What if your child appears to have missed the seemingly magic ability to read?
By Judith E. Lipson, M.A., LPC
Reading seems like a naturally occurring event, but your child may struggle to sound out words, or read slowly and choppy. The ability to read requires the ability to create sounds from letters (phonics), to do so fluently, and to access meaning from those sounds (comprehension). In a two-part series, I will discuss many possible causes for reading difficulties.
In order to learn to read, a child must be able to distinguish one letter from another. Many young children experience reversals (especially the letters b, d, p). If this continues after the age of 7 or so, there may be a problem.
Have your child hold up his fingers to create the letters. Thumbs and index fingers form a circle, while the pinky, ring and middle fingers point upward. When your child’s palms face each other, the left hand forms a b, right hand forms the d. Another trick is to have the child trace the letters in sand, shaving cream, etc. Using the body, and not relying on the eyes, can help children learn letters.
Some children have light sensitivity issues, which can result in difficulty reading. The letters are seen with distortions and this is made worse by glare off of white paper.
Reducing bright lights and fluorescent lighting, wearing a cap, and using pastel paper can all help. Additionally, go to Irlen.com to learn more and to find a professional screener in your area.
If your child’s eye muscles don’t work together properly, it can cause difficulty with reading and copying. A child who leans on his hand to read (covering an eye), or lays on her forearm (looking from an angle, which removes one eye’s view) may be compensating for this problem. Ask a developmental / functional optometrist to check visual convergence as well as acuity (20/20 vision).
Your child’s ability to remember what has already been seen, also called visual memory, or re-visualization, is imperative for spelling, copying, and reading.
Play games like “Memory” where picture cards are revealed and then hidden again, in order to see if your child can remember where specific pictures are in order to create a match.
Your child needs to grasp all these skills in order to master phonics, the recognition that each letter, or group of letters (consonant and vowel blends), make a certain sound.
Phonological skills are the other major element of successful reading. Phonological skills are the ability to recognize the sounds that go with letters, without needing visual cues. For example:
Say bat. Now say it again without the /b/. (The proper response is at.)
That exercise demonstrates your child’s ability to manipulate sounds in his mind without looking at any letter or words. Phonological skills are not always directly assessed, or taught, by classroom teachers, particularly after second grade. They are frequently tested as part of an assessment for a learning disability.
To address phonological skills, there are several games that you can play with your child. Keep in mind that the responses do not need to be real words. The first level is to play rhyming games:
Do these rhyme? mat/bat (yes); cat/nat (yes); sad/mad (yes); pon/tag (no).
The next step is to ask your child to rhyme with a word you provide:
Man/Pan rhyme. What rhymes with fat?
After your child can reproduce these consistently, then clap words. Say a sentence to your child, and clap for each word in the sentence. Begin with 2 or 3 word sentences, each word having a single syllable:
Let’s clap together: “How-are-you?” “This-is-fun.” “I-like-to-swim-with-my-friends.”
Next teach your childto clap for compound words: cup-cake; rain-storm. Then apply the clapping method for more complicated syllables: hel-o; Ju-dy; di-no-saur; li-on.
Only after your child can recognize rhymes and clap for words and syllables should you begin manipulating words. First ask your child to remove the beginning consonant sound of a 3 letter word: Say bat. Now say it again without the /b/. (The proper response is at..) Next have your child master the final letter: say bat, say it again without the /t/, (ba).
There are additional, more difficult, requirements for adequate phonological proficiency as well.
You now have an idea of the variety of skills that are required for your child to master the mechanics of reading. Learn more about the challenges of reading in the article titled Reading Comprehension. If you have significant concerns, especially with an older child who has these difficulties, contact your child’s teacher or counselor, or consult with a professional.
Judy Lipson is a Licensed Professional Counselor and educational strategist in West Bloomfield. She helps clients of all ages who have learning difficulties; work or school related anxiety; ADHD; Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorders; and those who wish to Remember and Become Who You Really Are. Contact Judy at 248.568.8665 and firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit www. SpiralWisdom.net for more information.
Published in Metro You Magazine, February 2012