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speech delay and learning to read/write

(51 Posts)
zebramummy Wed 10-Jun-09 10:38:42

not sure whether to post here or in an education forum (so will post to both) but my son (age 3, nearly 4, bilingual) has had speech delay but is now rapidly closing the gap. i have heard that around 70 percent of children who have had this delay go onto develop problems with literacy. i was just wondering if this was true and whether there are any early signs to indicate that they may need extra help. ds has always had an insatiable appetite for words, books, songs and poems - a bit like described on some of the recent threads on this forum. he will also act out scenes from books and derives a huge amount of enjoyment from them - even when he was stuck on single words from age 1-3 he would always finish off the lastr word and recognise and treasure his books. he knows the alphabet and is really into sounds 'what sould does that make? 'i found a sound' but gets frustrated by the mention of phonics - 'no phonics again!!!' can be heard from several houses away IMO! he recognises his name but not consistently and enjoys art although his mark making is not as developed as some of his peers. does tany of this indicate that he may be ok with picking up the necesssary skills? also, is there a particular approach best suited to children who have had a delay? i have had a look at the usual suspects - phonics-based schemes (yawn!!!), headsprout (too computerised for us) and i am still not sure - i am leaning towards sight reading schemes as it was the way i would have learnt to read (i was reading confidently at three). i worry about him being left behind esp as we live in a part of london with huge class sizes and loads of non-english speakers so i want to give him a headstart because i dont have much faith in the school (despite its outstanding ofsted rating, there is a large value added element imo). your opinions would be most valued

lingle Wed 10-Jun-09 12:16:19

Oh gosh I know a head start sounds good but you have to be so careful I think with little boys not to push them too hard in case you put them off and reduce their love of learning....... which is why you're sensitive to finding the right method I suppose.....

I have read that some kids with problems understanding language have problems learning to read and some kids with problems expressing themselves with language have problems learning to write (and holding the pencil may be hard too).

But others learn to read early because the alphabet letters and words are reassuringly unchanging and follow proper rules and you can read them several times - unlike people and speech that disappears once it's finished! - so they gravitate towards learning to read - but may read better than they understand.

Did you ever manage to pinpoint where the language problem was/is? getting the words in? (hearing or sensory issues) processing their meaning? finding the right word to say back? pronouncing that word?

I would be tempted to listen to that "no phonics" cry. If you can close the gap on his general language and encourage lots of fun drawing, that might be better than teaching him to read and write at this stage. I know I've read quite a few speech therapists pleading with parents not to emphasise the pre-academic skills at the expense of working on general language......

BriocheDoree Wed 10-Jun-09 12:54:58

I think if he is frustrated I would leave it until he's a bit older. Where I live, kids aren't taught to read until they are 6.
DD is also bilingual with quite severe speech delay and it wasn't until nearly 5 that she started to connect sounds and start to spell (she can't read yet, but she can recognise cat, bat, mat, run, sun, fun, that sort of thing). She knew her alphabet when she was 2.5 but it didn't really "mean" anything to her at that age. The thing that has really sparked her off has been a leapfrog "word whammer" on the fridge. (Simple but it seems to have worked).
FWIW, DH could read when he was 3. I didn't learn until I was 6 and we both graduated from a top university so I don't think it held me back!

pagwatch Wed 10-Jun-09 13:43:19

My son is 12 now and has severe speech delay. He reads and writes very well but could not grasp phonics at all and learns words by sight.

DON'T put any pressure on your son . My DS2 is so grateful for this option. He does not read for pleasure much ( but does a bit) BUT when he is strssed and trying to say something but can't be understood he now has the option to write it down. An absoloute Godsend for him

sickofsocalledexperts Wed 10-Jun-09 14:36:38

I taught my DS (autistic) to read using the Jolly phonics DVD - actually only the bit where the lady says the letter sounds. He learnt each letter group by group, with choc rewards. Once he had every letter sound mastered, I moved to blending, which he got quite quickly and now reads far better than he speaks. I started using the DVD at about 3 - it is a long painstaking job, but it sounds like your DS is ready. I also used Baby Bumblebee for upper case letters, numbers, colours and opposites. To me, the sight reading system is not as good as (some) asd kids might respond better to the logic of phonics - eg c a t spells cat because that's exactly how it sounds. Later of course you do have to teach tricky words by sight (eg said. )I think if he is ready and interested in sounds, then go for it as you are right that London schools are huge in class size and you 'll end up doing it yourself anyway.

moondog Wed 10-Jun-09 16:33:37

Subject of my MSc!
(I'm a salt working with bilingual kids and adults.)
No time to respond now but will return.

