Free Resources for Teaching Children with Down Syndrome to Read

Several weeks ago, I read the book Whole Child Reading: A Quick Start Guide to Teaching Students with Down Syndrome and Other Developmental Delays. If you have a child with developmental delays, I highly recommend reading this book. It’s a fast, easy read with useful insights into how the brain works and many practical applications. The gist of the book is to go in through the heart by using stories and topics that are highly interesting and motivating to the student and then to teach to the brain by understanding how children with T21 learn best.

In the book, author Natalie Hale gives specific instructions on how to format and make your own books so that your kids can read with greater ease and success. So I began making books. I made personal books, because Junior, like most kids, likes to read about himself and his family. I also made books using words from the See and Learn Phrases kits.

Today I’m sharing some of these books:

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Just Released! A Novel About St. Dominic Savio, the Teenage Saint

Dominic Savio is the kind of saint anyone could be best friends with.

Full of laughter and entirely down to earth, he was a normal teenage kid who easily won his classmates’ hearts and was voted second place in a popularity contest at school – not at all the stiff-necked and unapproachable person some may think him to be. Yet beyond the joy spilling out of his character lay an intensely strong ardor and uncompromisingly high set of ideals which continuously pushed him closer and closer toward his first and greatest Friend – God. He never flaunted his virtue but it shone through him everywhere he was.

The kids on the nearby, questionable streets of Turin cut short their profanity when they saw him coming. Bullies and troublemakers turned around almost unfailingly when their teacher strategically seated them near Savio. Even Saint Don Bosco himself often asked his pupil for advice and never regretted taking it. In Dominic Savio, the boys of the Oratory found an example of holiness whom they respected rather than disdained. They wanted to be like him.

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The Catholic Homeschool Conference is Back!

Just a quick little post to say…. (drum roll, please ….) It’s that time of year again! Time for the Catholic Homeschool Conference! And as I said last year, the conference is for ALL Catholic parents, not just homeschoolers.

From May 19 – 22 you can listen to live key note speakers such as Kimberly Hahn, Laura Berquist, Sarah Mackenzie, and Andrew Pudewa. In addition, you can tune into 60+ pre-recorded talks including one by yours truly 🙂 For free! I’m so looking forward to it!

Whether you’re homeschooling or not, I think you’ll benefit from the wonderful presentations. There will be talks on homeschooling, of course, but also on marriage, family life, and virtue and character development.

And here’s what I’ll be talking about…

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Educating the Whole Child

Our school year is beginning to wind down. Yay! So this is also the time when I begin to think about the coming school year. And while my homeschooled kids take standardized tests to help me assess their overall progress, I also take time to think of the big picture.

After all, a real education is much more than just academics. Indeed, a real education entails educating the whole child.  There are many great thinkers who ascribe to the idea that a real education is more than book learning:

  • Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he has learned in school. – Albert Einstein
  • Intelligence plus character, that is the goal of true education. – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 
  • The primary goal in the education of children is to teach and give an example of a virtuous life. – St. John Chrysostem
  • A good school provides a rounded education for the whole person. And a good Catholic school, over and above this, should help all of its students to become saints. – Pope Benedict XVI

While that all sounds good and true, what does it actually mean to educate the whole person, and how do we go about doing that?

Sitting in a rocking chair and musing over this while waiting for Junior to get sleepy, I envisioned this little diagram (Thank you, Holy Spirit!):

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Teaching Preschoolers with Down Syndrome to Read – Part 2 (And Why We’re not doing Phonics, Yet)

Last post, I shared some videos showing how Junior is learning to read using See and Learn Phrases by Down Syndrome Education. We demonstrated the first four steps of learning to read using sight words.

Today, I’m sharing videos of the last two steps and discussing why we’re breezing through with sight words instead of slogging through phonics.

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Teaching Preschoolers with Down Syndrome to Read with See and Learn

This post is for my five-year-old nephew, Aidan, whose school has been shut down for the third time this year. Aidan has a lot of developmental delays that mimic Down Syndrome, and virtual school is… well… virtual. So my sister asked me to show her how I’m teaching Junior to read. She lives across the border, which is also closed. So, I made her these videos.

