Previous entry: https://thepoliticsofreading.wordpress.com/2017/03/27/teaching-him-to-read-pt-4-function-words/
When I went home today, my mom showed me some work Josh had taken home from school.
He “completed” worksheets about historical figures and events like WWII. The problem is that this work is far above his level. How can he truly circle an answer when he can’t read the choices? Even though there are pictures to represent the words, Josh still can’t follow because the chapter that covered the material was way too complex for him. The fact that Josh circled “lamp” as an answer to a question about what Germany broke in WWII proves that worksheets like these aren’t helpful to him at all. The WH word activity about Thomas Edison may have been marginally useful because Josh needs to work on WH words, but Thomas Edison’s life is an abstract topic. Josh would likely benefit from learning how WH words can apply to his personal life. While New Jersey won’t mean anything to him, words like “home” and “park” could actually teach him how to use “when.”
There is a huge disconnect between Josh’s abilities and the education he receives. To me, the situation seems like the equivalent of tossing a kindergartner into a college classroom and expecting him to learn. Why can’t Josh’s teachers accommodate his needs? Politics. There is very little money, help, and regard for special education. With many students and few assistants, it’s easy for well-intentioned teachers to burn out. Schools cycle through teachers quickly, before the they can really get know the students. Each student’s needs are radically different, but there just isn’t the funding to tailor an education to everyone. Standardization is questionable enough in mainstream classrooms. In special education, though, standardization is truly detrimental. Even if a cirriculum is somehow able to reach most of a special education classroom, there will always been students who get left out. When this happens to someone, school just becomes a babysitter. Caregivers and workers then assume responsiblility of teaching.
I work with two autistic individuals, and one is about on the same level as Josh with reading and speech. (I will call him Spencer.) Spencer and I go over WH words when we work with his iPad app. He uses a program called Proloquo2Go, which is an Augmentative Alternative Communication app. It displays words and represents them with pictures. When you click on a symbol, the app reads the word out loud. This approach to reading combines verbal, visual, and auditory interpretations of words in order to maximize the user’s understanding. One speech language pathologist told me that she had a client with intellectual disability who was illiterate until his 40’s. He downloaded Proloquo2go and taught himself how to read. When I work with Spencer, he gets out sheets of stickers, a piece of paper, and some markers. He flips through his sticker book and chooses about 5, and then he puts them on the page. We then formulate a sentence about the stickers he’s picked. For instance, if he chooses from a Finding Dory-themed sticker book, a sentence could be, “An orange clown fish and whale shark are swimming in the blue ocean.” Once we’ve decided on a sentence, Spencer searches the app for the right words. Though he may need some help while constructing the sentence, he typically is able to find most words. After the sentence is parsed together, he hand-writes it by copying it from the app. Now he has heard, seen, pictured, and written words. This app has been remarkable in helping him read.
We tried downloading this app for Josh a few years ago, but it was overwhelming. We did not know exactly how to use it with him. Unfortunately, we ended up forgetting about it. Now that I know how it’s been helpful for someone else, though, I am looking forward to giving this app another go with Josh