When George was first born, and we found out he had Down Syndrome, I very quickly went into homeschooling-mom mode and started to worry about how I was going to teach him to read. You all know how important reading is to us around here 🙂 .
It was probably less than thirty minutes into my immediate postpartum internet searching about DS and reading when I discovered that Sue Buckley, a brilliant researcher in England, had published studies showing that not only CAN young children (two and three year olds) learn how to read, they SHOULD be taught to read because it helps their other language skills, too.
OK, no problem. I had found my hero, and we were all on the same page, literally and figuratively. You’ve seen the results. George CAN read and reading HAS helped his other language skills.
If you want to know more about the research and the organization, go here:
Here’s a brief summary, taken from their website:
Visual learning strengths
Children with Down syndrome find learning from listening more challenging due to hearing and verbal processing difficulties, and this leads to delays in speech, language and cognitive development. The charity’s research has shown that using visual teaching methods, such as reading, can lessen the impact of these difficulties and reduce the delays in speech, language and cognitive development. We have found that children with Down syndrome use visual reading strategies for longer (at higher reading ages) than their typically-developing peers.
The charity’s studies have shown that most children with Down syndrome can learn to read and should start in their pre-school years. We have found that early sight word reading is a particular strength for preschool children with Down syndrome and that reading continues to be a strength in later years.
Speech, language and communication
Our research has found that teaching children with Down syndrome to read leads to permanent improvements in their speech, language and short-term memory skills. We have shown that the specific delays in developing expressive grammar are linked to delays in developing spoken vocabularies.
Drumroll please…. here’s the photo evidence!
This is George and Dr. Buckley herself. Really, truly, no kidding.
Over the course of just the past few days (I wasn’t sure I was actually going to be able to go until we were in the process of driving out of the driveway…), Emily, George and I made her the video you saw the other day, registered for a conference for speech therapists, drove to Atlanta, and got to meet and learn from the famous Dr. Buckley herself, along with two of her colleagues. Now she and her friends call George “Thefamousgeorge” (all one word 🙂 ) because of his You tube video, which I guess they liked as much as we did.
So anyway, I was SUPPOSED to be home, taking kids to violin lessons, taking naps and doing the many, many hours of preparation that I need to do before my first day with my new Faith Formation class on Sunday. But instead, Emily and George and I are staying at a fancy convention center hotel, where are having a wonderful time and learning MUCH. I have taken seventeen pages of notes, all interesting and practical things that our family can use right away to help George with his talking and reading and learning. Plus I got to meet my educational hero. It doesn’t get much better than this.