Monday, October 26, 2009

Wonderful developments in the land of speech



Ah, the shrieks of delight that come from Reuben when he sees speech & language pathologist, Johanne, coming up the garden path and now with his wonderful walking, he helps her out with all her toys and books by donning a backpack for her, courteously signing "thank you" and saying "bye bye" as she walks out the door. He truly loves such routines, all little games in Reuben's eyes. His vocabularly includes words like car, flower, water and his personal favourite, bananananana.

My own way of teaching him speech from what I've picked up over the last 2 years and is in addition to what Reuben learns from Johanne for 2hrs a week at home and at CHLA for 1hr a week, has been to work through some of the great materials such as the Alphabet Song flashcards from Gwen and Kristi and the Youtube Barbara Milne's Alphabet Song which teaches the phonemic (phonetic?) sounds of the alphabet ("Apple, Apple, a a a" etc) and the Leapfront Letter Factory. About a year ago Reuben was signing the words to the song in order (Apple, Baby, Cookie etc) without visual aids and now he's adding the sounds too. One of the ways I've taught him this is to sit with him against me looking into the mirror together. I'll sing the song and stress the alphabet sounds and he'll imitate my exaggerated mouth shapes and sounds. This way he's been able to pick up many complicated speech sounds such as f (which has a distinct mouth movement - just try it!) and c. It's a different approach than what the speech pathologists are doing, but it's complimentary and it ties in with what you would do with a deaf teacher. I remember when working with an earlier oral deaf home teacher, we would work on speech and alphabet sounds but back then when he was 6 months old, Reuben had no vocalisation. And thus I knew signing would be his expressive form of communication for the foreseeable future and with it, decided we would work instead with a signing deaf teacher (Gwen) for the 1hr a week session.

Meanwhile, Reuben continues to take Callum's hands during school circle time (UCLA Early Intervention for 4 mornings a week is not a deaf programme, though our Friday school at Marlton is for deaf and HoH toddlers) and attempts to get him to sign (in vain!).

And wait for this gorgeous little miracle! In the last few days I've I picked up a book and pointed out the words BABY and BANANA or caps or lower case. Of course he's seen these words a 100 times in different books, but when I pointed to the letters, he didn't sign them back this time, but actually used the letter sounds, ie saying "ah" or "buh". This is early reading at its most beautiful. I hope you can understand the importance.

I've not been keen from a personal perspective to teach Reuben words just by sight, but rather, have wanted to teach him phonetics (phonemics?).

What do I mean by this?

Well, if he knows the sounds that letters make, then he can use those rules to combine sounds and thus be able to read any word (when it's spelt phonetically of course which in the English language isn't always the case!) rather than only being able to read words when he knows the complete word. Time enough in the future to learn the irregular sounds.

I feel this highlights the importance of learning sign. Signing gave him such a headstart in language, in learning the alphabet and thus in helping him read as he's doing now. The language was in place. Now he's converting many of his signed words to spoken words.

I know I have some blog readers who are in special ed or are speech pathologists/therapists and I'm always keen to learn more about this area, especially now that his language development is coming on beautifully. I'm just making most of this up as I go along...

4 comments:

JENN said...

What a superboy you are, Reuben...

One day, someone should ask your "mama" about a true to life story about you into a book and into an inspirational movie to share....

You are such a gentle person, a very intelligent toddler, and greatly courageous big brother of about a year old Callum ...


JGF

Faning said...

What you're talking about is called Phonics - knowing what sound goes with each letter or combination of letters (e.g. 'sh' is one sound even though it's two letters). If you can get your hands on something called Cued Articulation by Jane Passy you might find it useful to try with Reuben. She was an Australian clinician and I'm not sure if the books are still in print. It's basically a hand cue that you make at your mouth as you say a sound. It gives a deaf child more information about where and how the sound is made in the mouth and whether the sound is voiced or voiceless. It's particularly useful for sounds that are difficult to 'see' (e.g. 'k'). It's used a lot in our school but it's not favoured by everyone so I don't want to give you information that might be contrary to the professionals that are actually working with Reuben. If you can't get hold of it and would like to have a look at it, let me know and I can try and e-mail you a completely legal(!) example of it once I'm back at work next week :o(
Faning x

Kristi said...

Catherine,
I have a hand phonics poster that Gracie's former teacher gave me... I will try to get it out and bring it next weekend.

Wonderful work, Reuben, as always!

ellen charge said...

he comes in leas and bounds thats wy we call them chargers we just charge along i was acutlay reflectin on this yesterday as my uncle was doing the uelogy for grandpa i thought i know on the list we say that we r all resilent but its not jstu us theres others that make us this way he made me that way and i think theres soemone who makes reu that way love u