How to Help Your Dyslexic Child and Have Fun: 'th' and 'v' Sounds; Support, Practical Ideas, Teeth/Tongue Positions
Where Can You Find Support?
The previous hub in this series suggested some ways you can help your dyslexic child. This hub now gives guidance about where to find support, advice or just someone to talk to, as well as another section with practical suggestions.
Remember - you are not alone! In fact, there are many options, from the umbrella body of the British Dyslexia Association (BDA), to local associations (like mine, the Somerset Dyslexia Association), to parent groups and even drop-in centres (ours is Taunton). The Dyslexia Guild, Dyslexia Institute, PATOSS and many others are easily contacted, friendly and full of useful and practical information. There are ways to access assessments, to obtain special help for your child at school, to obtain a statement for your child. There are also further education grants available for worthy students.
The BDA is the ultimate body where you can find just about all the information you could wish for, from lists of local branches to conferences and training opportunities. It is often the case that a desperate parent finds instant solace in the fact that someone out there actually understands and can finally give them an avenue for action and results.
First Line of Action
If you are worried about your child's progress at school, follow this procedure (this, of course, applies only to schools in England and Wales; other systems vary):
- Talk to your child's teacher and/or headteacher and voice your concerns. They should be able to tell you what support is in place for your child or, in the case of no support, be able to run screening tests on your child. Group or individual extra support can be put in place.
- If you are convinced that your child is still not reaching his or her potential in literacy, then ask for an assessment of specific learning difficulties (of which dyslexia is one); the school should be able to run more in-depth tests.
- If this service is still not provided, go to your Local Education Authority and make the same request. The full procedure can be obtained by contacting the bodies I've mentioned above. Help is often available privately but your child's school is there to provide the education and should be able to meet your child's needs.
- The final stage is getting a 'statement' for your child; this follows extensive assessment by qualified experts (in the field of Dyslexia and/or Educational Psychology) and can be a difficult and stressful process for you as a parent. Sadly, many end up fighting for what their children are entitled to have. It is not necessarily the school's fault; funding, shortage of staff and time also come into the equation.
In the meantime keep upbeat and, as I stressed before, concentrate on your child's strengths and interests.
More practical suggestions
Suggestion for consonant digraph 'th'
Two letters, one sound; let's start with the pronunciation!
This can be a problem because so many people mispronounce it as a matter of course - some famous people (singers, footballers..), even some presenters on children's tv! Think about the word 'other'; say it out loud. Listen to others saying it. You'll often hear a word which doesn't exist - 'uver'. Similarly, the word 'think' - how many times have you heard 'fink'? If a child doesn't know the correct pronunciation, how can s/he be expected to say it correctly, let alone read it or spell it with success?
The most common sound of 'th' is made by putting the tongue between the teeth (slightly towards the upper teeth), pushing the tongue up and forward a little and sending air from the mouth at the same time. I always tell my students that it's the only time they're allowed to stick out their tongues at a teacher, parent or grandparent! There are in fact two common sounds for 'th' - with voice (as in 'that') and without voice (as in 'think'). You can call it voice, noise, vibration, buzz... anything the child best understands.
Practise putting the tongue between the teeth with air only, then with voice added. It can take some getting used to, so treat it as a 'naughty' game (around the house, with some good friends, at Grandma's?) and give rewards for each success. Remember to negotiate each set of rewards/treats before you start.
Ask your child to see how many times s/he can notice someone saying it incorrectly on the television; do a five-bar gate tally then add them up in 5s (this also practises maths without them realising!). If a score of 100 is reached, give a treat. This could also apply to catching out family members but needs diplomacy so tread carefully! If the whole family is up to speed and some are apt to mispronounce, they will also be making a conscious effort and might not mind being 'caught out'. It helps a child to know that s/he is not the only one who makes mistakes. You could even turn it into a competition; lowest score = treat.
Making your own activities
Apart from following the card suggestions in 'Dyslexic Child? How to Help and Have Fun Part 1', try this:
- Make as many cards as possible, each with a 'th' word on (see list below). All words should be written in lower case (i.e. no capitals). Make sure the 'th' part of each word is highlighted in colour (preferably a different colour from those you've used for 'sh' and 'ch').
- Put them into 2 groups, one for un-voiced 'th', one for voiced 'th'.
- Put all the cards from one group only out on the table, words showing.
- Ask the child to find a stated word, e.g. 'this'.
- Then ask for another. Each time the child finds the correct word, s/he can keep it in a 'won' pile.
- When all the words are 'won', count them up and give a point for each.
- Repeat the exercise and when the child seems comfortable with the words and is pronouncing the 'th' correctly, introduce a 'time' element. Use a stop-watch if possible and go through the words as quickly as possible - note the time, then repeat the task as many times as the child wishes to beat his/her own record.
- On another day, go through the same sequence with the other group of words.
- When the child is confident with all the words in both groups, mix the words up and have some fun!!
List of 'th' words
How to stop 'th' becoming 'v'!
Ok, so now you have an idea of how to help with 'th'. This should help get rid of the interference of the 'v' sound. However, you can switch to looking at 'v' so that your child can hear and FEEL the difference. It is advisable not to attempt the comparison until knowledge of 'th' is well established.
To make the 'v' sound, the teeth are placed just below the top of the lower lip, air is expressed and the voice is used. Try it yourself first. Then:
- have a card with the letter 'v' written on it in large, bold script
- ask your child to look at your mouth and listen whilst you make the sound
- point to the card and make the sound again
- ask your child to try the sound - it will probably be easier than 'th'
- ask your child to think about the shape of his/her mouth, where the teeth are, what muscles s/he can feel working
- when the sound is mastered and the position of teeth and lip is correct, look at previously prepared 'v' words on cards (over, vent, event, vocal....) and apply the technique
- when this is mastered, and only when, make the comparison between 'th' and 'v'
- do the point and say game, time it as before, see if your child can find other words, listen for other words
- try a game of snap with a double set of the words (one sound only first, then both)
Copyright annart (AFC) 2014 (No copying without permission; no changing of original hub)
Manufactures and distributes a range of fun products for dyslexics. Including jigsaws, puzzles and card games.
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© 2012 Ann Carr