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Sounding Out Words Backwards / Learning Disability Concern

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    Sounding Out Words Backwards / Learning Disability Concern

    I tutor a six year old boy in Phonics twice per week. Things started off pretty well, but his progress gradually slowed. Over the last month he has forgotten simple words he once knew, such as 'the' and 'an.' He also has started occassionally sounding out words starting with the last letter and working toward the first letter, i.e., backwards. Today he skipped an entire line in his story. The stories he reads are nine sentences long, or less, and include mostly three and four letter words. My questions include the following:

    Could a learning disability be manifesting?

    How should we proceed with his reading training now?

    Is it okay to teach phonics with minimal or no reading so that he has phonics tools for later reading?

    Curriculum Background: The student has had a lot of instruction at home from Leap Frog DVDs. He has also used some Hooked on Phonics books. His older siblings learned to read with ABeka Book so his mother applies a lot of those methods. We started him out in tutoring with Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons. About halfway through the book, I recommended changing to something simpler because he appeared stressed. It was as if he couldn't go further for now. We switched to a small reader from Christian Liberty Press called I Can Read.

    Any input is greatly appreciated.


    Has he had his vision tested by a developmental optometrist? Sometimes kids have trouble tracking causing problems reading. There are other things they test for but that one comes to mind.


      Welcome, Drae.

      Thanks for posting this question. You are wise to notice his difficulties and seek help, even if your concerns prove to be a "false alarm."

      If his mother is interested in investigating your concerns, she might consider pursuing a screening or formal evaluation through an educational psychologist, the local schools, or a specialist recommended by her pediatrician. And CelticaDea's suggestion prompts the reminder to consider hearing and vision screenings.

      If you have time, I have many questions in return:

      1. Is this child early six, mid-six, or late six?
      2. How did he come to you for tutoring?

      Your Question about Learning Disabilities
      1. Does he exhibit any speech or language aberrations? Any delayed milestones?
      2. Does he confuse phonemes or syllables? (For example, my daughter said, "grupefrait" for "grapefruit.")
      3. Does he experience word retrieval difficulties? (For example, "cemetery" for "seminary.")
      4. Does he have difficulties rhyming words?
      5. Any family history of learning difficulties?

      "Yes" to any of these would be good for his mother to note, if she pursues a formal evaluation.

      Reading Instruction
      1. He has experienced many programs, but does he know the sounds each letter makes?
      2. Have you taught other children with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons? I only ask this, because we found the middle of the book daunting too. Despite my own daughter's significant learning disabilities, we pressed on and she learned to read. Do you think the 2-day-a-week approach hindered his progress? If this is the case, then one immediate option might be to return to ...100 Easy Lessons, back up to a lesson he remembers well, and proceed with instruction 4-5 days a week.
      3. To improve directionality, include pointing, tracing, and writing components. You may be doing this already. If not, the visual-auditory-kinesthetic elements may assist his left-to-right reading. For example, First Start Reading from Memoria Press is very strong on tracing and printing. This helps solidify directionality, phonemes, and reading ability simultaneously.

      More Help
      1. Given his difficulties, he may need more than 2-day-a-week instruction no matter which program you choose.
      2. Does he receive additional reading instruction the other 5 days a week? If not, this would help him gain confidence (and ability) much more quickly.
      3. You asked about possibly providing phoneme training only, but you may want to consider basic phonics instruction and simple reading practice.

      Show Him His Own Successes
      1. You will want to keep his motivation high. Begin immediately to document his success in a visible and encouraging way. For example, create a chart, bar graph, or pile of index cards with words or letters he knows. Add to this whenever he masters something new.
      2. Create a paper chain linking the number of books he reads aloud. Add to this each reading session. (If his fine-motor skills are weak, the practice with cutting and gluing strips will be a bonus!)

      I appreciate your posting your concerns here! Feel free to provide answers to the above questions, offer more information, or ask additional questions, as your time permits.

      If you have not yet read Simply Classical, you might enjoy the story and appreciate the chapters on evaluating learning difficulties.


      Simply Classical: A Beautiful Education for Any Child
      Cheryl Swope, M.Ed., with Foreword by Dr. Gene Edward Veith


        Originally posted by CelticaDea View Post
        Has he had his vision tested by a developmental optometrist? Sometimes kids have trouble tracking causing problems reading. There are other things they test for but that one comes to mind.
        Thank you for your response!

        I have referred the family to a Behavioral Ophthalmologist (hope I spelled that right) for evaluation for vision therapy. .(I haven't heard the term Developmental Optometrist before, but perhaps it is the same thing.) I have some experience in this area and did my own min-test on him. I can tell that he has not integrated all of his primitive reflexes, a situation that can cause learning difficulties and poor development of the visual system. Time will tell if his parents follow thru.