TotalChaos Wed 10-Jun-09 18:40:33

I agree with both lingle and sickofsocalled experts! I would say - don't force anything re:learning to read before he starts school, but the one thing that's worth trying at this stage is a suitable dvd or CD, such as Fun with Phonics, or the Jolly Phonics song CD, so that he is exposed to the phonic sounsd without feeling like it's hard work ifyswim.

btw my ds has language delay, he is making reasonable progress with reading, in that I suspect he's below average, but within the normal range for his age. My DS is very much a visual learner, so he finds reading sight words easier than blending, each child is different, sickofsocalled's child seems to be the complete opposite....

zebramummy Wed 10-Jun-09 20:18:57

lingle - not really though i suspect it was possibly sensory at least in part. there was also an issue with his tongue (he could not poke it out v far and found it difficult to chew - i learnt a few mr tongue type techniques online and applied them - ds spent a fortnight stretching his tongue in all directions - then all of a sudden, crystal clear speech emerged followed by chaining words together once his confidence grew). i have never mentioned the tongue issue to a salt but i have since researched it online and apparently it is a form of tongue-tie which could have been spotted much earlier on and corrected via clipping under the tongue - salts pls feel free to correct me!

my ds was diagnosed with speech and language delay around his second birthday - i took him to a nursery rhyme session run by a speech therapist and she noticed that he didnt really want to join in and got upset if i did not accompany him out of the room in which it was taking place (circle of around 30 people). she then visited my house a few times to assess him and give advice. i decided not to implement some of the advice (drop all naps immediately, stop breasfeeding him now, start potty training now etc.) because i felt it was absurd and irrelevant. at 3 years he had 2.5 hours of salt input (half hr/day for one week) and similar at 3.5. ds is v shy/only child/had not yet started nursery - during the sessions, i would always point out that he knew a lot of the things he was failing to demonstrate and that these words were part of his spontaneous vocabulary but the salt was not convinced and after a while i reckon that she thought i was completely deluding myself into believing that he was anything other than mute. in reality, despite his lack of chaining words together he was communicating non-stop as best he could from the start and had developed a beautiful relationship with books from age 1 (dh having witnessed all of this too!). fast forwarding a few months, he now has very clear pronunciation and well constructed sentences - most sentences are around 4-5 words although i am still working on extending some 'too short' replies (i have ordered 'talkability') - occasionally we get really long sentences too with a wide-ranging vocabulary. he is desperate to learn and learn which is why i am considering teaching him to read - i am honestly not pushy at all; i simply believe he is telling me that he is ready

zebramummy Wed 10-Jun-09 20:25:04

thanks TC and sickof..- i have the bumblebee dvds so i will dig them out.
i will consider buying a phonics dvd too
BD and Pag - thanks, will bear that in mind
moondog - look forward to your reply

lingle Wed 10-Jun-09 20:52:40

Gosh what peculiar advice you got. I'm glad things are going better now.

TotalChaos Wed 10-Jun-09 21:08:15

Moondog - update re:DS and Headsprout -
2 issues
1)completely my fault - DS tends to go through spates of enthusiam, so some weeks spending loads of time on it and other weeks none.
2)DS I think still memorises the blending rather than being able to generalise it as a skill.

in all, I think it's been a useful accompaniment to the school based reading programme, but I don't feel DS has learnt dramatic amounts from it.

moondog Wed 10-Jun-09 23:05:39

Interesting thread.
it is my opinion that reading is even more important to a child with comm. issues.It gives them something concrete to 'hang' arbitrary sounds and meanings on. This is the research question I am looking into.

We know how to teach reading effectively.It isn't hard, being a simple decoding exercise (although as Lingle rightly states, there are many people who can decode effectively but not comprehenend what they read, something many teachers haven't a clue about). Phonics approaches allow a child to tackle new words. Sight reading works up to a point but will always be limited. Good phonics skills are like giving a builder a pile of bricks,tools and mortar.He can then make anything. Sight reading is like building a kit house each time.

