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Phonics and Speech disorder

(22 Posts)
AdelaofBlois Mon 29-Nov-10 13:09:13

Does anyone have a DC in mainstream schooling who has been taught to read using Synthetic Phonics? I'm choosing schools for DS at the moment, getting lots of different comments form SENCOs, and am lost.

Because DS is lucky enough to show normal language development otherwise, but has real problems making sounds (both in consistency and accuracy). He 'read' his first word-shop signs-at 1 and already (3.2) has a sight vocab of about 20-30 words (in that he's seen them in books and can recognise them out of context too). So he seems alright when it comes to reading.

But SP teaching starts by getting everyone to make sounds, then showing them the letters, then blending, then words. Even if he can cope, he'll f'ing hate it and it will mark him out instantly as a shite reader, becasue he is (not to put to fine a point on it) a shite speaker in terms of his sounds.

So what should I be expecting SENCOs to say?

maizieD Mon 29-Nov-10 14:36:18

Lots of Speech and Language therapists love SP because it helps children with speech difficulties improve their enunciation of phonemes. A good SP teacher will be able to build on the speech therapy which (I hope) he is getting. Many SP teachers will use techniques such as mirrors to look at mouth & tongue positions and thinking of the 'feel' of phonemes, air flow over tongue & teeth etc. anyway, to help ('normal') children who have a problem with breaking the spoken word into phonemes to identify them .

As speech therapy works at the phoneme level then your son should have an advantage in an SP classroom as he will already know the phonemes!

The essential thing about SP teaching is that the child learns the graphemes (letter or letters)which correspond with the sound they, the child, are making. Even if your son doesn't pronounce the phonemes absolutely clearly or conventionally, the grapheme, for him, is associated with the sound he makes for that phoneme, so he will be able to decode and blend words absolutely fine, they will just come out the way he says them. And of course he will know what they mean, because they'll sound right to him.

I think the 'sh*te speaker' issue is a different one, really. It seems that that it might be more about worries over your son's confidence in speaking to other people. Is he at all self conscious about his speech? I don't see why he should be, unless he has been teased about it.

If you have a choice I would go for a good SP school and it would be even better if the teacher has some knowledge of speech therapy type techniques.

P.S I have worked with a child with verbal dyspraxia. His phoneme knowledge was excellent. Sadly, he wasn't consistently taught SP at primary (a specialist SP&L unit); they taught him letter/sound correspondences for speaking, but look and guess for reading - mad, I know, but conventional wisdom at the time.

maizieD Mon 29-Nov-10 14:44:04

P.S What I meant also to say is that there is no danger of him becoming a 'sh*te reader' because reading is about understanding what the words say (once you've worked them out, of course), their meaning. A physical speech difficulty won't have any adverse effect on that. If it were an expressive or receptive language problem that would be different.

fel1x Mon 29-Nov-10 14:51:25

I dont understand all the terms mentioned!! but my son is in reception and has a slight speech delay (he is ASD). He is learning phonics along with the other children and is doing ok.

He is at the stage now where he can say all the single sounds except 'g' and 'c' or 'k'
but when reading the sounds he just says 'd' for 'g' and 't' for 'c' as thats all he can say! We know he can hear the difference though so just accept that until he is further along in his speech therapy and can say the sounds better.

He cant say any double consonent sounds yet like 'br' or 'st' etc so not sure how that will go when he gets to that point!

School have been great with him though and do lots of speech therapy with him. The fact that he is doing phonics is helping him with his speech I'd say. He's almost able to say 'g' now!

AdelaofBlois Mon 29-Nov-10 15:01:48


Many thanks. He developed the grapheme-phoneme stuff on his own at about 2-he had an alphabet jigsaw, then saw fridge magnets and ran through going 'that shape apple, that shape jelly' etc. He will now identify graphemes by sounds and call them letters, although often needs the clarification to help others understand ('h for house' since 'h' sounds unclear). He's also quite curious about overlap (that word got 'h' in it like my name and brother's name and horse'). And SaLT is helping him hear sounds and sequence well, so he can often say what things begin and end with and play 'I spy'.

But one of the things to come out of that is that he doesn't really have his own grapheme-phoneme correspondence in the way you suggest. To take /b/ as an example he says 'hrg' for /big/ and brud-o for brother. So I don't really think that's going to work for him. Am also a little worried because two SENCOs said they would not want him to have to 'learn' sounds he couldn't consistently make.

And he is remarkably good at just learning at spotting shapes of letters-even the mistakes suggest this (reads 'clarks' shoes as 'Chris' at a distance), and very proud of this. Really worry SP might highlight what he can't do rather dramatically.

