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Phonics for disabled child

(21 Posts)
whereonthestair Wed 03-Feb-16 08:00:47

I have a 5 year old ds, in year 1, who has some specific visual perception issues (caused by brain damage at birth). He is not visually impaired, his eyes are fine but the neurological messaging doesn't work as he has had to "rewire" around the damage. As a result of this he has a real difficulty both with the typical letter confusions b and d, p and q etc, but also with segmenting words. (He presents a little like dyslexic in this respect, but not in most other respects). He just cannot "see" segments, as he can't block out the beginning and end of words to work out what the segment is. He knows the letters, alphabet and phoneme, but cannot get any further. He can also remember hundreds of words, and all the tricky words which come up time and time again are no problem. But phonetics might as well be Chinese for all the sense it makes to ds.

It is so frustrating. As parents we don't care how ds learns to read, but he does need to learn to read. the school are doing phonics intervention with him, and 1-1, but accept that phonics and ds doesn't seem to work at all.

I want to support ds and the school, but it is so frustrating to go round and round this loop. The school aren't even going to put ds in for the phonics screen as ds will fail. He'll be fine at the real words, but the alien words will all be wrong, as they aren't words and ds won't decide them as they have no meaning.... It seems counterintuitive to just keep doing more and more of a method which does not work, but that is what the national curriculum says so the school are stuck. (I would add ds cannot walk, and no-one says just put one foot in front of another you'll walk to ds because a similar neurological issue means he would fall over). We have physio and adaptions to do the best we can there and it is slowly working. I am just looking for ideas, games, anything which work for reading like we have had for walking really to get ds passed this issue which is a complete block, and allow him to move forwards.

Any ideas, phonetic or otherwise desperately welcome.

KittyandTeal Wed 03-Feb-16 08:05:13

I taught a little girl on the autistic spectrum once and phonics just meant nothing to her. However, she could sight learn words as flash cards. We used to teach her a bunch, review and let her consolidate and then move on to the next lot.

It worked really well, she enjoyed it much more as she was achieving and was fluently reading by the end of Y1 (comprehension was a different matter but that was linked to her difficulties)

Might be worth giving that a go or asking the teachers to. Phonics works well for most children but when it doesn't work it really doesn't work!

irvine101 Wed 03-Feb-16 08:34:08

I don't know if it works for your ds or not, but my ds learned to read mostly watching TV with subtitles on. He sees the words again and again with sounds, seems like he new all the words by the time he started to read the books.
But it may be annoying for some children, having words on the screen all the time. We didn't do it on purpose to teach ds to read. Because I am foreign, and used to watch TV with subs, and he wanted it on for his cartoon as well.
Sorry if no help.

Witchend Wed 03-Feb-16 12:27:15

If he can read by whole word recognition, despite what some may think, it is still reading. I was a fluent reader by the time I got phonics. In face I was half way through the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I can remember the moment I realised I could work it out. I was in year 2.

All my ds learnt to read using whole words, and then the phonics fell into place when they could read.

I taught mine with games. We had flashcards, and you can play matching games, put them into order etc. And their favourite was what they called "surprise" but I would call it a treasure hunt. you give them a clue and they have to find the next clue. They still enjoy doing it at 15yo for the oldest, only now I set it up all round the estate and give me a couple of hours free!
You can start with basic "Chair" "Table" move on to "Look up" (clue above them), "go to the garden wall" and then get onto big clues "take three paces towards the road then turn left and..."

Floowho Wed 03-Feb-16 13:37:43

I work with a child with cerebral palsy, and I am finding that some things he couldn't do at year 1, he is suddenly able to do at year 4 because he has a better level of understanding about what is being asked of him. Perhaps you could have a list of high frequency words and just go through them. How is his writing?

Ferguson Wed 03-Feb-16 19:52:13

In your situation, perhaps, for now you need to give up on Phonics methods, and revert to earlier reading methods, Searchlights, or Look and Say.

When I was first a TA, over thirty years ago, there was a good selection of computer software called "My World", originally on Acorn RiscOS computers, then converted to PCs. I see it is now available from a company called Dial Solutions:

These programs had words and pictures that could be dragged into different configurations.

