t come together well to focus up close. Trying to ID letters in print was tough – I’d tell him the letter, he’d repeat it, and then a few seconds later he’d be unable to ID it again. Hanging larger versions around the house seemed to help, and he eventually was able to ID them in print on his own.
We did the same thing with hanging these around the house. At first I would simply tell him the words, and he would repeat them. At times he was angry and resistant, not wanting to work. So I told him he could go up and slap the word or hit it with a flyswatter while we went over it. This way he channeled his mad energy into an activity that was still productive. Once he started to really know the words, it became fun to take a tour around the house and greet each word. It’s a good idea to vary location of the words to make sure kids aren’t just memorizing by location.
Bead box from Michaels works great for letters too.
Magnetic letter board
For a tactile element to learning words, we used magnetic letters on a lap-sized board. Over time we’d collected a large number of magnetic letters that were all piled together, making it hard to select the right ones for words. I went to Michaels and picked up a couple of compartmentalized plastic containers meant for sorting beads. Turns out they work great for letters too.
At first I’d let my son do whatever he wanted with letters on the board, so he wouldn’t resist. He liked building “robots” with them. We worked up to arranging letters into sight words. He still has trouble sequencing letters. For now the board is more about reinforcing sight words in a hands on way than teaching him to spell.
The “orange books”
These are the Harcourt “pre-decodable” and “decodable” books that our school system uses for teaching kindergarteners to read. The summer after kindergarten, we went over two orange books every morning before I went to work. He hated this and fought me, but we had a rule that if we didn’t do the books, he would get no TV or computer for that day. I also sent him to time out inthe mornings (using the “1, 2, 3 Magic” method) if he refused to do the books.
This sounds punitive but ended up working well. He’s repeating kindergarten this year and again seeing the orange books, but now has confidence and even gets excited to do them. (”Can we read orange books tonight?” is music to my ears.)
With the above methods we’ve gotten to where he can read very simple early-reading books pretty fluently, though he does need a finger to help him track.
What’s been your experience with teaching reading to kids with cognitive deficits? Anyone have a success story to share?