Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Day 19: About Reading... (Q&A Part II)


Q.  LOVED the video of Sammi reading. So what are the things you did with her early on to help her get to be a good Kindergarten reader? Help those of us with the little babies!



A.  About that reading…

First a couple of disclaimers – Remember – don’t compare! Children will learn their own way, in their own time. Also, just because a child may not have strong verbal skills doesn’t mean they can’t learn to read. I have seen videos of children learning to read and using signs to show that they know the word on the page.

I was a fairly early reader, being only one of a small handful of children in my Kindergarten class who could read. I have very specific memories of sitting at my little desk, a copy of Tip and Mitten open in front of me. I think Tip and Mitten was my generation’s answer to Dick and Jane. Now, I think Biscuit, many generations later, is the current incarnation. After Samantha was born, I had fantasies of her being able to read by Kindergarten. After all, her mommy did, right? No problem. Hahaha… Reminded me of the time the Early Intervention people came to visit us for the first time, when Samantha was about a month old – they’d asked me what our PT goals for her were in the first year, and I immediately said I wanted her to be able to walk by 1. Okay, so I was a bit off…and perhaps a bit delusional…

I had mentioned in my last Q&A post that Samantha had stopped learning new words by @15 months old. At 18 months we realized that we needed to “bridge the gap” of communication until she started to pick up new words again, and began to introduce signs. I remember like it was yesterday, standing in front of a shelf at Borders (sigh), trying to decide which kind of baby signs materials I should buy to teach both us and Samantha. After a lot of deliberation, I settled on the ones shown in the picture above. I don’t think I realized at the time just how important this box of cards would be for her over the next 4 years. To say they’ve been loved and used and abused is a definite understatement. You can see the state they’re in, even if you can’t see that the box has been broken and re-taped a dozen times. I finally just gave up. Anyway, these cards were important in several ways. The front shows a photo of an item or an action, with the word written in large letters above. The back shows the word written again, with a photo of a woman demonstrating how to create the sign. We, as parents, learned how to make the sign and model it for Samantha. Samantha would learn to make the sign when she saw the picture on the front of the card. The next stage involved Samantha using the pictures to learn to say the words, as we held them up one by one. Once she learned her letters, she used the cards to say each letter in the word then say the word, as if she were reading it (C-A-T…cat!) Now, at this stage, so many years later, I have been turning the cards over and putting my hand over the photo of the woman doing the sign and Samantha has been trying to read the words, with increased success.

And that's where it really started.  Last year, The Learning Program was introduced in our area, sponsored by our local Down syndrome association.  The Learning Program is based on a program developed by the Down Syndrome Foundation of Orange County (DSFOC), and focuses on the visual learner, as most children with Down syndrome are.  The parent is taught to teach the child, providing materials that keep the child engaged while learning.  Materials are available on DSFOC's Learning Program website to download for free.  The Learning Program itself is only offered in a small handful of regions across the country, and we're lucky enough to have it here. 

We missed the enrollment deadline last year, but happened to be approached by Terry Brown, one of the people involved in the Orange County program, who now runs So Happy To Learn from her house, teaching students with Down syndrome to read, write, do math, etc.  She asked us to help her pilot a sort-of correspondence version of her program, via e-mail.  As I am of the opinion that we should throw as many tools as we are able to at our kids in their education and development, so I jumped at the chance.  I can only say that what we learned from her was invaluable.  While we have enrolled in The Learning Program this year, we are also continuing to learn from Mrs. Brown as well.  As not everyone has this opportunity, I ask you all, if you have not yet already, please look into those Orange County Learning Program materials, and go out and get Teaching Reading to Children With Down Syndrome, a Woodbine House publication by Patricia Oelwein!

But first things first - for those of you with younger children, my advice is flashcardsflashcardsflashcards.  Any type, multiple types!  Kids may respond better to one style or type over another.  Sammi learned her alphabet and her numbers from the cards I posted about here, but trust me, we have plenty of cards she isn't afraid to turn her nose up at.  That's why it's so good to get several kinds - you never know what it is that will appeal to them - could be a color, a character, a size, a texture...

I hope this helped answer the question about reading! 

The rest of the Q&A will be in the next post (oh, so many great questions!).

And just in case you'd forgotten, I'm helping Erin at Crazy Beautiful Love host a Blog Hop this Friday, October 21st for Down syndrome awareness.  Please join below and check out the bottom of yesterday's post for instructions!

7 comments:

Crazy Beautiful Love said...

I have never heard of The Learning Program! Thanks Becca!
-erin

Anna Theurer said...

Thank you!

lovemy3 said...

It's ironic that you posted about this today. I was just looking at flashcards yesterday and figured I was going to get some opinions about them first. Thanks for reading my mind :-)

Anna said...

You are so good to write such an informative post. You are so right about the various flashcards! For some reason lil G loves some and others..... not so much.

Crazy Beautiful Love said...

Can I make a side note to anyone that may read this? When starting with children 3 and under it's best to use flash cards without words! That's just info for parents that may want to use flashcards for babies/toddlers to introduce the word sounds. Our kiddos can mix up what the sound is referring to...the pic or the word itself.
Just my two cents. I will leave now! :)

teal915 said...

I have a question now. I am homeschooling my 5 year old daughter (without Ds) right now. We are a couple of months into kindergarten, and she can read 3 letter words with guidance at this point. We are using a mostly phonetic approach with some sight words, like the word "the" and others like it that don't follow phonics rules. There are also special sounds that like "ck" in duck, but she hasn't gotten to that far yet. My question is, can I teach my daughter with Ds that same way one day, or should I focus more on her memorizing words and go more the sight word approach because of being a visual learner?

terry brown said...

Rebecca, I hope you do not mind me jumping in! Teal915, it is best to teach sight words to your visual learner and teach letter recognition and sounds at the same time(but separately) When your learner has it down and knows many sight words then you can start teaching simple phonics. Please read Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome by Patricia Oelwein. She explains it all very well!
~Terry Brown