Use a Multisensory, Orton-Gillingham Approach
While there are many really great reading and phonics programs out there on the market, most of them are not geared towards children with apraxia of speech. The best choice is an Orton-Gillingham program. Orton-Gillingham is a really structured, step-by-step, repetitive and multisensory approach. This means that the kids see it, say it, hear it, and move with it. For example, when learning the letter combination “ong” the child might first look at it, then trace the letters in the air while speaking out loud. They also practice it over and over again until it “sticks.” If you are looking for the best Orton-Gillingham homeschool and teaching curriculum for children with apraxia of speech, you can check out THE PRIDE READING PROGRAM.
Use Phonemic Awareness Activities
Use lots and lots of phonemic awareness activities with your child. What does this mean? Phonemic awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate the individual speech sounds into spoken words. For example the word hat has three sounds – /h/, /a/ and /t/. The word fast has four sounds – /f/, /a/, /s/, /t/. Children with Childhood Apraxia of Speech often drop or add a different sound when spelling or reading words so it is really important for your child to isolate each individual sound. Here are some phonemic awareness activities you can do with your child to help them get a strong foundation in reading:
Rhyming is the first step in teaching phonemic awareness and helps lay the groundwork for beginning reading development. Rhyming draws attention to the different sounds in our language and that words actually come apart. For example, if your child knows that jig and pig rhyme, they are focused on the ending ig. You can begin introducing rhymes by reading stories and poems with your child that use a lot of rhymes aloud together. You will want to first read the story aloud several times simply for the pure joy of reading and sharing the story together. Then you can begin drawing attention to the sounds of the rhyme. For example, you can say “I hear rhyming words! Dog and bog rhyme!” You can also ask your child to predict the next word in the rhyming story. As you read these rhyming books aloud, you will want to really exaggerate the sound of the rhyming words. You can also sing rhyming songs and rhyming chants with your child. Singing is so easy to fit into your daily schedule, as you can basically break out in song or chant any time of the day. If you would like a list of rhyming books, songs, poems, chants and more rhyming activities you can use with your child, check out my blog post How to Teach Rhyming.
You can begin working on sound segmentation by asking your child to match the very first sounds in words and then the final sounds. It is helpful to have a set of cards with pictures of everyday objects (man, boy, girl, cat, dog, house, book, etc.). You can also cut out pictures from magazines and use those. Once your child is successful at matching beginning sounds, work on ending sounds. “Say the word hot. What is the last sound you hear in the word hot?” Your child can also tap on the desk for each sound or stomp their fists. I like to use sound tokens. The child listens to a word and then moves the sound token into a box for each sound in the word. If you would like more detailed activities to use, please read my post, Tips on Teaching Sound Segmentation in Phonics.
Breaking up words into syllables or chunks is another step in using phonemic awareness in reading. Syllabication helps children learn to read and spell difficult words. When a child is stuck on a difficult word, they can use syllabication rules to figure it out. You can help your child pull apart the syllables in a word by clapping each syllable. You can start by counting (actually clapping) the number of syllables in your child’s name. Ja-son (clap, clap). Jon-a-than. (clap, clap, clap). You can also clap out the days of the week Tues-day, the months of the year, Sep-tem-ber and fun words like cu-cum-ber or Cin-der-el-la. If your child is struggling with understanding syllables, try using “chin dropping.” this technique will help your child really “fee” the syllables. Place your hand under your chin. Now, say a multisyllabic word aloud. Every time your chin drops, that is one syllable! For a more detailed description on teaching syllables and a bunch of strategies and activities you can use, read my post, Teaching Syllable Division for Reading and Spelling.
Read Repetitive Books
Reading repetitive books is an excellent tool in helping kids with apraxia of speech find their voice. Kids love reading books that are colorful, predictable and highly repetitive. For kids with apraxia of speech this repetition is crucial. Repetitive books really help our kids grasp the content of the story much easier. When kids have less to think about, they can have fun and relax in the story. It also allows the child to repeat the language over and over again, getting comfortable with the words and sentences and looking forward to filling in the blanks with new words that really capture their attention. Kids LOVE reading the same books over and over again and that is a really good thing for kids struggling in reading. Every time a child with apraxia of speech reads out loud, they are practicing oral speech sounds. For a list of my favorite books to read with kids that have Apraxia of Speech, read my post, Best Books for Kids with Apraxia of Speech.