Early Literacy & Down Syndrome

Commentary by Sophie’s mom, Lisa:

“The following articles are provided to the reader so that you can make an informed decision about what approach is best for you to teach reading to someone with Down Syndrome (DS).  My personal advice is based on what worked for Sophie.  Consider these two types of brain input:  visual versus auditory input.  Children with DS face many obstacles to learning via auditory input and are far stronger visual learners.  It does not mean that their brains cannot accept auditory input.  It simply means that visual input is the easier route to successful output.  We taught Sophie how to sight read by utilizing the flash card method.  We began building Sophie’s receptive language by flashing receptive language picture cards during her infancy.  The cards were real images, flashed rapidly several times throughout the day in short, high intensity spurts.  We stopped with our child craving more.  I never placed limits on the input.  We flashed familiar images like toothbrushes and sippy cups and exotic images like marine life, meteors and dessert dunes.  The cards were a way to bring the world to her.  Once flash cards were her favorite “toys” in the world, we began flashing sight words to her.  In total, it was a 29 month time investment.  Yes, you heard right:  Sophie read her first words at the age of 29 months!  The beauty of this approach was that, once she began to sight read words at an exponential rate, her brain actually began to decode the phonics on its own even though we did not specifically teach phonics.  e.g. We once flashed the word “run,” which she learned to read in about 60 seconds.  Later on, she successfully read the word “running” without our specifically flashing the present participle conjugate.  It was just that our approach was a bit unorthodox.  Note that Sophie often learned to first read a word (she’d correctly tap on the word card I requested from a group of several laid out on the kitchen table), then pronounce the word, then use it appropriately in conversational speech.  Is it really reading?  Of course.  Reading is an evolutionary process.  Can she read words in sentences?  Yes!  Can she read books?  Yes!  Does she understand what she’s reading?  Yes!  In fact, she has read several books from the “Little House” series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  For more information on how we taught Sophie to read, stay tuned to Sophie’s blog for an upcoming seminar.”

Perspectives on Literacy & Down Syndrome: