Autism · Family

Teachers, hold on you’re not going to like this!

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m not too interested in teaching my daughter phonics (sharp intake of breath from any primary school teachers.) She has Autism which means we (I, teachers etc) must follow her lead, let her take our hands and guide us to where she wants and needs to go.


At the moment this means whole word learning, if the teachers out there weren’t already shooting me an evil glance at the no phonics practice by now, their hackles should be fully up and spitting in my direction. I can why, it goes against everything they have seen work with children in mainstream education…but my daughter isn’t mainstream. She moves to her own rhythm, at her own time and to be completely frank, I couldn’t give a damn who it upsets.

At the moment we have no SLT (Speech and Language Therapist) as ours has decided that she still doesn’t want to communicate. When she takes my hand and leads me to the milk, biscuits, TV etc., this apparently doesn’t count. She isn’t using any functional language….erm, isn’t that their role? To help with ‘Speech and Language’?? Anyway don’t get me started!

What she can say:

  • The whole alphabet
  • Numbers 1-10
  • Knees and Toes (relating to Head, shoulders, knees and toes)
  • Eieio (relating to Old MacDonald)
  • Ball, Baby and a couple of other random words*

What she can’t say:

  • Hello
  • Mama
  • Any ‘functional’ language

*These random words are thanks to Dr Titzer and his Your Baby Can Read program. We started showing her this DVD about about 10 months before words such as Autism, Special Needs, Statements meant anything to me. She instantly loved it, I thought it was a bit boring and very repetitive and I worried she’d pick up an American accent. Oh how our priorities change, for all I care she can speak like the Jamaican bobsled team if it means she’s talking.


She watched this DVD for months and although she loved it there was no progress, at all. She did not read, speak or do the actions like I was told she would. I became disheartened and not long after that the word Autism began to creep into my psyche.

She had a pretty big break from watching Dr Bob and his daughters and only in the last couple of months (since the copying words) has she started watching it again. The is now 3 years and 1 month and she still loves it. Don’t ask me why but she does.

The first day she read a word from the screen aloud, I didn’t let myself believe it. My ears are playing tricks on me, it’s just babble that’s fairly similar etc. I never like to get too excited and then be disappointed. The time when she read 4 successive words with my mum sitting next to me I couldn’t deny it anymore. I was so elated and overjoyed told the professionals at her IEP review,

“Are you sure she hasn’t just memorized the order of the words?”

Was their reply. I didn’t care, she had never said words so clearly before whether they were memorized or not but I felt I needed to test this out. Everyday I write Ball and Baby on her Magna-doodle and probably 50% of the time she reads the word, she prefers Ball to Baby (can’t say I blame her.)

Today I heard her repeat Diaper (not ideal in the UK but a word is a word,) this time I am not doubting her. It has gone straight to the Magna-doodle test but so far she has been reluctant to look away from The Lion King or the iPad for long enough to work it out. I rubbed it out an wrote Ball and she happily obliged with her version.


So, this is progress right? Surely nobody can deny that this method is actually teaching her. Right now I know 100% phonics wouldn’t confuse her they simply wouldn’t compute and would be filtered away like water off a ducks back. So for now we have a method, it seems fairly controversial but if it’s working why should that matter?


9 thoughts on “Teachers, hold on you’re not going to like this!

  1. What the hell do teachers know anyhow? I feel I’m not putting my son into a system that I dont believe in. You have to do what you feel is right for your child good on you Lauren. Here in Canada its not so out of the norm to home shcool and theres lots of support for those who do. Keep up the good work..xx

    1. Thanks Steve, I love the idea of Home Ed but if I’m completely honest I need the time to get stuff done around the house. I’d never day never as if I can’t find a school I’m 100% with I’d rather home teach her and pay a childminder every now and again. xx

  2. It’s a known fact that a lot of autistics learn whole words rather than phonics – if it works for your wee one then on you go my love, and don’t let anyone tell you differently. You are her expert. And her communication seems fine to me – any toddler that can indicate the need for a biscuit is communicating just fine. She may speak more, she may not for ages yet, but I don’t think you can doubt her intellect for a second.

    1. Thanks hon, I agree I know she is smart it’s just all locked up in that little head of hers but slowly and surely it’s trickling out! Oh and it’s so true about the biscuits!! If she knows they are there she will literally drag me to the kitchen cupboard haha.

  3. *high five* . Congratulations to you both. You know what your doing and carry on. If there’s one thing that is true to its words ‘a mother knows best’. I applaud you. Thanks for sharing xx

  4. Oh god the phonics RULE THE WORLD, don’t they…my daughter was a bit behind in learning her letters and sounds, but seemed to like and be able to read whole words much more easily. Yet I couldn’t get her teacher to give her a reading book to bring home, because though she could read and recognise whole words, she ‘wasn’t ready’. I was really frustrated that there didn’t seem to be any flexibility at all, and really angry that he was being discouraged rather then encouraged, because she wasn’t doing it the prescribed way!

  5. You are right to go with the flow. (Natty has DS) and we found the DVDs of Singing Hands (they use sign too which might help your daughter) and Justin Fletchers Bee Bright really visual and repetitive in a way she loved.
    She too learns words in whole words fashion, but loved the phonics actions, so now we have both side by side. Worth a try. Great post.

  6. Oh you are so right. It’s about learning at their pace, not at the pace set for the masses (some of whom it works for). You are doing exactly the right things – and the results prove it! As mum to a 6 year old girl with autism who also struggled with speech originally, I know how much I longed for her to say ‘love you’ for a long time. I thought it might never happen, but it did. There should always be hope 🙂 glad to have found your blog!

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