Teaching Children With Learning Disabilities - Down Syndrome
Reading and Writing for Children with Down syndrome (5-11 years)
Article found at www.down-syndrome.org
Teaching children with learning disabilities, including those with
Down syndrome, involves using special techniques to meet thir needs.
Teaching phonics to children with Down syndrome is particularly effective. Here
are some suggestions for teaching children with learning disabitlies:
- Learning how letters link with the units of sounds that build words helps
to develop children's
phonological awareness. Teaching that helps to make the sound system of
a language more explicit helps children to recognize, produce and monitor the sounds
that they say and write.
- All young children and many older children with Down syndrome benefit from practicing
saying the sounds that make up speech and joining the sounds together to build
syllables and words. This is particularly useful way of teaching reading to children with speech
motor difficulties, who may be considered as having speech dyspraxia.
- Linking sounds with letters or groups of letters (graphemes) may help speech
perception, phonological awareness, reading, spelling and writing, and speech production.
It is also likely to help their higher order language processing, by increasing
their perception of grammatical words and promoting the development of grammar comprehension.
Children should learn about phonics from an early age, beginning with learning about
letters, their names, and the sounds they make.
Children with Down syndrome will bring different degrees of phonological awareness
(the ability to hear the sounds that make up words) to the reading task. They will
have differing abilities to produce or say sounds even when they can perceive them,
different abilities to recognize sounds in words, even when they know them as isolated
sounds, and different abilities to say single words, words of different length and
complexity, and sentences. Individual starting points and rates of progress will
vary, as will the stage at which the learner will begin to use
phonic skills for reading and writing and the extent
to which their skills will develop. There is no accepted pattern in the way that
children with Down syndrome will hear, perceive, identify, recall or produce sounds,
although learning to read, write and spell, practicing speaking and developing clear
speech will all affect this system of learning.
Skilled readers with Down syndrome, who began early (in preschool years) and have
continued to develop literacy skills with their peers, may be very good at reading
using their phoneme and grapheme knowledge. It is not unusual for such readers to
be able to read and pronounce, and sometimes spell, words that are considered to
be years ahead of their chronological age, for example, word reading similar to
typically developing 16 year olds when they are 10 or 11.
There is an accepted order for teaching phonics that is used in most phonic teaching
schemes. The authors' advice is to teach phonics from the typical age - many preschool
children with Down syndrome know letter sounds and names, even if they cannot clearly
say all of them. Learning to finger spell letters of the alphabet will help children
to learn letter names and sounds. For most children, a phonic teaching system used
for teaching typically developing children in school is usually adequate. Later
starters may need more age appropriate materials than the typical infant resources.
Children will learn how to hear and see the letters in words, beginning with short
phonically regular words of two and three letters. They will practice seeing and
hearing where the sounds are in the positions of the word, written and spoken. Working
with rhyming sets of words helps to simplify the task.
Children with learning disabilities will be enabled to participate in this type
of work by showing their choices manually, rather than verbally. They will also
be helped by having a smaller selection of choices, even two, to choose between.
Letter cards, letters that can be handled, or pointing to select letters from a
short list, will all make this easier for them.
Children who develop handwriting skills early may be able to write letters as they
participate in phonic teaching games and activities.
However, most young children in the infant age range (4-7 years) will need to use
letters on card, made of sponge or plastic, letter magnets, and suitable computer
software until they have learned to write the letters of the alphabet. Teaching
children with learning disabilities involves explicit instruction in reading, writing,
and speaking. In this manner, children will develop their speech production alongside
reading and writing skills.
Many infant programs or activities are suitable for teaching these skills - they
are skills that all children learn in school. There are also junior and secondary
programs designed for older children with reading difficulties that present typical
infant targets in more age appropriate ways.
Some programs suit children of any age, although young children with Down syndrome
may not understand some of the vocabulary used in all age programmes,
and the suitability of the vocabulary content should be checked. Children with Down
syndrome are likely to be learning phonic skills more slowly than the majority of
pupils, but there are many other children in schools that have difficulties in this
area of learning and development. The same resources are likely to suit all of these
children, for example, children with
dyslexia, Down syndrome, hearing impairments, language impairments, developmental
delay and children learning English as a second language.
As you are teaching children with learning disabilities, keep in mind that children
with Down syndrome vary greatly in the development of their phonic skills. They
need the same variety of teaching methods
for learning to read and write as other children, with some additional methods to
compensate for language, memory and handwriting developmental delays.
They do not need phonic skills to make progress with learning to read, as they will
learn using their good visual memories, but they benefit from learning phonics
to build their speech, language, reading, writing and spelling skills.
Many children and young people with Down syndrome will be able to use phonic skills
to read novel words and to write and spell, and some will accelerate in their reading
and writing development once they have mastered these skills. All children should
continue to learn phonics throughout their education.
Learn how our reading programs can help in teaching children
with learning disabilities