Learn about Letter to Sound Matching the research on the Constant Therapy task that has proven its usefulness not only in reading aloud, but also in naming.
Here's everything you need to know about: Letter to Sound Matching.
As we’ve discussed in the past, reading is a complex process. One of the first steps is knowing which letter represents which sound – this allows us to “sound out” words that we see on a page.
For people with both acquired and developmental reading disorders, this can be a daunting task. From kids with dyslexia to adults who have suffered a stroke, this skill can make or break reading.
For kids with dyslexia, learning these letter-to-sound correspondences in the first place can be very difficult. Research over time has shown that by providing a rule-based system (some common teaching systems out there are Orton-Gillingham and Wilson, which contain many of the teaching points that the NIH laid out as part of effective teaching of reading), children with dyslexia can and will learn how to read in the vast majority of cases.
Making the rules of reading transparent can be really beneficial for any child learning to read. A big part of that is very carefully going through and teaching which letters represent which sounds. From there, children can begin to sound out and then blend those sounds together to form words (blending sounds is a whole additional skill that we can discuss later, but it’s a moot point long term if the child doesn’t know what letters make what sounds).
Interestingly enough, some aphasia patients can spell out a word without any trouble, but then really struggle to say the word they’ve just written out loud. This is particularly unfortunate, because often just having the first few sounds of a word may cue a person to remember the word they need. Imagine that a person could write a word out on a small notebook they had with them whenever they got stuck – if they could then say the first few sounds associated with the first few letters, they could cue themselves to say the word aloud.
For patients with aphasia, learning letter-to-sound correspondences can actually really improve naming skills! Think back to our discussion about how important it is to think about not only the meaning of words, but also the way they sound (here’s a post about rhyming therapy for more on this). By working on the sounds that make up words, and their relationship to letters, we can actually improve naming skills by making those sounds easier to bring up, particularly in terms of what sound a word starts with. Again, then you can get into that nice self-cueing loop of being able to give yourself hints to find the word you want.
The Constant Therapy task for this is kind of two-fold – we have one version (Letter to Sound Matching, which we’ll talk about in terms of evidence below), where we give a person a letter and then provide them with sounds to choose from – you pick the sound that matches. We have another task as well that is the opposite – Sound to Letter matching, where we give you the sound and you pick the letter (we can talk about the evidence behind that one later!).
As per usual, these tasks work and engage that neuroplastic and ever-changing brain of ours. Check out the summaries of papers below that explain why this task is so effective:
Kiran, S., C.K. Thompson, and N. Hashimoto, Training grapheme to phoneme conversion in patients with oral reading and naming deficits: A model-based approach. Aphasiology, 2001. 15(9): p. 855-876.
- Take Home: Thist study was an important early foray into studying how effective retraining reading skills can be. It showed that for patients with aphasia including naming deficits and difficulty reading aloud, using letter to sound tasks is effective, and worked not only for trained words but also improved overall reading aloud skills as well as oral AND written naming. Talk about good bang for your buck in a task!
Kiran, S. and M. Viswanathan, Effect of model-based treatment on oral reading abilities in severe alexia: a case study. Journal of Medical Speech Language Pathology. , 2008. March.
- Take Home: In this study, researchers used letter to sound and sound to letter treatment along with semantic feature analysis with target words to improve oral reading and naming. The awesome thing about this is that this treatment actually showed generalization, meaning that it improved skills not just on words that were specifically trained, but across the board skills improved.