I used it to teach spelling, using a 'look, cover, write, check' kind of procedure, with an opaque 'blind' that was dragged to cover the word the student was trying to learn, once he had looked at the word. He could then type the word, before dragging the 'blind' away to see whether or not he was correct. It was possible to create your own screens of information. If you explore the links you may be able to find something that may help.

The BBC Words and Pictures may also have something suitable:

There was also a series of Makaton pictures, that I used with some children:

mrz Wed 03-Feb-16 20:04:52

But those aren't earlier methods they are very much late 20th century methods whereas phonics has been around since written language was invented,

meditrina Wed 03-Feb-16 20:14:54

If he really cannot sound out words, then it's likely to be the long haul, barking at print of learning to recognise every single word of a functional level of vocabulary. This is a serious level of learning by rote, but it does sound as it it might be unavoidable for him.

And just as he can't even attempt to read names of aliens, he won't be able to read any other word he's not seen before. So every single one will have to be taught.

And given how you describe his brain wiring, it does sound like a very uphill task. OTOH, you say it may as well be Chinese, which is very apt, as learning by rote is exactly how children learning a non-alphabetic language have to go about it.

mrz Wed 03-Feb-16 20:38:11

Have you tried covering the word and revealing it sound by sound ? As meditrina says it is a huge task to memorise enough words as wholes to be functionally literate.
With regards to Chinese it's estimated that an educated Chinese person will have memorised 3000- 4000 characters (words) compared to the million plus in English.
Good luck

mrz Thu 04-Feb-16 06:01:06

mrz Thu 04-Feb-16 06:47:50

whereonthestair Thu 04-Feb-16 07:40:28

Thank you all very much. It is not that he does not get the sounds, he just can't segment. So he can "guess" words pretty accurately by their shape, and context, but not by phonics. As for the alien words, I am just a bit stuck as there is no context, he can "read" other words he hasn't seen before by context sometimes because of length, shape etc but not really by phonics.

He writing is poor because of his other disability (cerebral palsy) his typing is ok.

whereonthestair Thu 04-Feb-16 07:41:49

I was also thinking as an adult I don't think I use phonics to read new words, more a variation, but maybe I do and just don't realise. I certainly was never taught phonics as I am too old!

meditrina Thu 04-Feb-16 07:52:33

"as an adult I don't think I use phonics to read new words, more a variation, but maybe I do and just don't realise"

I think this is almost certainly true. Adults who are fluent readers are shown (by brain scans) to be reading phonically, whether they have been explicitly taught phonically or not. Teaching it explicitly is easier for more children (around 95% succeed) than letting them self-discover it by exposure (about 80% succeed).

With a DC who can't learn phonically (as opposed to won't, or will but rather more slowly than expected), then more skilled interventions are needed, and you may need to brace yourself that they will never become a skilled reader (as they won't be able to make enough sense of texts with words they have not learned by sight and cannot decode, and once beyond illustrated texts for smaler children it goes beyond the guessable).

LikeASoulWithoutAMind Thu 04-Feb-16 07:52:42

I'm not an expert OP but you could look at an approach like Toe by Toe? My friend's son really struggled with phonics but that approach worked really well for him.

Rather than segmenting can you teach him to look at the word sound by sound until he's built up the first segment? Then continue etc. sorry if that's a crap suggestion.

Is the school getting much outside input? Really hope you can find some good strategies to help him.

ReallyTired Thu 04-Feb-16 10:07:12

"As a result of this he has a real difficulty both with the typical letter confusions b and d, p and q etc, but also with segmenting words. "

A lot of five year olds get confused between different letters and segmenting words. Your son is still really little and his difficulties maybe nothing to do with the brain damage he has suffered. Its possible that your son might be having problems that are not related to cerabral palsy. For example something like glue ear or being short sighted would hinder a child (without brain damage) from learning to read. What is his your son's hearing like? Has he had his eye sight tested?

I think that lots of fun games is good for any five year old. This site has lots of suggestions

There are some really good IPad apps, some of the jolly phonics resources, alphablock videos are fun. It may well be that you have to develop pre reading skills that most children learn in nursery. Your son needs to develop his listening ablities if he is going to learn to read by phonics. Would he enjoy a music group?

whereonthestair Thu 04-Feb-16 17:45:30

Thanks again. I am not trying to dismiss phonics, I am not convinced but I appreciate that it is complicated and that the research is mixed by confusion between synthetic phonics and others etc. I also accept I don't personally understand it, not having been taught to read phonetically.