He is increasingly self-conscious, although very happy and not thinking of himself as 'odd', just seems to think of not being understood as another problem of being little. He resorts to definition, showing, spelling stuff out, and sometimes says 'I can't say it too hard for you understand'. Basically, he wants to say more than he can, and it's making him very cross. His largish vocabulary doesn't help.

Am seeing SaLT tomorrow. So far she's just gone 'we work with all local schools', whioch is nice, but this is somethign specific where I'm trying to spot the really good SENCOs as much as anything else.

Thanks again.

maizieD Mon 29-Nov-10 19:05:28

"To take /b/ as an example he says 'hrg' for /big/ and brud-o for brother."

Isn't his SALT working on this? I do see the problem, though, to get it right if he can say the 'b' in 'brud-o' he can say the phoneme and reading words with the 'correct' phonemes may well help him to get it right each time.

I can't help feeling that the SENCos who say they 'don't want him to learn sounds he can't consistently make' are being less than helpful. I may be being very naive here, but isn't the whole point of speech therapy actually teaching a child how to produce phonemes correctly? It is a very, very long time since my children were small, but, when they were, we had an NCT talk by a speech therapist and that is what she said was one of their functions.

I would worry about sight words because a great many apparent 'sight word learners' do actually work out the phonics for themselves. If your son's speech sounds remain unreliable in the way you have described then he would be very unlikely to work out the phonics and would be seriously restricted in his reading vocabulary. He sounds like a lovely bright child, it would be a shame if his reading didn't come right.

maizieD Mon 29-Nov-10 19:11:09

Sorry, first line of my reply, take out ' to get it right ' then it should make sense!

working9while5 Mon 29-Nov-10 20:33:36

I just wrote a long reply but my son hit the keyboard and I lost it!

The SENCO's are right to say that he shouldn't be focusing on words he can't produce, it can confuse things. The SALT should be able to suggest targets based on his current phonemic repertoire and tweak the approach to suit him. The work of Stackhouse and Wells (University of Sheffield) is really instructive - there's a whole series of books by them and colleagues explaining why the lack of grapheme-phoneme correspondence in kids with speech disorder can create ongoing literacy difficulties (although some of it is hard going!). Reading involves both decoding (the phonological aspect) and comprehension. Dyslexia, as we understand it, is when you have good comprehension but poor decoding ability. A higher proportion of kids with a history of speech disorder have dyslexia which many believe is to do with having mislearned phoneme-grapheme correspondences.

MaizieD, in terms of him being able to produce "b", it is not that simple with speech disorder. The essence of speech disorder is that you can produce phonemes in certain contexts but not in others. Most kids with disorder will be working on multiple targets at single level, cv, cvcv, cvc, ccvc, cvcc and multisyllabic levels to address this. It is not at all uncommon for a child with a disorder to be able to produce a sound in a cluster that they can't produce with a vowel (the opposite to typical development).

I had written more but have forgotten it!

maizieD Mon 29-Nov-10 23:14:58

I am very ready to be corrected about SALT here because it is not my area at all!

AoB said that the SENCos didn't want him to have to learn sounds he couldn't produce, not words. I would have thought there is a difference.

Can you confirm, or not, that a child with verbal dyspraxia (which is how he was described on another thread) would be working on the production of phonemes? I assume you are a SALT; what sort of programme/work would you do with a child with physical speech production difficulties?

I'm afraid I have to completely differ from you about 'dyslexia'. In my experience (remediating struggling readers at KS3 and keeping an eye on research and debate about the teaching of reading ) dyslexia is a blanket term which has encompassed just about every 'dis' known to man over the past decade or so... but I don't want to hi-jack this thread.

working9while5 Tue 30-Nov-10 08:06:19

Hi maizieD,

SLT's do work on phonemes, but the phonemes worked on are chosen from assessment of the child's system, not the programme of work at school. With verbal dyspraxia, you would work on different phonemes at different levels e.g.

/k/ at single sound level
/t/ and /d/ at cv level
/m/ and /n/ at cvcv level
/f/ at cvc level
/s/ at ccvc and cvcc level
/l/ in multisyllabics

This would all be based on individual assessment of existing sounds/syllable shapes produced by the specific child so the above is merely an example. The above doesn't really capture the complexity of the phonetic level work e.g. when transitioning /k/ from single sound level to cv level, you might initially use closed tense vowels as they are more facilitative of production than an open lax vowel etc etc. All of these are somewhat individually dictated.

