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Is this a phonemic awareness problem?

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My dd, 7, (and in VT), has a hard time 'hearing' what vowels sounds a word has. So like, when she was writing yesterday, she asked me is the word 'am' was spelling IM. :001_huh: She has MAJOR spelling issues, partly because she hasn't been able to read until just recently. However, now I'm wondering if it's something more...she spelled the word 'draw' as JROLL.:001_huh: She often confuses the I and E sounds.

Could this just be because she hasn't completed a phonics program yet? She is still working on The Reading Lesson. It's a not quite as comprehensive as other reading programs, but it's the one she was willing to do. I have been trying to work on the WRTR, but she has such a hard time remembering the phonograms and their sounds, we haven't actually moved on from the first part of learning those! I also have HTTS, which is also OT based, and looks easy enough to implement...however, again, the first section is memorizing the 3 sound lists and she is no where near being able to do that yet.

Do I just continue on with WRTR, ETC, and AAS? Keep trying to have her memorize the phonograms? Any ideas on how to cement those for her??? Should I look into something else? Is this somewhat normal for a delayed reader, or evidence of something wrong?


Some other info about her, in case it helps-I'm fairly certain she has ADD, not diagnosed, but she fits ALL of the symptoms. She is a right brained learner and I am NOT lol. I'm trying to read books on both of those things so as to learn better how to help her. She is VERY hesitant to write her own thing (like stories, journals, letters) because of the spelling part. I have been only doing copy work with her but just recently started to encourage creative writing, not as part of school, but in pen pal letters, stories, ect. She LOVES listening to us read aloud, and her comprehension is excellent. She can narrate very well. Even in her limited reading, her comprehension is great-she understands the punch line, can anticipate where the story is going, ect.


If you've read this far -thank you- what would you suggest? Wait it out a little to see if she improves this year through VT and other curriculums? Or work with her awareness now? Thank you!!!

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Of what you wrote, only the /i/ vs /e/ confusion is strictly a phonemic awareness thing, I think (dd6 still does it, too - she's lagged behind in developing PA, I don't know if it's normal at her age or not) - the spelling errors could be phonemic awareness-related (not hearing/processing the sounds right) or issues with associating sounds with particular spellings (which you say she does have), or both.


Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate sounds. So when she spells /am/ as "im", can she tell you that the first *sound* is /a/, even though she then tries to spell /a/ with "i"? And with draw, can she say that the first *sound* is /d/, the last *sound* is /aw/, that there are three separate sounds in the word (however she then mangles the spelling)?


Some phonemic awareness activities (done orally):

*What's the first *sound* you hear in....?

*What's the last sound you hear in...?

*How many sounds do you hear in....?

*If you have /bat/ and you take away the /b/, what do you have? If you have /trip/ and take away the /r/, what do you have?....

*If you put together /r/, /a/, and /p/, what word do you have? If you have /rip/ and add a /t/ to the beginning, what do you have?....


If she can do most of those after a few examples, her phonemic awareness is probably pretty good. If she can't, then you'll want to work on it. Manipulating individual phonemes - the smallest chunk of meaningful sound in language - is kind of the end goal of developing phonemic awareness. If she can't distinguish/manipulate phonemes well, then do all the same activities, only with syllables (which comes first/last/in-the-middle, how many, add and subtract syllables, blend them together, break them apart). And if that's too much, back up and do them with words. And if that's too much, back up and do them with sentences. Or non-language sounds (animal sounds or something - /meow/, /bark/, /oink/ - which sound is first/last/middle).


Can your dd hear rhymes? Pick out which word rhymes with another word (orally, not written)? That's often one of the earlier phonemic awareness-related abilities to develop.


The phonogram recall issue sounds more dyslexia-related (or vision-related) than PA-related to me.

Edited by forty-two
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This sounds maybe, possibly similar to my son. But, not just like my son.


My son had problems telling apart the sounds in words and also problems with speech articulation. He was severe enough for his speech to qualify for private speech therapy through our insurance, and at the private speech they worked on telling apart the sounds. All the sounds he confused were consonants, though, and it was like he would hear 2-3 sounds all as one sound. It was more than just substituting one sound for another sound (though he also did that). But it is possible to be substituting a sound and still be hearing it correctly (this is what I thought was going on with my son for a while).


But anyway -- here are the kinds of names this issue can come under: auditory discrimination, sound discrimination, phonological processing.


My son had real problems with learning letter sounds and phonemic awareness also. Well -- to some extent all these previously-mentioned skills are foundational to learning letter sounds and phonemic awareness. So, if he was having problems with the foundational skills, no surprise he had trouble with letter sounds and phonemic awareness.


Now -- my son ended up doing all this stuff in speech therapy. So, I haven't done it with him.


But I can tell you the kinds of places where I have seen info: in the very beginning of really basic pre-school phonemic awareness books; google auditory discrimination activities; beginning of Phonics A-Z by Wiley Blevins (worth checking out from the library but not buying for this --- he has some activities and then recommends LIPS for problems that don't clear up easily); LIPS; and that is the end of my list.


I tried a computer program HearBuilder that my son was too low in level for, it is similar to Earobics. I can't recommend it, I think it is more for phonemic awareness than sound discrimination. But -- it does work for a lot of people and I think it is a good program.