Having a child with Down Syndrome is such an adventure. Never did I think that it was possible to teach a three-year-old with T21 to read. All my other children had learned to read when they were about five, so I figured that Junior would probably begin to read around seven or eight.

Thus, I was both surprised and intrigued when I came across some papers by Sue Buckley and colleagues. She had done extensive studies on teaching toddlers and children with T21 how to read. Based on her research, she discovered that not only was it possible to teach many toddlers with T21 how to read sight words, it was also extremely beneficial. Buckley writes:

Reading activities may be the single most important intervention for promoting the speech, language and cognitive development of preschool children with Down Syndrome….. we are quite convinced that it (reading) is the single most effective way to help children overcome the learning difficulties associated with Down Syndrome.

Buckley, Sue. Reading and Writing for Infants with Down Syndrome (0-5 years)

And,

Children introduced to literacy as a language teaching activity in preschool years reach the highest level of achievement.

Buckely, Sue. Reading and Writing for Individuals with Down Syndrome – An Overview.

Needless to say, six months ago I began teaching my 3-year-old with T21 to read. The goal was to enable him to say 2-3 word phrases without being prompted. You see, Junior can repeat almost anything I say, but he has difficulty retrieving words from his mind without a verbal or visual cue. When he does say a word unprompted, it’s often unintelligible. But learning to read is making a huge difference. Once he learns to read a word, it’s not long before he starts using it unprompted in speech and with greater clarity. Furthermore, his MLU (mean length of utterance) is increasing, meaning his phrases and sentences are getting longer. I can’t tell you how exciting it is for both of us to see him learn to read and speak.

Today I’m sharing with you, step by step (videos included!), how I’m teaching Junior to read.

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Memory, Imagination, and How to Avoid Boredom

Rote memorization.  Do you use it in your homeschool?

There’s a popular educational trend that pooh-poohs rote memory in favor of imaginative and critical thinking. I think this is because too often children have been required to memorize facts and procedures they did not understand. Unfortunately, instead of seeking to improve conceptual understanding so that the material being memorized  by rote is meaningful,  many educators today emphasize discovery learning and creativity while foregoing rote memorization.

But this, I believe, is putting the cart before the horse. In his clever satire, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, Anthony Esolen writes:

Without the library of memory…. the imagination simply does not have much to think about or play with. 

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Spring Time Printables for Preschoolers with (or without) Down Syndrome

Aren’t you glad it’s spring? I definitely am! So I made this springtime bundle for Junior, all about woodland animals. More pre-writing, first letters, counting, pattern-making, and shape matching with some really *cute* artwork.

Come take a look:

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The Art of Writing an Essay

A happy and blessed Easter to you all! This past year, my oldest daughter has been writing essay after essay: essays for English and history classes, essays for college applications, essays for scholarships… it never seems to end.

“Since you are so experienced at writing essays,” I suggested, “why don’t you write an essay on how to write an essay? You know — for the plebians like us.”

So she did. Well, the essay was so witty and clever, I just had to share. Because sometimes we all just need a good chuckle:

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Music for Preschoolers with (or without) Down Syndrome

Happy World Down Syndrome Day! Earlier this winter, I attended a webinar featuring Dr. Brian Skotko, the director of the Down Syndrome Program at Massachusets General Hospital. He gave a wonderful, highly informative presentation on how to keep our loved ones healthy, boost their cognition, and how we might mitigate the onset and severity of Alzheimer’s Disease. We all know that keeping our kids active is so important to their overall health, but Dr. Skotko’s presentation showed how this is especially crucial for kids with T21.

One of the easiest ways I keep Junior active is by playing music for him. He loves music, and he loves to dance. So we play music and dance several times a day, and he really gets a workout. Bonus: He learns the lyrics and starts singing along, which is great for his speech.

Today, I’m sharing with you his current playlists of songs and dance music.

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