Learning to Read to Learn to Speak?

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.

2 thoughts on “Learning to Read to Learn to Speak?

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  1. This approach totally makes sense to me. If you look at the research literature for children with complex communication needs (non-verbal), there is an intervention called aided language stimulation. We use visual communication systems to speak to our non-verbal kids so they have a model of how to do this themselves. Kids with the physical capacity for speech who see a communication system modeled develop more verbal speech. We use the app Proloquo2Go. My daughter has about 70 high frequency words on a display and she sees how we arrange and re-arrange them. You can turn off the visual symbols and just use the words. Kids hear the words spoken when they select a word, and they see the visual as the sentence is assembled. It’s an awesome strategy for highly visual kids. I wonder if a core word board would be helpful?

    Another strategy we use a lot is predictable chart writing. We select high frequency sentence stems (I like, I like to, I like to go to, I like it when) and everyone takes turns finishing the sentences by adding their own final word. It’s teally fun to turn these predictable charts into simple books. It creates a lot of repetition of high frequency words but keeps it fun because there is always the novel word at the end.

    My older girl has complex disabilities and no spoken language. My younger girl has dyslexia. It’s been fascinating to see their language develop. For my younger girl, spelling approaches that focus on teaching her prefixes, roots/bases, and suffixes so that she can recognize meaningful units of letters rather than try to memorize words as whole strings of letters. Phonics didn’t work well because English is simply not phonetic. English spelling is based on meaning, not pronunciation. That’s why we can pronounce the same word in different ways with different accents but the spelling stays consistent across countries and accents. She felt very betrayed by phonics instruction because there were so many exceptions to the “rules.”

    Anyway, I just had to respond since I think you are doing something so creative and innovative! There is a research base behind what you are doing if you look up aided language input. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

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