Sunday, September 20, 2009

Teaching Tommy to read

I have been very proactive since I was prenatally diagnosed of carrying a baby with Down syndrome. While I was pregnant, I was determinate to find anything that would help me to stimulate my son before and after birth. Then, I found Down-Syndrome Online. This a very helpful website to start looking for information of how to teach a child with Down syndrome.  "Down Syndrome Online offers a comprehensive, reliable and up-to-date range of information, resources and services for families, practitioners and researchers caring for, supporting and investigating Down syndrome. Down Syndrome Online is published by Down Syndrome Education International, a leading international charity dedicated to advancing the understanding of effective ways of help the development and education of people with Down syndrome."

Our goal to create a future of opportunities for my son started before I planned. Reading is something you would think to teach to your child when she or he is at school. After talking with other parents with kids with Down syndrome who have taught reading to their kids at early age and reading the book "Early Communications for kids with Down syndrome" and many other articles related to this topic, we are convinced that it is beneficial for our son to read at a very young age.

There is one article a personally recommend to other parents is 'Reading and writing for individuals with Down syndrome - An overview' by Sue Buckley. According to this article, the benefits of teaching reading to teach talking:
  • Children with Down syndrome have difficulty in learning their first language from listening 
  • They find learning visually easier than learning from listening
  • Printed words seem to be easier for them to remember than spoken words
  • Print can be used from as early as two years of age to support language learning
  • Many children with Down syndrome can begin to learn to read from this early age and are able  to remember printed words with ease
  • All language targets can be taught with the aid of written material, even to children who are not able to remember the words and read independently
  • Reading activities, at home and in the classroom, teach new vocabulary and grammar.
  • Reading enables the child with Down syndrome to practise complete sentences - teaching grammar and supporting correct production
  • Reading can help speech at the level of sounds (phonemes), whole word production and sentence production
  • Reading to children with Down syndrome and teaching them to read, may be the most effective therapy for developing their speech and language skills from infancy right through school years
  • Research studies show that reading instruction in school has a significant effect on language and working memory development for children with Down syndrome

We started teaching Tommy to read a few weeks ago with The Love and Learning Program. This program was developed by Joe and Susan Kotlinski.

"After our daughter was born with Down syndrome, the doctor told us that we must be realistic and face the fact that our daughter might learn to feed and cloth herself but would not be able to learn higher functioning tasks such as reading. We decided to try to teach her anyway. Because we were not able to find learning materials we felt were suited to her special learning needs, we decided to make our own to help her with language and reading development. We were amazed at what Maria did learn. Encouraged by Maria's preschool teacher we decided to share the technique with other families." 
~ Joe and Susan Kotlinski

The process to teach a child with down syndrome to read is a long term process and it shouldn't take more than 4 minutes a day with the Love and Learning program. We bought the first kit a couple of weeks ago, and Tommy seems to enjoy it. We are combining this program with sight word books and flash cards. 

To get a better guide and support on teaching our child to read, I contacted the Down Syndrome Education International Organization to participate in the study for early readers with Down syndrome. 

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