Saturday, May 28, 2011

How I am introducing reading to JJ

I know I have had a lag in blogging lately. As I have said to my husband, there just never seems to be enough hours in the day, even if I only sleep 6 of them. My days are filled with JJ and my nights are often on the computer. Not blogging avidly like I was a few months back, but, spending my evenings researching and writing a curricula for my son. 

JJ will be 18 months on June the 10th and in many circles this makes him an official toddler, even though he has been toddling since he was 8 months old. I have  debated in my head as to how I want to increase his literacy. I have taught children in the past to read, (with decoding and comprehension) as young as 3 using phonics, word families and whole language. Each child was remarkably different so the method I used was tailored to complimented the child's learning abilities and their enjoyment. If it is not fun we always stop. 

Like the children I have educated in the past JJ has his own set of challenges. He has an expressive communication delay and he not an avid book lover. He was labelled failure to thrive for 6 months which gives him a very increased risk (up to 80% in some studies) of mental retardation and/or learning delays. 
James has always been my gross motor baby. He loves to run, climb, slide, and recently jump. He is always on the go. He never sat still to play like some children do. At 5 months old he decided to crawl, at 6 months cruise, at 7 months he took his first independent steps, at 8 months he started toddling back and forth between objects and by 9 months he was a confident walker. By a year old he was walking backwards, he would bend to pick up things and continue to walk (stoop and recover). 
JJs fine motor skills were on the slower end of the normal range about a year ago. He seemed to be the last of my friends babies that grabbed or batted at something out of reach. We even had his vision checked. So we have spent the last year playing many fun games such as shape sorting, ring stacking, drinking with a cup (not a sippy cup), transferring, pouring and other Montessori inspired fine motor tasks. I am now glad to say that JJ doesn't seem to have any lag in that area anymore. 
However despite working so hard with JJ daily I knew that something was not right. He was not babbling like other children, and definitely no jargon. He didn't make his first real gusty cry until he was 5 months old. And even then his infrequent cry was just a pitiful "eh eh eh" sound. Not a cry at all. He didn't wave, point or acknowledge pictures in books. I had used sign language with him since he was 5 months old and the only thing he could communicate was his desire to nurse with a sign my husband had created. We had him assessed with our states Early Intervention Center when he was 14 months old and it was confirmed that JJ was indeed speech delayed. 

We were to start speech therapy however JJ had an appointment with his ENT because his sleep apnea was increasing. It was confirmed that he had extremely large adenoids and that surgery was the only way to help him. Speech Therapy was put on hold because enlarged adenoids can interfere with oro-motor development and function. Any speech therapy that he has been having might need to be retrained after his adenoids were removed. JJ will be reassessed when he is 18months old. A little over a month after his adenoidectomy. 

In the mean time I have been intensively focusing on JJs speech. I have been loudly and slowly using words and reinforcing them with sign language for a few weeks. Then earlier this week I started also using an object to reinforce the words. For example we play with a car, I talk about the car, I sign car and I show him the car and he drives it back and forth across my leg. I try and have JJ even request the car or hand me the car. It took him a day but he did finally say car (da).
Finally back to where the literacy comes in: 
Even though James isn't a book lover, he does love to point to and trace the letters on his wall. I would tell him the letter names and their sounds. I have now decided though I want to expose JJ to individual letters, I don't wish for him to learn read this way, yet, because at 18 months it is too abstract a concept. I wanted to just heavily focus on teaching him to speak. I had already started putting whole words on a poster board and leaning it up against the wall and JJ loves to point to them and have me read them. Then I got to thinking, if signs and objects help reinforce his speech maybe the written word would just be another tool.  So now when I introduce words I say, sign, give him the object and introduce the written word on a card. By using this method within a week JJ has been able to say ball (baa), block (bo), book (boo), belly (be-ay), play (boo-kaa and sometimes bo-ay), penis(pen-ay), diaper (di-der) and car(da). He can also place car and block on the correct written cards. So something in his little mind is getting it. 
I am going to keep using this method, for as long as it works to help JJ to speak and read. It will only be part a whole curricula that I am still working on. I hope to find a way to streamline my blogging process so that I can work on both in the evenings. And JJ and I will play the day away or as JJ says boh-kaa the day away. 

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