I have this theory that learning to read will prompt Lady Bug to put more words together on her own, or at least give her more scripts to use. I would not be attempting this right now when she is only 4 years old if she hadn’t already shown interest and ability to recognize written words. But since this last developmental SPIKE she has shown that she has at least a few words memorized. She recognizes the written word means a thing and is connected to a spoken word. Mostly that’s thanks to Signing Time dvds, though she also likes Leap Frog and Super Why. Earlier than typical interest and ability with letters and written words in autistic children is called hyperlexia.
Now, if Lady Bug were my first child, I would have been dead set against a whole word memorization approach to teaching reading. It’s how I learned and while I’m a fast reader I am a terrible speller and I struggle to correctly pronounce new words that I have only read and not heard. I taught the boys with phonics with me learning along side with them. But I’m not fear based rigid in my beliefs any more and I recognized that not all brains work well with a phonics approach. Some kids (mostly visual-spacial learners) do best with a whole word approach, and Lady Bug could very well be that type of kid. So I will be using that approach and if it works we can cover phonics beyond basic letter sounds (that she already knows thanks to Leap Frog) when we do formal spelling work in the future.
Teaching whole word style is brand new to me. Lady Bug really like laminated cards that she can stim with so she already has a bunch of those with a word and a picture on them. She will say a lot of individual words with those prompting her (she does not repeat things said to her when asked.) But I wanted sentences. So while looking around on Pinterest I came across something that I thought might work. They are simple sentences with stacked and stapled picture with word cards. You can read the sentence flipping up the card and have a new word there, but the rest of the sentence stays the same. I liked that this would show Lady Bug that you can swap out words in a script and you can use it several different ways. She does this to a limited extent, so I thought this would be understandable to her. At $14.50 for the bundle, it is a bit pricey considering that I’m only using a part of the bundle. (Bundle includes the cards in color, in black and white, and writing exercises to match.) However I have not found anything like this elsewhere for free and the quality is excellent so I do not regret purchasing them. I cut out and glued the sentence strips on colored cardstock for durability. Because of the holidays I haven’t been as consistent with these as I would have liked. But Lady Bug does like them and after only a few demonstrations she does engage with them and will say the name of the picture car portion while I say the rest. Most of those are words she already knows, but she’s hearing them with other words around them and that’s good.
I also have a Pinterest board with lots of word cards and emergent readers with simple sentences if you are interested in trying this approach with your own child. Instead of a themed joint activity this month I will try to do daily reading with Lady Bug (which I fail at being regular with) and play with vocabulary cards we already have and these sentence strips.