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Does My Child Need "Training in Phonological Awareness"

by Dr. Marion Blank

A parent recently asked me the following question. My six year old son had educational testing. I was told that he has an "auditory processing disorder and weak phonological awareness." It was suggested that I start him on some pre-reading programs that are designed to address these problems. I was wondering if Phonics Plus Five would be appropriate for him and would it address these issues?

The short answer is, Yes, Phonics Plus Five is ideal for helping children with these problems learn to read easily and effectively.

There is also long answer for those who would like to understand what is meant by "auditory processing disorders and weak phonological awareness" and why these realms have come to play such a key role in reading education.

Over the years, educators have become increasingly aware of the many children who fail using traditional phonics instruction. Unfortunately, they did not use this information as a call to develop alternative methods of teaching reading that would offer the children success. Instead they chose to ask the question, "How can we change the child so that he can handle the only reading system we are able to offer him?"

Then they answered this question by saying. "There must be precursor skills for phonics that the children have not developed. What we need is to identify these precursor skills, train the children to do them and then they will be able to deal with traditional phonics instruction."

That is where "auditory processing and phonological awareness skills" come in. These are a cluster of skills that are deemed to be the essential precursor skills to later phonics ability. They are language related, but are not, by themselves, language. For the most part, they are skills that allow a person to talk about language, think about language or play with language.

For example, one of these precursor skills commonly used in kindergartens is to have the children clap for each syllable in a word--so Christ/mas gets two claps while el/e/phant gets three. Keep in mind that the children were likely to have been saying these words perfectly well before they learned to segment them into syllables. But "saying" of the words is not the goal. The idea is that activities of this sort will get the children ready to read words.

You are likely to have seen other sound analysis skills in activities where children are taught to rhyme (e.g., "Give me a word that rhymes with man.") or to dissect the sounds of words (e.g., "What would lend sound like without the 'l'?"). Ironically, while these tasks are being offered to help the children, those who are deemed to need them most (i.e., those with auditory and phonological processing problems) find them onerous and frustrating. It's not hard to figure out why. They are steadily being required to do what is most difficult for them. So often the major outcome of well-intentioned teaching is a strong negative reaction.

Unfortunately, there is an even greater problem. After the training in phonological awareness and auditory processing has ended, the children are still left to confront the visual sequence of letters in real printed words and figure out what those squiggles are saying. But nothing in the auditory-based activities has prepared them to deal with the unique and complex demands associated with the visual components of reading nor with smoothly linking those components to the auditory world.

Phonics Plus Five, by contrast, has been designed to enable a child to achieve these, and all other, vital skills. Further, it has been designed to do so in a way that is fun. In place of the frustration of failure, the child, from the outset, gets the pleasure of mastery.

Dr. Marion Blank is a world-renowned authority on how children learn to read with over 40 years experience in the field. She is the creator of the Phonics Plus Five reading & wrting program available for sale on her site. To read more articles by Dr. Blank, please visit her blog and join her newsletter.

Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.


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