As the parent of a child with apraxia, I have often found connecting with best-fit literacy resources for my son to be challenging. It’s been quite a search but I have collected a group of resources I find incredibly useful for my son, and that I continue to find especially useful when reading with other children who have speech and language issues, including apraxia.
So, here are my favourite things! Although there is no one product, tool, or material that will fit every struggling reader, I hope you might find some inspiration here.
When a student cannot produce a phoneme quickly and independently, I tend to rely on Phonic Faces to help introduce a more robust, multi-sensory understanding of that phoneme, including how it is produced. A number of children I see use vowels appropriately when speaking but make a lot of vowel errors when decoding and Phonic Faces is my go-to for this.
I also use Phonic Faces as a scaffold or cue when working on phonological awareness activities with children who are not consistently able to demonstrate those skills verbally.
(Lindamood-Bell’s LiPS is another great option for helping children discover the physical characteristics of letter sounds.)
We followed all the best advice on sight word instruction and we worked so, so hard but nothing gave us results. None of it. We didn’t even have the word “a.” My kiddo has word retrieval issues (which can be common for children with apraxia) and as much as he practiced, he just couldn’t recall sight words when he needed to. The books children read consist of up to 80% – 90% sight words so this was a huge challenge for fluency and comprehension. Another mother of a kiddo with apraxia, suggested SnapWords and they worked like magic!
SnapWords offer several multisensory cues for each sight word. Each word is embedded in a picture, has a related body movement, and has an associated cloze statement. That gives the reader a few meaningful cues to draw upon when attempting to recall the word they see on the page.
You can buy letter tiles or you can just make them. In fact, they don’t even need to be tiles – you can use magnetic letters, Scrabble tiles, letter beads, or anything that lets your student manipulate letters quickly when they are completing phonological awareness activities.
Speech difficulties can impact a struggling reader’s ability to demonstrate what they actually know. Using letter tiles removes the speaking component of the task so I am better able to see what the student knows rather than just what he can verbally communicate that he knows.
No reading activity is as important as actually reading text.
For readers who really struggle, even the lowest level traditional readers may not offer them the opportunity to practice reading at their ability. BOB Books are not just a great introduction to reading for young children but, despite any issue with age appropriateness, they are uniquely digestible for those students who aren’t yet able to succeed with standard fare.
When it comes to reading intervention, there are two programs that seem to attract the most attention and praise in the apraxia community; Orton-Gillingham and Lindamood-Bell. I have a huge crush on both but Orton-Gillingham just wasn’t a great fit for my own kiddo in the way that Seeing Stars has been, so it is my personal favourite.
Seeing Stars is intended to the develop the student’s ability to visualize sounds and letters in words in order to support orthographic awareness, phonemic awareness, word attack, word recognition, spelling, and contextual reading fluency. I find that it’s also very useful for leveraging the strengths of children who have strong visual/perceptual skills.
The biggest downfall with Seeing Stars is that it’s not very accessible in Ontario. Toronto has a Lindamood-Bell Center but, if you are outside the GTA, you may find it difficult to find an SLP, teacher or reading instructor who is Lindamood-Bell trained. If you are interested in taking the training yourself (I did!), workshops are offered in the U.S. as well as online.
Word Ladders are a great phonological awareness workout and my students love them.
To “complete the ladder,” a student must solve riddles using clues that encourage them play with letter sounds which create a new word that answers the riddle. This builds decoding, phonics, spelling, and vocabulary skills.
I love Sound Out Chapter Books with all my heart.
Great care has been given to crafting interesting and age appropriate stories for struggling readers and they really work to meet those struggling readers at their level. This makes Sound Out Chapter Books rewarding and a tremendous confidence builder.
The series slowly introduces new decoding skills and continually enforces old ones, so these wonderful books make great practice for reading in session (when new skills are introduced) and as homework (once the student can demonstrate the skill independently). These stories are also great material for exploring reading comprehension because they offer more complex plots than typical readers at a similar difficulty level.
If you haven’t found the right literacy materials, tools or activities for your kiddo, I recommend talking about literacy with your SLP and connecting with the apraxia-kids Facebook group to see what other parents and SLPs find helpful. If you have (or find) an amazing literacy resource, please post about it in the comments!
Angela Muis started her journey with apraxia when her son, Huxley, was diagnosed with the speech disorder in 2011. It has been a long and hard road but Huxley’s apraxia is now resolved and along the way, Angela found her calling and is currently working as a private reading instructor while completing her SLP-A/CDA Honours Diploma.