As I mention frequently on MN, my programme of choice is which is based on the principles of behaviour Analysis (the science of effectively teaching and learning and reinforcing and maintaining new skills of any sort. I am only interested in data driven evidence based educational practices (one might believe that all educators are but in fact the reverse is true.Most hide their inadequacies and failings behind lame excuses that teaching is an art and not a science and that if a child hasn't learnt, the child is at fault as opposed to the method of instruction.)

In Precision Teaching, the filed of Behaviour Analysis I am interested in, our mantra is 'If the pupil hasn't learnt, the teacher hasn't taught'.

There is nothing available that comes even close to Headsprout in terms of what it has consistently been shown to deliver, hence its use in thousands of schools in the States. The R&D factor is staggering and its creators are some of the biggest and most respected names in this field.

Not sure about it being 'too computerised'. I'm not into computers or high tech stuff (have never texted for example, never been on Facebook, don't own a camcorder).The way it can be accessed and the way it stores relvant data is the easiest thing in the world. After a few episodes, my dd controlled the entire thing herself.

The SALT advice you had Zebra, sounds nuts. What a bloody cheek telling you not to breastfeed or give naps.Loon.It really pisses me off when people give advice beyond their professional remit. Imagine if someone less confident had gone with that. angry

As I said, I work bilingually and my own dd is bilingual with considerable language difficulties. I was determined that she would read properly and did it myself, using initially the standard old fashioned techniques used in a SALT clinic for phonological work (I give SALT a hard time on MN, but there is noone better than a SALT and understanding and untangling the complicated relationship between marks on a paper (ie letters) and sounds. They spend huge amounts of time working on this and yet it is one area of advanced skill that is not really utilised in this country (it is in France with SALTs).

We speak Welsh which is phonetically very balanced (ie highly consistent letter/sound match). I started my dd on Headsprout when she was 6 and it has made a staggering differnece to her reading ability and also her ability to write in English which interestingly is a skill that has never really been taught. (She goes to a Welsh medium school and I always work on Welsh writing with her at home.)

Her really solid literacy skills in both languages allow her to comprehend things that language alone might let her down on (eg complicated arrangements in the future that have to be changed) Fir example, she wanted me to cook a goose that has been in the freezer for months, but due to lots of differnet matters it kept on having to be delayed. The calndar she has kept religiously (first using pictures and now writing only)was changed with every delay and it worked fine. Most of our family live abroad-as do we half the year-and the calendar documents evetryone's coming and goings in a way she really graps properly.)

Total, how far on are you with Headsprout?
Sorry to hear you are not progressing as hoped.
Headsprout are very clear on the importance of doing it consistently to maintain skills. We are talking 3-5 episodes a week.If not maintained, then you will not see progress,it's as simple as that.

Have you laso downloaded the accompanying books? They are essential.

It is possible your child would benefit from one of two additional layers of support not available for home programmes, these being additional frequency building exercises.The kids I am using it on as part of my research are receiving the most intense support package of these two in addition to the online episodes.

Als important to note that Headsprout not created for kids with special needs.The main area of interest now for them is whether it is indeed sensitive enough to cater for their needs and if not, what needs to be tweaked.

I am involved with the company directly (not paid by them I hasten to add but through my uni we are involved in several research projects on its use.

Other impportant issue is not to correct/expalin/assist the child other than to offer support. The programme (online) automatically adjusts to provide additional tuition in weak areas, so vital that child's true level of ability not masked.

I've just come back from international ABA conference in Arizone where I spent time with Headsprout folk and sat in on various symposia. One of the best was a presentation on their latest product (online also) which will address
'Wh' questions and difficulties with them.

This sounds like the holy grail for me as a SALT and a parent.I think they will let us trial it before it goes on genreal release.I will keep you posted.


moondog Wed 10-Jun-09 23:11:02

Tye Cambridge Centre for Behavioral Studies has some great and clear explanations of the applications of Behavior Analysis, in particular with regards to Precision Teaching which I mention above and which is the backbone of all I do both as a SALT, a budding behaviour analyst and a parent.

zebramummy Thu 11-Jun-09 09:47:48

many thanks for your advice moondog - i am not sure whether ds is still too young for headsprout - i was wondering whether it would be possible to use it by printing off the online material rather than ds using the computer himself?

