As I get more and more involved in combating facilitated communication, it occurs to me that two things that FC proponents under-appreciate is (1) what it takes to learn to read and spell, and (2) just how unlikely it is that someone could accomplish this without explicit, systematic instruction.
That’s because most FC proponents, like most Americans, don’t remember what it was like learning the English writing system (I certainly don’t!).
And because most of them, like most Americans, have never tried to crack the code of a completely different phonetic alphabet like Georgian,
Here’s an old post from Out in Left Field that may help to get that across.
Let’s learn to read in Georgian via sight words
If your child has a teacher who focuses on sight words and story context at the expense of phonics, ask how s/he’d prefer to learn how to read this page out loud.
(1) By learning which sound(s) each letter stands for.
(2) By learning these words as holistic graphical patterns that correspond to particular spoken words.
Here in America, many of today’s educators have no personal experience with what it takes to master a foreign language. As a result, they often fail to appreciate what kinds of instruction English Language Learners need in order to master English.
Even fewer of our educators have personal experience with what it takes to master a truly foreign alphabet like Georgian or Armenian. (Greek and Cyrillic don’t count as truly foreign: these alphabets bear too many resemblances to our own). Nor do most people remember what it took for them, back in early childhood, to master the alphabets of their native languages. As a result, they often fail to appreciate what kinds of instruction novice readers need in order to master the English writing system.
Our teacher training programs are supposed to be addressing this, but somehow the message still hasn’t spread sufficiently far and wide. In a comment on an earlier post, C_T cites
a study showing that only 47% of education colleges were making phonics instruction part of their required coursework for elementary ed majors.
Some have argued against a primarily phonics-based approach for English by citing all the unusual spellings that violate phonics. But even in English writing the rules are far more widespread than the exceptions, and even when it comes to the words with the most unphonetic spellings, like “through,” “talk,” “bread,” “nation,” or “psycho,” you’re still much better off sounding the word out phonetically than memorizing its graphical appearance.