N.B: All names have been changed
I have the privilege of teaching Ben. Ben is a 14 year old boy who is autistic and has ADHD. He is very behind with his reading and writing and his mother has become concerned about his lack of progress. From the reports from his school it seemed his reading was better than his spelling, but neither were great. I first needed to find out where he is at and where the gaps are that are hindering his progress.
It has taken me several sessions to win his confidence. To start with I met just with his mother, who showed me various reports so that I could get a feel for where he is at. I then gave her a lesson in phonics, starting with initial sounds and progressing to hear the sounds in cvc words. I left her with my Alphabet Matching game. When I next visited, I was told that he had really enjoyed playing the game and had played it several times. My next step was to invite Ben to my garden, where he picked raspberries and joined in a game of football with my son. By my next visit to his house he was no longer running away, but willing to talk. At this point I still didn't try and teach him, but just let him get used to me.
For his first visit to my house for a lesson, he started by wanting mum to stay, but 5 minutes later, told her she could go! Another game (fishing - see instructions below) had caught his attention and he was delighted to find he could read the cvc words with the vowel 'e'. After much fun and laughter, he was relaxed enough to sit at the table with my son, with a white board each, and I tested his ability to write given letters as I said their sound. He performed quite well with this, but his fear of failure was evident as he was reluctant to directly show me his work. I contrived a way whereby he checked with my son first, before showing me. He was happy with this arrangement.
Assessment is taking time as I am having to slowly win his trust, but my initial reactions are that Ben is fairly secure on his initial sounds, with just the letter 'x' causing problems. Handwriting is an issue, and I think some letters he knew but couldn't remember how to write the letter. This was confirmed when the next session I gave him a set of magnetic letters and asked him to match them to the alphabet game pictures. He did this very quickly and accurately. However, he had difficulty recognising some of the magnetic letters, particularly, u/n and b/d/p/q. This is not unusual.
After asking him to spell out some cvc words, I discovered that he was not sure about the final sounds of cvc words. We will work on that with the Final Sounds game next session.
Ben is very keen to read. He read me a book his mother had bought him, but it was obvious to her and me that Ben had learnt to use the pictures as a cue to guessing. Therefore, he wasn't actually reading the words. I had chosen this book from his collection as it was titled 'Mad, Mad, Mad' and contained some cvc words I felt he could read. I therefore covered over the pictures and suggested we share read it. He started and I read the non cvc words. He did know little words like 'the' and 'is'. I could feel the temptation to guess was strong and I had to keep saying, 'Now you can read this word - sound it out!' He was so thrilled at the end. I feel sure he himself knew the difference between really reading and guessing.
At the end of his second lesson with me, I printed out 'The hen' without pictures. His excitement at having a book he could read all by himself, for real was tangible. On his return to his home, he hugged his mother and started kissing her - he was so pleased! She commented that he had come back a changed boy. Well, that comes when a child truly feel themselves progressing. I've seen it many times.
The fishing game:
Print out a page of fishes.
Write a cvc word clearly on each fish.
Attach a paper clip to each fish.
Make a pond with a piece of blue paper/card.
Make two rods with cardboard tubes, a length of string and a magnet to tie on the end.
Take it in turns to catch a fish. If they catch more than one, I allow two (after all it means more reading!)
Lilibette taught for many years in a London state primary school, having responsibility for the teaching of reading.