Monday, April 27, 2009

Reading and Down syndrome

The video idea from Scarehaircare was one of the best suggestion I have received in regards to testing and IEPs. I gave the video of Morgan reading sight words and the kindergarten books to her teacher last month. This was her response, "I watched the video. I'm very pleased but not surprised. I turned it on at the beginning of class for Morgan (and her friends) to watch. She talked more today than she ever has and was smiling and laughing all day. I have some ideas I'd like to talk with you about her reading program and goals. . ."

Morgan's teacher is now sending home Level B guided reading books each week for Morgan to work on. These books are more challenging and she has improved so much in her reading since starting them. The typical kindergarten child should be on Level C at the end of the school year and Morgan is almost there. We met for her IEP goals and her teacher wanted her reading goals to be the same goals as the typical 1st grader for reading. We met with the school district to discuss Morgan's placement for next year and her kindergarten teacher brought the video with her. At the very beginning of the meeting her teacher told the district that she wanted to start with Morgan's video. They were surprised and asked her if they shouldn't first get to know Morgan a little bit before watching the video (which would have never happened because Morgan wasn't about to say one word to them and just looked down the entire meeting). She told them that she felt the video would alter the way they viewed Morgan and was very important in regards to her school placement for 1st grade. They were all amazed at her reading ability and it did change the tone of the meeting.

I have gotten a lot of emails asking me what I did to teach Morgan how to read. I want to make it very clear that Morgan is not the exception. I believe all children with Down syndrome can learn how to read. Most children with Down syndrome are visual learners and need to be taught reading through visual techniques (i.e. flash cards). Morgan knows her letters and sounds so I am also trying to teach her phonics but that is coming at a slower rate than the words she is learning from flash cards and repetition.

I started by making flash cards that said "I", "see", "mom", "dad", "Morgan" (and all the names of her siblings). We worked on those 10 flash cards for several weeks (I did it while she was sitting on the toilet since toilet training is an ongoing battle for us) and once she knew those words I put them into sentences-- "I see mom", "I see Morgan", etc. and we worked on those sentences. Each week when she brought home her kindergarten books I added more flash cards with the high frequency words from those books.

I knew I wanted her to read and just made it up as I went along. Then I went to this really great seminar a few months ago on teaching children with Down syndrome reading. is the company that came and did the reading workshop for us in SLC. They have a wonderful program and recommend starting it with your child as young as possible (around 6 months old). I didn't buy the program because I felt like Morgan was too far ahead in the process and was already reading phrases and books, but if I had found this program when Morgan was younger I would have invested in it, but I think this program can also be implemented in your own flash card program.

Here are the basics of the ereading pro program:

  • Use big flash cards (I was using index cards which are really too small). I made new flash cards on white card stock. I put 3 words on each page so each flash card is about 4"x8.5"
  • Use red font color -- it is a good color to grab the child's attention
  • Read through each card quickly --only spend a few seconds--just enough time to read the word (Don't expect the child to repeat the word. Just say the word as they look at the card and then go on to the next card).
  • Read each card 3x a day
  • Keep cards in categories and teach 1-2 categories at a time (I keep my cards in business size envelopes in categories). Some of the categories that I am working on with Morgan are: food, animals, family names, colors, sight words, verbs (jumping, hop, run, walk, climb, drink, eat,etc.), etc. I go through a lot of cards at one time with Morgan but with this reading program they suggest doing 5 cards from 2 categories for 5-7 days and then adding 2 new cards and removing 2 cards. So that they are always just doing about 10 cards 3xday.
  • If you start this program when your child is young and may not know their colors or all the animals, etc. that you are teaching--put a picture of the item on the BACK of the flashcard (the program suggests for the color flashcards to use paint sample cards from Home Depot), show the word, say the word and you can do the sign at the same time (if child is not verbal yet) and then turn it over and show the picture. That way the word is more powerful than the picture.
  • This program does not teach high frequency/ sight words because they are abstract words that have no meaning to the child (i.e., has, have, the, that, is, this, and, etc.). I have taught these words to Morgan because I didn't know not too :) and she has done great with them. I think these words are valuable because it is what makes it possible for her to read her guided reading books from school.
  • Visual learners have a hard time differentiating words that are similar so it is better to not have words that are similar in your set of 5 words. (For example, Morgan has a hard time knowing if the word is 'blue' or 'brown' because they both start with B). If she is not sure of a word she will usually say 3 words that start with that letter until she gets it right. This means it is harder for them to learn to read using 'word families' like I taught my other children. "bat, cat, hat, chat, rat, fat" all look too similar and are hard for her to catch on to. Even though she knows 'at' and the beginning sounds. I know she will eventually get this concept too but it is not the best way to teach her at this time.
  • Visual learners can learn BIG words so don't limit your flash cards to small words. Go ahead and teach your child 'refrigerator', 'hippopotamus', etc.
  • Don't point at each word. Just say the phrase as they look at the flashcard. (I didn't know this when I started with Morgan so we are still doing the 'Peter Pointer' because she insists on it. Habits are definitely hard to break with her!)

