1) What is the best order in which to introduce letters and their corresponding sounds?

Many people feel that the most natural way to introduce the alphabet and the letter sounds is to go straight from A to Z, but there is a more logical and systematic way that introduces letters based on the type of sounds that they make. The following article suggests which letters to introduce first as well as activities that help students learn the phonemes:

2) What are some ways to help my daughter learn the names and sounds of letters? She is tired of simply using flashcards.

There are several things you can do to help your child remain interested in learning her letters. Try using a multi-sensory approach. Your child may be a tactile learner instead of an auditory or visual learner, or she may just need a variety of sensory input to learn best. Help her to identify how each sound feels on her mouth. Use a mirror to help. For example your lips come together for /m/.

You may want to try coming up with a rhyme or song about each letter. Use alphabet magnets or alphabet cookie cutters with clay in lieu of flash cards. These activities may be more fun and engaging than flashcards and help your daughter develop her oral communication.

Use pictures. Give your child a picture (e.g. a cat) and have her sound out the name while placing marbles, drawing marks, or tapping her fingers for each of the individual sounds in the word (e.g., /c/.../a/.../t/ is composed of 3 sounds, thus the child would use 3 marbles, marks, or taps.) Stick with short words with a consonant-vowel-consonant pattern, like bat, top, pen, dad, etc. You can also clap or tap out the number of syllables in a word.

3) What does "adversely affecting educational performance" actually mean when considering speech services for a child? Does a child have to be failing to be considered eligible for speech services?

"Adversely affecting educational performance" is a phrase from the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). The interpretation of this phrase has been debated for many years. Many students are doing fine academically, but still have a speech impairment. Because school systems often include adequate oral communication as part of their performance standards, children with only a speech impairment can receive services.

For more information about IDEA and Special Education, visit the following sites:

You may find helpful information from the American Speech–Language–Hearing Association (ASHA).

4) My child is 18 months old and is not yet speaking, but understands commands and responds to directions. What can I do to help her develop her language skills?

Each child develops language at her own rate. Typically children say their first word around one year of age and then slowly acquire more words. Some children can say around 70 words at 18 months, however others take longer to get started. The key is that your child's receptive language, meaning what she understands, is not delayed. A typical child at 18 months can follow directions, point to a number of pictures in books, point to objects/people in their environment when asked, and point to several body parts.

Reading to your child makes the biggest difference in language development and future reading skills. Also, imitate and expand on your daughter's attempts to speak. If she says, "Uh-oh," you say, "Uh-oh, we spilled the milk!" If she still isn't talking by her second birthday, talk with your doctor and consider an evaluation by an early intervention specialist. This may ease your concerns if you continue to have them.

Check LD OnLine's Speech & Language and Early Identification sections for more information.

Also see the Reading Rockets section on developmental milestones for speaking and reading.

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