Literacy has been Aiden’s particular strength. Alphabet is his ‘stim’, he started by ordering the alphabet before he was 18 months old, all letters perfectly lined up. Next came the stage where he started to copy and construct words using chunky wooden letters, and finally now he likes to recreate the titles of his favourite stories or sentences that form his echolalic speech. He has perfect grapheme-phoneme correspondence. But what became a big bug bear at his previous school was that they could not take his scattered knowledge and make it fit into the framework of the UK national curriculum, and therefore they were incapable of ticking off any of the boxes. Aiden left his school in December apparently not literate. Oh well…
Now that we are home schooling we have the freedom to teach Aiden how he learns. He can sound out each letter in a word but cannot/does not blend. He prefers to learn words as whole chunks. This is the case with many children on the spectrum as many of them have very strong visual-auditory memory. The first thing I did was device a game using reusable blank stickers. I wrote one word per sticker, asked Aiden to read the word out loud, and then stuck it to the living room wall at eye level. Very casually, everyday we would practice words from the current ‘bank’. I encourage his to use the stickers to try and construct simple sentences. This has been a particularly gratifying challenge as Aiden is a child who cannot yet speak in full sentences. Reading aloud a 3 or 4 word sentence he has constructed will immensely help his speech and communication. Working within the national curriculum framework we keep rotating the words on our wall and this has really captured Aiden’s interest.
To augment this learning I have started using an assistive app. (I am a HUGE fan of assistive technology. While acknowledging the very divisive nature of iPads, I have found them to be invaluable in augmenting my children’s learning). Nessy are makers of literacy apps that I have used in past with children with a range of learning and development difficulties. Their app Hairy Words takes children through the entire one hundred high frequency sight words, teaching children to read, spell, and type the words. Aiden finished the first twenty words in less than a week. He is completely taken with this app. I have it on my iPhone and allow him to ‘play’ with it at random places. It kept him very calm, happy, and settled during a four hour long new years’ party with school friends.
To help Aiden practice writing, I have printed and laminated a cursive alphabet worksheet. With a set of dry erase markers he set to work on his sheet one evening and kept at it till he got most his letter formation right. He even wrote his name on this one independently:
And this week my goal is to get Aiden writing simple sentences. Again, the biggest obstacle is his inability to formulate sentences that are his own. His independent, non-echolalia speech is still limited to 2 or 3 word phrases. So I have started with a very simple context: his family. Providing him with visual prompts, simple and repetitive sentences, and a writing frame the idea is to get him to become secure with extremely basic social communication. He will read the sentence, contextualise the language with the visual prompt, and trace over the words while saying them out loud. Well, thats the idea anyway. We will see if it works. Personally, I will be well chuffed if I can get him to start saying “I am Aiden” when he meets people.
I hope you find some of the ideas here useful for your children/learners. Any feedback will be much appreciated.