TotalChaos Thu 11-Jun-09 10:09:01

Moondog - many many thanks for your most helpful and interesting post, I am v. grateful you have taken the time to give such a full explanation. My gut feeling is that DS still has auditory processing issues - so while he can easily assign a phoneme to a sound, he finds the reverse more difficult, which is where he struggles with blending. e.g. he can write about a "rabit" sp but not reliably a CVC word without support! school have given me some extra blending work to do with him - cards with three letter words with a dot under each letter, to get him sounding out then to blend.

I am v.v. interested in this new "wh" word product you mention. is it geared towards kids with LDs/language impairment? and is it available now?

moondog Thu 11-Jun-09 15:44:35

It's a pleasure ladies.

Total, a phoneme is a sound.
Do you mean a letter to a sound?
What you say is interesting.
One of my subjects has similar issues to your ds and we are working hard on addressing this.

Zebra, I don't know your child but someone who is not yet 4 is in my opinion a little young for Headsprout, yes. My son is nearly 5 and I think about ready.

It won't 'work' with just printing online material, no. Why are you so averse to using the computer I wonder? it does all the work for you.What's not to like? smile

Headsprout works out at £1.62 an episode.
Staggering value.

I am awaiting some inside info. on the new product so will let you know when I know more.
You could of course contact them yuorself, they are most helpful.

Note to self: speak to Headsprout about a PR fee.

moondog Thu 11-Jun-09 15:45:22

And TC, to what episode did you get with it?

TotalChaos Thu 11-Jun-09 17:54:11

yes, I meant sound to a letter! my DS has got to episode 27. must see if DS wants to go on Headsprout tonight after we do some cooking!

good idea bout dropping them an e-mail, will do shortly.

zebramummy Thu 11-Jun-09 20:06:22

oh i am not averse to using the computer as such - just thinking along the lines of de-toxing childhood for ds more than anything else. i feel that i may have become over-reliant upon the electronic babysitter during one of the crucial years of his development (hmmm)

moondog Thu 11-Jun-09 21:29:05

Zebra, please don't guilt trip yourself about over reliance on electronic babysitters.If this really was damaging, most kids in the developed world would have communication problems!

Each Headsprout episode takes about 20 mins. You sit with the child and it is lovely to share sense of achievement when they finish an episode.

TC, remember, 3 episodes a week minimum (we did one a day, every day) and have you downloaded the books to read? You need to.

Also Episode 27 is still early days.There are 80, remember.

TotalChaos Sat 13-Jun-09 19:55:40

thanks MD, have downloaded the books.

BriocheDoree Sun 14-Jun-09 11:32:56

Hmm, my DD still can't get past episode 3 of headsprout. I think it's HARD for little kids. If Zebramummy's DS is only young it might be a bit tough (although you can at least try the free episodes to get a feel for it). DD loves it but because the instructions are beyond her it doesn't seem worth buying the other episodes...
Wish I knew a good way of teaching her to read that didn't require computer skills because she can't handle a mouse and I can't afford a touch pad.

zebramummy Wed 17-Jun-09 21:15:55

thanks bd - if you find one pls let me know as i am no closer to an answer myself - tho' he is starting to enjoy phonics all of a sudden

BriocheDoree Wed 17-Jun-09 21:33:03

Oh, give the headsprout free lessons a go and see how he gets on. My DD loved them, just couldn't do them.
We've recently had some success with
DD has loved the games on there for some time but we've just started trying the phonics stuff on the learning to read site and it's making her think!

saintlydamemrsturnip Wed 17-Jun-09 21:39:53

zebra- you could look at Marion Blank's book on reading/writing and on Amazon. It's pretty cheap. Although the book is written for NT kids with reading/writing difficulties she has also developed a scheme getting children who are autistic and non-verbal to read and write so she doesn't mind a challenge

We have been using it with DS1 (non-verbal, severely autistic aged 10, functioning at a pre-sentence level of understanding) . His behaviour is a problem, but he can certainly do the work presented in her way and he has started to learn to read and write a little. I'm not sure how far he will progress with it (but he has huge challenges) - we are hoping it will provide another route to language.

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