Woodbinehouse publisher’s book Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome (see HERE)has a very interesting story at the beginning. The author relates that one of the reasons she started to teach reading to children with Down syndrome was to give the gift of “another language” to a non-verbal child. And it is, indeed, a great gift.
Many non-verbal special-needs children are very smart, relatively speaking. Their lack of speech is not necessarily a sign of “deeper” intellectual impairment. There are many things that can impair the speech process, and not all are related to intelligence.
Reading is beneficial to the non-verbal child in many ways.
1. Reading may actively help speech. With the written word, the sounds are “there” in front of his eyes. Unlike the spoken word, which passes in a flash, the written word can be examined, thought about, and tried as the word is still in view. (This is one reason that reading will help verbal children improve their pronunciation of opening/closing sounds.)
2. Learning to read also improves memory, which is also good for speech.
3. Learning to read will help a child who remains non-verbal to have more options in alternative communication.
So for many resasons, reading is a good idea. At Downs ed, they start work with reading at a young age, as soon as the child knows:
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Recognizes about 50 spoken words. He need not say them. If he can point to the correct item/picture when asked “Where is…?”, he knows the word.
Another point about non-verbal children:
DO find some method of communication for them, be it signing, communication boards, or what ever. Besides allowing communication (lowering everyone's frustrations), it is the best way to teach the child that COMMUNICATION works, helps, and is worth working for. It may be the push the child needs to actively work to learn to speak.