Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Posts Tagged ‘phonics

B is for bee

with 14 comments

Bee of Halictus genus, possible Halictus scabiosae

Image via Wikipedia

Here is a dilemma for you: when trying to teach new experiences, do you use the strengths to your advantage, or put in extra effort to mitigate the weaknesses?

I know you, smart reader, you’d say it would depend on what you were trying to teach.  See, I know you now.  Okay.  Pudding will be 4 in December.  At this age, she is not expected to be able to read.  The “average child” (does anybody know one?) is expected to know the alphabet, know that letters make sounds, and letters together make words. She can do all of that, albeit in her own way (I think one day Pudding will record a cover version of Sinatra’s “My Way“- that is how she lives).

Pudding has an advantage with some pre-reading skills, I believe due to her autism.  Some call these “splinter skills” but I hate that term as it doesn’t recognize them for the superpowers I know them to be.  Instead, I call them spectrummy skills.  She has an amazing memory, and she is a visual learner, finding it easy to see patterns.  As a result, without trying, she has learned a few words just by seeing them often.  Words like her name, “hot”, “up”, “stop”, you get the idea.  One method for learning how to read is by using “Dolch” words, also known as sight words.  The idea being that the child would memorize a set of the most frequently occurring words in the English language, enabling him or her to read by rote.

One of the sensory difficulties that Pudding has is dysfunction with auditory processing.  As far as we can tell, her brain doesn’t seem to filter out extraneous sounds, and all the background noise that I can filter out comes at her all at once.  Her defense against this assault is to tune out.  This is why I frequently fail to get her attention just by using my voice, and sometimes I have to touch her to make her listen.  When sounds do reach her ear, they seem to be garbled.  Her brain has to decode the strange sounds and turn them into words, which is why it takes her some time to respond, especially in a noisy environment.  That is why I implore you to give Pudding and others like her ample time to process your words.

Many children learn to read by associating sounds with letters, and groups of  letters, and putting them together.  C-a-t spells cat.  Here Pudding is at a distinct disadvantage.  So many of the sounds are so similar to her ear that a phonic approach is problematic.  This is how the majority of children learn to read in schools though.  A thorough understanding of phonics enables a child to read several words they’ve never encountered before, incrementally raising their vocabulary every time they read a new book.

So here is the thing.  Do I opt for the sight word approach which will come more naturally to her, or do I begin the phonics approach, because I know it will be more difficult, and require more practice?  Do I work with her strengths, or against her weaknesses?  I’m thinking of this, because the following is a conversation she and I had this morning:

Pudding: What letter does bed start with?

Me: You tell me, what letter does bed start with?

Pudding: “B” is for bed!

Me: That’s right.  Now, can you tell me what sound a “B” makes?

Pudding: buzz

Yeah, you got me there, kid.  You do it your way.

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Written by Spectrummy Mummy

September 23, 2010 at 5:00 am