Phonics has been a popular method for teaching reading for several decades. There are passionate proponents and opponents alike. As parents, you may feel overwhelmed with the amount of information presented for helping your child, especially if your child has learning difficulties. Phonics relies on the sounds that letters make, so this may raise the question of whether or not phonics could be helpful for children with speech difficulties or additional needs. .
Phonological awareness is a spoken language skill. If this skill can be developed it will be strongly connected to early reading and writing abilities. As these abilities progress then so does the literacy levels of students. These skills includes listening, reading, writing and of course speaking. but educators and parents need to be careful about how phonics is used. You will want to make sure that you are using phonics to help target speech as well as reading. All to often it is used as a reading skill in isolation.
The more children hear the sound in words and phrases, the better they will become at saying and recognizing the letter sounds. You do not want to simply push the phonetic sound alone. While this may be fine for typically developing people, children with delays may have difficulty hearing or understanding phonics when they stand alone. By providing more words with the same sound representations, they will begin to hear these representations in their daily lives.
Children who are having trouble with speech often have trouble connecting letters to their sounds. They need more reinforcement. Teaching them to use the phonemes and what the graphemes look like can sometimes solidify that sound in their brains. For those not familiar, phonemes are the sounds letters make, whereas graphemes are the physical letters. We have hundreds of resources for this on our site both free and premium.
Start by locating words of similar sounds, roots, and syllabic content, and rhymes. Your child will not be able to do these things on their own, initially, but with support and help, they will improve over time. The more your child interacts with the sounds and structure, the more the phonics will improve their speech development. We have workbooks that offer games and activities for interaction and skill building specifically.
There are specific physical skills that can be taught to show learners how to position their lips, tongue and mouth to make the sounds of English. Although not often taught it is a perfectly valid and useful technique to use with students who may be having difficulties, for whatever reason. I do this reasonably often in my role as a second language teacher of English, there are sounds like /n/ /l/ and /r/ that are incredibly difficult to say in my teaching environment and showing mouth position help students grasp how they should approach them in the first instance. These free images of mouth position may be useful if you find yourself in a similar position. We also have our version you can download on the page here and by clicking the image above as well. (there one is more in depth)
Phonics, phonemic awareness, and phonemes are all oral language skills. While they may get students ready for reading and improve this vital academic skill, reading is undeniably intertwined with speech and oral skills. As students learn the phonemes and graphemes, they will begin to understand more of what they are hearing. Speech and hearing are often connected. While the brain may hear everything that is said, it may be inaccurately processing the sound. While this is often indicative of auditory processing disorder, this is common among young children, even without a long-term problem resulting in a diagnosis of CAPD. This can commonly be an issue for non-native speakers.
Alphabetically, the sounds are not the same in all languages. That means that graphemes and phonemes do not match what these speakers are already hearing. While these students are not typically speech students, they sometimes have trouble creating certain sounds. Children with disabilities such as Down syndrome also have trouble creating certain sounds due to elongated tongue or low muscle tone. Phonics can help these students practice sounds and make connections that may not have been clear before.
Phonemes are simply the units of sound associated with words. Any sound a letter or cluster makes can be understood as a phoneme. For example, the sounds in the word phoneme are f o n e m. While that’s not the phonics version of the word, these are the smaller sounds that are made within the letters. These are the sounds that we hear. These sounds are smaller than syllables, but they can be used to teach syllabic sounds.
These are the representations of the phonemes. Phonics have their own alphabet and visual representations. Without phonemic understanding, phonics may not be as easy to understand. Phonemic awareness is the foundation for understanding phonics.
This component is most associated with understanding how words are related. Rhyming, beginning and ending sounds, alliteration, phonemes, and sentence/ word deconstructions are all part of phonological awareness. Students who are phonologically aware are able to hear rhyming words and alliteration. They understand phonemic sounds and can deconstruct words and sentences to manipulate the sounds. This is the most critical part of literacy and speech as they converge. Students who are struggling with speech sound often cannot discern the rhyme or alliteration, or it can be difficult for them to reproduce.
Simply put, these are the physical representation of letters. “A” and “a” are both graphemes. They are, in this case, also a representation of a phoneme. Each letter of the alphabet is a grapheme. Graph means writing or written. In this case, it is literacy components. Graphemes are typically representations of phonemes.
Interacting with text in the classroom at home will help students understand how words and phonics work. Focus on phonological awareness through emphasizing rhymes, beginning and ending sounds, and alliteration. Have your student repeat after you the words and sentences on the page, especially if rhyming and alliteration are present. When they delete beginning or ending sounds, it is okay to have them over-exaggerate them for a while. While web doesn’t end with a particularly hard B sound, it is okay to have them pronounce WEBuh for a short time. This will help them not delete that sound. It may also help them be more aware of the sounds that are quieter in speech but still present. As they become more aware, encourage softer b sounds at the end until they achieve the appropriate b sound at the end of the word.
Phonics and literacy have been intertwined for quite some time. However, until recently, many people did not understand the connection to speech pathology. Classroom teachers and parents can assist speech therapists by encouraging phonological awareness and interacting with the text from words, sounds, and pictures when appropriate. never be afraid to seek out professional advice and help if you or your children need.
Hi I’m Marc. A teacher of over 15 years, English, General Studies and Outdoor Education. Thought it was about time to sharing both what I have learnt during that time and the resources I have put together. On this site we aim to teach the theory and share our thoughts, but also go that one step further and give you access to the hard resources you need for your class or for you children