Like so many other areas in life, Logan didn’t learn to read the way other kids learned. He didn’t know the alphabet and the sounds of each letter. He was non-verbal until the age of 5 and didn’t even know the alphabet song until after that. So what do you do when you need to teach your non-neurotypical child something essential?
You use non-typical methods.
After Logan started to regain some language, we began to notice something odd. He would know long words like “family” but wouldn’t know small words like “cat”. It took us awhile before we realized that it wan’t a matter of him having trouble reading. In fact, he was technically reading at all; he was memorizing words. He didn’t know his ABCs, but he could memorize words he saw and heard.
This opened up a whole new way of looking at things for us. Once we realized how he learned, we ran with it. The first thing we did was to label everything in the house. The bed, fridge, tv, tables, chairs, even the toilet had index labels on them. We made a concentrated effort to sound the words out with Logan whenever we passed by them. He was already using the PECS system but we made sure to add words to all the pictures.
In addition to all that, we asked for alphabet systems for his birthday. We got the Baby Einstein video and the Leap Frog alphabet magnets. (He didn’t care about birthday presents anyway, might as well get something that would help.) Between the bombardment of letter sounds and printed words, Logan’s language came faster. I never would have thought to label everything in the house for my other kids, but for Logan it worked.
Another teaching method we discovered helped us when teaching Logan signs and eventually words. We would put him in his swing and then getting him going pretty high the way he liked. Then I would grab him and just hold the seat until he either signed or spoke the word we were after. Many of our Autistic kids really enjoy spinning or swinging as it helps them feel grounded. I felt like I had more of his attention when that was the case and so we turned playground time into a learning opportunity.
The point is, we don’t need to stick to traditional methods when it comes to teaching a new skill. Maybe you have a child who really responds to touch. You can use textured letters or words to teach language, or teach the basics of a new skill while rubbing her shoulders or back. Every child is different, so it will require you to observe your child and take note. How does he seem to pick up on things the quickest? Is there a method that causes her less stress and anxiety? What activities does he gravitate toward? The idea is to think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to try different methods until you find the one that really makes a difference.
Our extraordinary kids sometimes need extraordinary methods.