In the above instance, if you want to teach "c/k/ck" phonemes in synthetic phonics, you would pair those graphemes with sound work at an individual sound level. However, you would either avoid or heavily differentiate cvc work with this sound while it was not established at cvc level e.g.
if the child says "cat" and it is produced as as "dag" or "gat" or "hag", the synthetic phonics approach of sounding out and saying isn't going to work e.g. the child says "c-a-t-" "hag"! It's common sense that this undermines the mechanics of the process.
None of this is to say that you can't work on these sounds, but you would reduce the production component that is so familiar from SP - so you might have the child hand you the sounds or you might sound out and say the word and have them hand you the word etc. However, I wouldn't have them say
To differentiate it, it is possible for the adult to say the whole word and do it really quickly (precision teaching springs to mind - child says c-a-t and adult says cat and you do many, many trials). Alternatively you can use other cues so that the child can indicate that though they are saying "t" they mean "c" e.g. cued articulation (signs) or colour coding.. I went into this in more detail last night but lost the stupid thing..

This is before you consider any work at a phonological level, where the mental representation of the sound is different to the child's own production (e.g. they say "t" but think they are saying "k" or don't perceive the difference between the two as assessed by their inability to perceive the difference between minimal pairs "cat" and "tat"). In pure verbal dyspraxia (vs severe phonological disorder) the disorder is supposed by some to affect the output level (planning and execution of the articulatory movements) only but as diagnostic labels are rarely "pure", there is usually some overlap, complicated by the fact motor movements influence and reinforce the mental representation. If there are any phonological issues, there are quite likely to be some literacy issues without targeted support.

In terms of dyslexia, I'm not really sure what you're saying. I appreciate that poor reading resulting from poor teaching is sometimes labelled dyslexia but "dyslexia" definitely refers to severe decoding issues in the absence of comprehension problems, doesn't it? In my experience the types of errors made by kids with speech disorders/a history of speech disorder very closely reflect the past speech production history and there is quite a significant research body suggesting children with speech difficulties are at risk for literacy difficulties. It makes sense, doesn't it? If what is required to become a fluent reader is that you have strong phoneme-grapheme correspondences but at the time that you are learning graphemes, you produce individual sounds in a myriad of ways, this is going to confuse things for you.

working9while5 Tue 30-Nov-10 08:17:38

Incidentally, the above assumes that the child can produce all the sounds at cv, cvc, cvcv level etc at a single level - a child in the initial stages of this programme might just be working on single sounds or some single sounds and some cvcv sounds etc..
I obviously can't really do it justice without outlining an entire case study.. and this is very simplified.

maizieD Tue 30-Nov-10 10:17:14

Thank you so much for that detail. It is really interesting. We don't get any SALT input at secondary in our LA and children's notes from primary very rarely tell you anything really helpful.

Questions: does this sort of speech difficulty affect many children? Could it go undetected in a mild form?

I am very cynical about 'dyslexia'. I prefer to think of it as a symptom, rather than a discrete condition. Your definition is different from others I have heard, though it sounds a bit like the old 'discrepancy model' (now out of favour) where there is a mismatch between child's IQ and their reading ability. But, as I said, it is a huge, and very contentious, issue.

goingroundthebend4 Tue 30-Nov-10 10:56:59

ds is learning to read but not by phonics as he is incaperable of any other constants other than H ,

Though can make 18 out of the first 23 vowel sounds some of them double

His unit do a lot on clicker 5 and matching what they hear to the sounds on card

AdelaofBlois Tue 30-Nov-10 11:25:46

Thank you both for your expertise and comments, and especially working for the SaLT input. It always astonishes me how willing people are to contribute here. The only way I could ever reciprocate is in the unlikely event of either of you ever needing a crash course in medieval Latin or femininity and masculinity in the 12th century, so thank you so much.

I think (correct me if I'm wrong) that practically I should be asking SENCOs more precisely what they do, how far they tailor it to his individual problems, and what the involvement of SaLTs is. I got the distinct impression they basically thought SaLTs should sort out speech and then he could get on with MS methods. My difficulty is that I don't really see that as fair, he can't just hang around as the rest of the class do sounds he can't make, so what will he be doing at that time? Because, to be honest, if that's the approach I'd rather keep him out of school and in nursery/speech therapy than send him there.

The other problem is his inclination and how we parent. He is fascinated by words-often asks for them to be written down-and is spotting patterns both in sound and on page (last night I misread 'track' for 'truck' in a story and he said 'no, TRACK, it start with /t/ and it got /a/ in mid-mid', then he pointed at the word 'truck' and went (after a pause) 'that not got /a/ that got /u/ for umbrella'. I tend to like it when he does stuff like that, which he picks up on, but what I can't really get across is that while that's what he meant, what he actually said was something like 'hrash' and 'druk'. So he's getting correspondences from adults, but not producing them himself. He can 'read' in some sense, but could never sound to his words.

