Jargon: those words that have tremendous meaning for some and absolutely no meaning for others. Speaking with an ISP (an Internet Something or other) earlier this week reminded me of how we all fall into the trap of using terminology that is as plain as day, but only to some. And sometimes, it can take a while to realise that many of the words being said are actually meaningless, because we understand the gist of what is going on. Besides, no one is going to give us a test on it later. Except our children. They will bring something home – that they will be tested on – and ask for help. Sometimes this brings about a big, fat gulp.
While the ‘Internet Something or Other’ will remain a mystery to me – and I don’t really mind if I’m honest – here are some Englishy terms that may be useful to know:
digraph: two letters next to each other which make a new sound. There are consonant digraphs such as |ch| and vowel digraphs such as |ea|
magic e: also known as ‘bossy e’ and ‘fairy e’, this letter occurs at the end of a word and changes the vowel sound to its long counterpart (consider the different vowel sounds in cap and cape)
syllable: the smallest component of a word that has a vowel, and may or may not have consonants; children often learn how to ‘clap out words’ – this is really handy when spelling long words
phonetic: the sounds that make up a word (not the letters) for example |sh| |ee| |p| – also handy for spelling in the earlier years
parts of speech: the components of a sentence (every sentence has to have a noun and a verb)
figures of speech: the figurative phrasing, such as similes, metaphors etc that makes literature so interesting (many children would wish me to eat those words).
Hopefully this little armoury of words can alleviate some initial panic when faced with the next round of English homework, or meeting with the English teacher.
October is Dyslexia Awareness month. A month dedicated to the harder work that Dyslexics have to put in to read and understand a text. Here are a few things Dyslexia is not:
- muddling up b and d
- reading words backwards
- being unfamiliar with phonetic rules
- a reflection on intelligence
Often the term Dyslexia is associated with reading, however, it permeates through writing and spelling. Often it is the difficulty with reading that is first identified, and it also tends to be the first that improves. As greater lengths of writing are expected, the difficulties in writing and spelling come to the fore. Many variations of “Really?!” are expressed because it appears as though just when one thing is getting better, something else comes along; those somethings were there all along.
As times passes we get a better understanding of what Dyslexia is and isn’t, and as can be seen from the diagrams below the definition has become more complex.
Of greatest importance in the 2002 diagram, is the impact Dyslexia – indirectly – has on comprehension. It is also important to note that the “vocabulary” refers to reading and not necessarily spoken vocabulary, which may even be superior.
A paper written by G. Emmerson Dickman entitled “Dyslexia – What is it Really? Personal Reflections and Scientific Fact” has a wonderful recipe for assisting someone with Dyslexia:
Remediate, Compensate, Accommodate, Promote
Four steps which may happen consecutively, all at once or in a circular fashion (which is most likely) is “all” that is needed to make learning easier (yes learning; the reading, writing and spelling is likely not going to become as automatic as breathing). Unfortunately, many get stuck in the remediation phase. Let these four words become your mantra if you or a loved one has Dyslexia: compensate and accommodate where you can, and never forget to promote their strengths!
The see-atey essaytey on the ematey.
This is not a new language, this is what comes from young children who learn the names of the letter before the sounds. When it comes to names, think of how an adult would recite the alphabet. Sounds, on the other hand, are just that: the individual sounds heard in a word. Using sounds, children are better able to come to the words that make up the sentence The cat sat on the mat.
But “the” and “on” were written the same in both examples?
These are sight words, perhaps a topic for another day, which are expected to be recognised without the need for sounding out. Indeed some of these words cannot be sounded out at all (once, for example), which is a common criticism for using letter sounds. As true as this may be, it is our opinion that learning the sounds to start to read, far outweighs this criticism. The alternative is to learn whole words which as described in a previous article leads to a limited number of words being retained at a time.
In addition to letter sounds benefiting early reading, it facilitates early spelling. Consider the confusion of the u and w when trying to spell using letter names.
If we think about it, reading involves a bunch of squiggles on a page – help your emerging reader to make sense of those squiggles using sounds. You can follow this link to hear the correct pronunciation of each sound.
This topic was sparked by a conversation with a mom questioning whether or not an auditory processing difficulty could be picked up in our reading assessment. I may get into a bit of hot water with some professionals with this one, but I think it would be worth it.
In the briefest of nutshells, an auditory processing difficulty means a child hears something different to everyone else, even though the ears have all picked up the same waves; the reason is poor coordination between the ears and brain. But this is not a newsletter on processing difficulties. It stemmed from the question on whether an assessment of reading could pick up the difficulty or if the mom should take her daughter to an OT. The answer is “no” on both fronts.
Our assessment covers six areas of reading namely, single word reading, decoding, comprehension of silent and out loud reading, as well as speed and accuracy of reading. This gives a profile of a child’s reading age and points to possible causes of the perceived difficulty with reading (which is a very broad term). If we do an informal spelling assessment, we may suspect a complication in auditory processing but certainly cannot diagnose it.
In a similar vein, the primary function of an OT (occupational therapist) is to develop gross and fine motor skills – not auditory processing. And no, a speech therapist is not the right avenue either as their role is to develop the articulation of speech sounds – not auditory processing.
There is of course a degree of overlap across the professionals listed above: a child who says /w/ for /r/ may attend speech therapy to correct the tongue placement, occupational therapy for the broader muscular difficulties that resulted in the poor articulation and remedial therapy to correct the spelling difficulty that occurred because “ring” and “wing“ sound the same when the child says it and therefore are spelt the same. Incorporating spelling – that involves the /r/ – into speech and occupational therapy sessions is a means of consolidation.
While there may well be overlap, it is always best to consider the primary function of the professional your child may be seeing. The mom mentioned above was referred to an audiologist who uses specific equipment to determine how information is heard and processed.