I didn't actually do this, b/c my son was already starting in private speech therapy when I got this info, but people often say that you can do the student screening on the Barton website. Barton starts with phonemic awareness, so if they pass that screening, they are supposed to have the underlying skills. If they don't have the underlying skills, they are supposed to start with LIPS and then move to Barton.


Now -- this may not be the issue for your daughter. But, I think it is worth looking in to.


This is only briefly issued in Overcoming Dyslexia and in The Dyslexic Advantage, and iirc Overcoming Dyslexia does recommend LIPS when needed. For The Dyslexic Advantage I don't remember what they say about it, in particular, just that it was mentioned.


edit: The phonogram-recall issues sound like they are not related to vision, but related to sound/auditory discrimation or phonological processing, to me..... b/c that was the case for my son. In his case it was not related to vision. So -- vision is not on my radar. But with his articulation issues it was just clear he needed to start with the speech therapy. I am not sure of an easy way to find out if it is the one or the other..... for younger kids, you can say two similar words, that you know your child might be confusing, and ask "same or different?" If your child is getting them wrong, that would mean it is this... but if they got them right, it could still be this, but not as bad. Or, the Barton student screening. I realized it when I saw my son in speech therapy, sorting picture cards into a pile, based on the first sound, and he was just getting all of them wrong or obviously guessing. He could have done that if the beginning sounds were very different to him, but when they were very similar to him, he could not. And -- this was with picture cards with no words... I daresay he would have gotten the right answer if he could have just looked at the word and seen what the first letter was. That is how he was, anyway.


I agree with everything else the previous poster wrote. It could be any of those problems.


If it is phonologically-based dyslexia though, it is kind-of by definition that the dyslexia is related to the phonemic awareness. It is the subject of about the whole book of Overcoming Dyslexia, which is a really good book imo.


For your question - - well, for my son, he was not going to be able to learn all the letter sounds of the alphabet until he go this down. So he had to work on this. But from things you are saying, your daughter is a lot more advanced than my son was -- for him it was a roadblock and he was not moving forward until it was addressed. Since it has been addressed he has made steady progress. So -- I don't know. I have also seen the e/i mentioned, but my son never confused them, so I never really paid attention to what people recommended. My son's would be more like -- thinking sell and shell were the same word, thinking cap and cat were the same word, things like that. He had several like this and his speech articulation was very poor.

Edited by Lecka
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I think you should go ahead and work on phonemic awareness. Everytime she asks you to help spell a word that is a phonological process anyway -- you might as well teach her brain how to hear the sounds better.


In addition, to the PA exercises as described below, as a separate activity, I also use a salt/sand tray and have the student give the name of the letter, sound of the letter and 2 words that start with that sound (except x -- which I use words like fox and box).


This is a message I posted in another thread about how to do phonemic awareness:




I would work on phonemic awareness exercises a lot until he gets the idea.


You should use colored chips (cap erasers work well) to help teach him the sounds.


Say the word big. Have student say the word big. The student (after you teach him) will pull down a colored chip to indicate the sound /b/ (make sure you don't say /buh/) and then pull down a different colored chip for the last sound and a 3rd colored chip to indicate the middle sound.(Only use the same colored chip with you have the same sound within the word -- like dad) Do this until the student can tell you all of the sounds without using the chips. It may take some time and is not as easy as it sounds.



After he can isolate the sounds in the words you can progress through more difficult exericises.


Here is a website on phonemic awareness. The only thing I don't like about it is that they put rhyming first and in my experience it should be the last thing that is worked on.


Do one step at a time and don't move on until your student can do each level.




Phoneme Awareness Activities -- this is the activity I described above

Identify the beginning sound of a word -- do until mastery

Identify the ending sound of a word -- do until mastery

Identify the middle sound of a word -- until mastery


Segmenting Activities

Segment sentences into words -- until mastery

Segment words into syllables

Segment words into sounds


Blending Activities

Blend syllables into words

Blend sounds into words


Manipulation Activities

Delete syllables from words

Substitute syllables in words

Delete sounds from words

Substitute sounds in words



Rhyme Awareness Activities

Identify words that rhyme

Produce words that rhyme


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I was going to say -- you might look for "vowel discrimination" and "vowel confusion." But I don't know of a good website or activities.


Also my son was severe with the speech therapy and I think a lot of kids do good with phonemic awareness. My son was just struggling and struggling with phonemic awareness and I think this was why.

Edited by Lecka
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Has she had a complete hearing evaluation? Not just a screening, but a complete eval? I ask because she sounds very much like the child of a friend just this year (at the age of 13) they discovered he had significant hearing losses (specific tones, but not all tones) in both ears that was effecting his reading (phonics) and spelling, plus was the root cause of some of the attention issues. Once he received hearing aids the change was dramatic in his spelling, reading, and attention.


Also, from the experiences I had with my son, and depending on what she is in VT for, some may change after VT. My son couldn't match sounds to letters because his vision was so messed up. Since his brain was receiving mixed signals, the letters most likely never looked the same twice. Plus, he had tracking issues so he wasn't necessarily putting the right sound with the right letter even if it was right in front of him. So yes, his vision was causing reading confusion. After we started VT he was completely taught to read again from the beginning and we were amazed at the gaps he had. With in 3 months of beginning VT we saw great improvement in his reading.

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