His speech disorder is, I think, mild in the sense of comprehension (it is easy to tune in to what he is saying, and he has good, if sometimes over posh and adult language otherwise which helps with this). But in terms of production he can't produce /p/ consistently when asked to in isolation, yet alone in words (although he can do so for some words-automatic response which I'm told is typical). And that applies to some really basic sounds to: /b/, /d/, /h/ /t/. And listening varies immensely according to whether he has an ear infection or cold. I don't know how to cope with that, because he will at this rate end up 'reading' simply by recognising and memorising words (as he does now) naturally from stories and questions but not by sounding.

And that sort of terrifies me because I always felt such 'look and learn' stuff was giving him information to work with in the future and to form patterns form, but now fear it may be confusing him more. But I'd feel very sad if I didn't write a word when he asked me to, and I know he feels that being able to say what words are is a useful fallback party trick at times when other adults think he's a bit dim (when unfamiliar adults introduce new vocab and other kids say it his 'tactic' is to look round for a related word he can see in a book or on the wall and go 'that word spell...').

Anyway, your help immense. Any advice on what I should ask or request form SaLTs and schools?

He loved SaLT this morning, even truncated with the hour car journey in the snow. He's playful, happy, full of songs at the moment, and loving to most. Whether he's bright or not I can't say, but I suspect I will love his world the more of it he articulates. I don't want to lose any of this next year.

goingroundthebend4 Tue 30-Nov-10 11:38:40

What about considering speech units only now doi feel that ds is making progress .Ms did not have the ablity to teach ds how he needed to be teached

He will be a sight reader if someone says basic word he can point to it to show that he understands it

He also uses cued articulation and signing to support what he is trying to say

AdelaofBlois Tue 30-Nov-10 12:06:47

Will talk to SaLT about speech units. She was very clear previously that he didn't need statementing, and I am unsure what would happen if there is an afterwards-i.e. if his speech does improve.

Somehow just want to stop the world, get off, cuddle him and sort out speech, then get back on again. But can't.

goingroundthebend4 Tue 30-Nov-10 12:13:33

What normally happens is if big improvement dv are then transfered back to their normal school or they attend the ms school attached and just cone in for sessions with salt

maizieD Tue 30-Nov-10 18:58:36

"The other problem is his inclination and how we parent. He is fascinated by words-often asks for them to be written down-and is spotting patterns both in sound and on page (last night I misread 'track' for 'truck' in a story and he said 'no, TRACK, it start with /t/ and it got /a/ in mid-mid', then he pointed at the word 'truck' and went (after a pause) 'that not got /a/ that got /u/ for umbrella'. "

Wow, that is impressive! He obviously has quite a good idea of how what he hears maps onto the letters, and,from that example it seems to me that he is hearing sounds correctly, even if he can't reproduce them. I think that is something to build on. For example, saying the sounds of the words you write for him, as you are writing the letters which represent them. Just reinforcing the idea that words are made from individual sounds and that the sounds each have a 'spelling'.

Now, 9 -5 might come along and burst my balloon by saying it's not quite as simple as that, but I do think it sounds promising!

He sounds lovely...

Marne Tue 30-Nov-10 20:06:09

Dd2 started ms in september and has been using Synthetic phonics, she has severe language delay and ASD but has enjoyed making the noises/sounds and i would say it has improved her speech 9made it clearer). Dd2 already knew the sounds of letters and her ABC before starting school but could not sound out all the letters.

Last week she was at home with chicken pox and i descovered she could read, she found some books in dd's room, brought them downstairs, chucked them on the floor infront of me and started to read the title of each book to me. I was shock as i have never attempted to read with her as her language skills are so poor, that night she read a whole book to me at bed time grin.

working9while5 Tue 30-Nov-10 22:56:00

No bubble bursting here! I can't write for long tonight as have been out and would make no sense but that does sound very good, he has good phonological awareness so don't you dare stop writing down words and fuelling his enthusiasm!

Maizied I will come back to your questions about speech processing/literacy in adolescents when I am more capable to do them justice! smile

working9while5 Tue 30-Nov-10 22:56:59

No bubble bursting here! I can't write for long tonight as have been out and would make no sense but that does sound very good, he has good phonological awareness so don't you dare stop writing down words and fuelling his enthusiasm!

Maizied I will come back to your questions about speech processing/literacy in adolescents when I am more capable to do them justice! smile

negligentmummy Mon 03-Jan-11 21:43:41

bump- want to read this properly later...

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