Have you ever tried teaching your child to read syllable by syllable or connecting letter by letter? Did that work? I found it quite frustrating with my son. In fact, there is no such thing as connecting letters. The way my son reads is by memorizing the entire word…and that is the only way.
One day I found myself full of frustration when I was going with him over the same word over and over again. I simply could not understand how it was possible to forget the word’s pronunciation immediately after it was pronounced. What I also found frustrating is that my child applied the same pronunciation to all words that shared a few letters, so “rat” and “rabbit” became the same word. It is especially hard to understand challenges of your child with Autism when you have another normally developing child growing side by side. It’s difficult to accept the difference in learning and change your teaching strategy every time you “switch” between the kids.
I put my frustration aside and I told myself that my son needs a different reading approach. I allocated us at least two weeks for mastering a six to eight sentence book. I incorporated word searches that I found online or made myself full of words that he was familiar with. I also made word searches full of words from the books we read, so there was a constant word recognition reinforcement. Finally, I allowed tons of breaks between reading sessions to ensure that he and I remain in a good relationship.
Repetition is also a key. “Mastered” books get thrown into the mix with the ones “in progress”, and my son can pick one from each pile he is in the mood for. Now that he comes across a familiar word, he recognizes it immediately and pronounces it with pride on his face. As his reading improves, his intonation gets better, and he actually gets to enjoy his reading session.
Truly embrace your child’s challenge and turn it into his or her long-term strength, even if that means continuous and monotonous work that does not seem to bring any results. However, once it starts clicking, you both would know that you are on to some wonderful greatness.