The video at the top shows the changes that I implemented on our flashcards after I attended the workshop (bigger cards, bigger font and printed in red).

This is a video of my friend's little boy doing the ereadingpro program. He is 3 years old at the time of this video and had been doing the program for 40 days. Impressive!


grandma bethany said...

You are a fabulous teacher and Morgan an amazing and fast learner!
Very impressive and what a quick learner Hudson is. Repetition is so important. It takes a lot of patience and dedication. I found the first year I taught school that common sense helped me more than anything I was taught in my education classes. Not only are you a great nurse, but a great teacher!

Emily said...

Thanks for sharing those fabulous ideas and tips! The videos are very impressive and encouraging. I am at a point of wondering how in the world am I going to teach this little girl of mine (right now I am really wanting to see some steps!) Teaching and learning has come so easy with my boys, they just pick up what I tell them. It helps to know that Macy will probably have a different way of learning and use that to our advantage. I would have loved to go to the reading workshop but I think I was working that day. Hopefully it will come again!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing this relevant information. :)

Best wishes~

Scarehaircare said...

WTG Morgan and Mom! I love how the video changed the tone of your IEP. I will have to video The Love Magnet doing our reading program that involves phonics and ASL. It has worked great for her. She is now reading CVC words and taking spelling tests. I 'll have to include the flash cards.

Tausha said...

Thanks for giving us such great information. I will have to add the other words you spoke of to Sam's reading of flashcards. We show him the cards we have made for him and his eyes get so big as we flash them to him, it's so great. Thanks for the extra information!!

Heidi Rushing said...

I think I just found a great idea for your homemade pay-it-forward gift for me! I would love to have a bunch a flash cards to start on with Will. He is so ready to read but it is too overwhelming for me and no time. If I had flash cards I could keep them in the car or purse and do them with him while we are out waiting on other kids. This is one area that Morgan seems exactly like your other kids - they are all amazing readers and pick it up so well. All your time and efforts are paying off. Now we just need to get her feeling comfortable to show it all off in person!

tekeal said...

thank you very much for summarising this information.... i learned about this reading program when livia was born, but somehow was too overwhelmed to go anywhere with it. she's 3 now and definitely ready. all the best, tekeal

Tara said...

Thanks, Heather! Awesome information. I can't believe I could start doing these things so early! Wow!

heather said...

I forgot to add that if you start when your child is young and may not know their colors or all the animals, etc. that you are teaching--put a picture of the item on the BACK of the flashcard (the program suggests paint sample cards from Home Depot for the color flashcards), read the word and you can do the sign at the same time (if child is not verbal yet) and then turn it over and show the picture. That way the word is more powerful than the picture.

Little Miss E said...

One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the joy and ability to read! Those videos are GREAT!

Emily said...

Oh my goodness I am so glad I came across your blog and truly hope you don't mind. I also have a child with Down syndrome and feel extremely blessed. He turns one this Friday! I love this post and can't wait to look further into it! I hope you don't mind me following your blog! Thank you for the wonderful post!

Rebecca Talley said...

I'm so glad I found your blog. My son is 3 and I want to get started--but don't know where to begin. What do you suggest? Do you think the ebooks over at the site you linked to are okay to use rather than buying the complete program (it's a little expensive). Wow, you are full of so much great knowledge--can I pick your brain?

kellyclay said...

you are such an amazing Mother!! I am so thankful that you are my friend!!!

Adrienne said...

Hi Heather! I got your comment on my blog- thanks for your encouraging words! I am very impressed with your daughter Morgan and with that 3 year old boy as well! I went to the website and I'm confused as to what I should order. I have a 4 year old and 2 year old- typical, not reading yet and then we will have Bennett with DS. Do I have to buy 2 different programs? Which one do I buy for my typical kids? I don't want to spend more than $300 if that's possible- can you suggest the programs I should buy? Thanks for sharing this info. I hope I can be as patient and dedicated as you are with your children!!

Kiki said...

Seriously thanks SOO much for sharing all this information!! I am so impressed and excited to try implementing this approach-Bree is only babbling sounds but is doing more signs now so is she too young to start this or when would you suggest starting?

Denise said...

It's so nice to see more and more videos popping up of children reading using programs like ours! You are doing an amazing job!

Thank you for your wonderful comments about eReadingPro. I'm so glad that you enjoyed the workshop in SLC!

Tammy and Parker said...

Ah, what an informative post! Thank you!

Parker is pretty medically fragile and so we are homeschooling him. I need all the great info I can get!

Tammy and Parker

Kiki said...

heather-here is the link to the website of that necklace.

Amy said...

Wow! Heather, that was GREAT! Thanks for sharing. Best post I've read in a long long time.

Denise B said...

Thanks for the fabulous ideas! Another great idea is playing a board game called Er-u-di-tion.

The game cards contain both sight words and the letters of the alphabet - resulting in an educational experience that is fun for everyone!

Addi's Accomplishments said...

THANK YOU FOR THE LINK!! I did find my way to your blog but could not find my way around easily (I am not great around blogs, but I try!) I cannot wait to read this evening! ~Tina