I think the hearing bit of phonics ds does get, he understands it, but just cannot "see" it is that makes sense. He is also just about keeping up with the group who are his peers but are also struggling if that makes sense.

It all seems so complex. Ds can guess words I cannot see he has been exposed to, or remember them from somewhere long ago (foodstuffs, shops, also things which seem out of context, so John Lewis on the bottom of a pan for example). He sometimes comes out with stuff which makes me think ok he can read ok, but then when it comes to biff and kipper we both want to murder them all! Sound by sound seems like it might work and school are getting some help, but getting any help is really difficult (and this is for a child with a full statement, 35 hours 1-1 and both physio and ot input).

His conventional eyesight is fine (that was tested before the visual perception) as is his hearing (again been tested several times). Have gone and got phonics flash rad, other things to improve visual perception strategies like spot the difference and where's wally - ot suggestions- and going to try and persevere). Will take account of all the suggestions on here. Thank you all, even those who may think I am too intransigent!

ReallyTired Thu 04-Feb-16 21:34:43

I suggest you get your son some high quality decodable books. Biff and chip are not the best books to teach reading. Lots of NT children find Biff and
Chip a nightmare.

Its good that your son under an occupational therapist. There is lots that can be done to help a five year old develop visual perception. My son has very poor visual perception and he had OT at five years old. He had tremendous results with Write from the Start.

There is a huge ablity range among NT children. Its not unusual for five year olds to be unable to read.

rosebiggs Sat 06-Feb-16 20:11:12

Don't give up on phonics at 5 - it's far too early. Can he blend cvc words?
Ditch the Biff and Chip books. Try decodable books with cvc words and move on from there.

Cressandra Mon 08-Feb-16 11:24:39

I still cover up parts of words to help them try one sound at a time.

Agree with others that 5 year olds muddling letters is in the normal range, and there are much better books out there than biff chip and kipper. The Songbirds ones are nice, and IMO much easier & more rewarding than Biff etc. There seems to be a higher concentration of cvc words in the earliest ones. Also in each book you are practising a specific sound or letter pattern, which makes it easier to get right.

Reading does seem to click for different children at different times. Different problem but when my DD was in Y1 we could NOT get her to retain tricky words, even 2 letter ones, for love nor money. She'd read backwards a lot too. It is hard work reading with a child who can't even read "the" or "cat" after 4 terms of trying. But her teachers kept saying she's little, just keep it fun and it'll come. It clicked one day, almost overnight it seemed, and she's been a complete bookworm ever since. Teachers and children are under more pressure in Y1 now I think - the expectation has shifted - but 5 year olds are still very little.

ShortyShortLegs Mon 08-Feb-16 12:48:31

My 12 year old son has a Severe Phonological Speech Disorder....this means he cannot learn to read phonetically as he cannot say the sounds. He is also severely short sighted, has Auditory Processing Disorder and suspected dyslexia.

He has learnt to read a lot of words by sight, we started with labelling everything round the house, fridge, television, door, etc. with flash cards Blutacked on. I would take some of the cards down, and he would have to match them up again. Then played endless games with flashcards and special speech therapy flash cards we made using sheets from his speech therapist...such as matching games like Flip Flop, starting with two picture cards with name of item underneath, then one word and one picture then just words.

I was lucky in that his sisters helped too, one was a very quick reader, the other had a phonological speech delay (now a fluent reader) and neither used phonics to learn to read...they played the endless word games too and made up games with DS, took turns at pronouncing sounds and reading flash cards before every roll of the dice/piece of jigsaw. And we played eye-spy with words than begin with [insert colour/letter/beginning sound].

He has always been better reading with capital letters, and when he got his laptop, his reading/spelling started to improve (short words only), however his reading really took off when he started playing on Animal Jam and then Minecraft....he can now recognise all Minecraft related words! but sometimes not out of context.

Realistically, he will probably never be able to read a book, which I find incredibly sad, but, with audio books, etc., he won't miss out completely. And he isn't bothered....he prefers me to read him reference books anyway.

He manages really well, and is great at recognising packaging, but cannot read a letter, instructions on packets, etc. although is a 'visual learner' so can work most things out by looking at diagrams.

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