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:
- 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?