In 2004 Ottakee joined the support forum BRI – Beginning Reading Instruction, formed by tutors and teachers to explore, discuss and share information about the BRI reading programme. Thousands of school children with weak reading skills, including severe cognitive difficulties, have also benefited from this carefully constructed synthetic phonics programme.
Determined to teach her older daughter, Jane, to read, by 2004 Ottakee had tried 7 reading programmes without success. In that year, she embarked on Beginning Reading Instruction: BRI with Jane. She described her older daughter as ‘looking and acting more like [a child with] an IQ in the 60s but testing out at 38 with scores ranging from 20-120.’ Although Jane was the most severely affected of her three adopted children, both her girls were born with multiple special needs including mitochondrial DNA mutation; her son was born with foetal alcohol syndrome.
Extracts from Ottakee’s posts are reprinted with minimal editing.
I am hoping to use BRI with my 8dd Jane who is borderline mentally impaired. So far NOTHING has worked even though she knows all of her sounds and can spell the words. I had taught my son with fetal alcohol and an IQ of 53 to read and that was EASY compared to his sister. I will be starting in 2 weeks with Jane who can not read at all even though she knows all of her sounds and can spell the words; she also has some language delays. If BRI works with her I think it will work with just about any student.
We just did the sounds and flashcards for book 1…She knew all of the sounds already except /ee/ but picked that up quickly. She did read book l ‘I see Sam’ today and was very proud of herself.
I figure that I will have to move very slowly with her. My ideal goal is two books per week. I figure on Monday we will introduce and read the story, Tuesday repeat the story, work on spelling the words, review, etc. Wednesday a new story with Thursday review and Friday maybe games and reviewing the previous stories. I don’t think she will mind at all rereading the stories.
Maybe over time we can move faster but even at one story a week she will be making more progress than we have with any other program.
My 7-year-old old daughter, Sue (IQ 85), is reading some of the books to me just for fun. She stumbled more than I thought she would. I think this is because she can’t ‘read’ the pictures and the words like sit, sis, Sam, etc all look close so you can’t just use the first letter to guess. I am thinking about working her through the whole set, just at a faster pace – maybe 1-2 books per day as she picks up things more quickly.
We do 1-2 sessions per day 5 days a week and even some review on the weekends if we need it. We just did book 12 of set 1 with Jane today. It is still slow going. I just think that she is a child that needs LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of exposures to a word. BRI seems to give her a REASON for tracking left to right. She really struggled with that even after vision therapy. I noticed yesterday she is slowly tracking left to right and it makes SENSE to her now that she can read a tiny bit.
Jane has severe speech and language delay, severe stuttering (worst possible score), complex-partial seizures, ADHD, mild hearing loss, and a huge host of medical issues which require 5-8 different medications per day. She also tests like a brain injury child and may have been a shaken baby. We do know that she had very little stimulation/nurturing during her 1st 8 months of life. She was kept with her hands strapped down and her face covered much of the time.
The neuropsychologist was very impressed yesterday when we went in to see her. Jane is now reading a tiny bit and even read some things out of a standardized test that she has NEVER seen in BRI. They were things like green (she knew the /ee/ sound from see), red box, etc.
My just-turned-8 daughter, Sue, is basically repeating 1st grade. I am home schooling so we just go at her own pace. She is on book 6 of BRI 3 since the start of school this year. I am very pleased with her progress.
Just thought I would give a progress report.
Sue is on ARI 1. She is doing OK but slowing down with all of the word endings. Also her meds for ADHD are not at the right dose. We are increasing it starting tomorrow. We will see if that helps as well. Over all though her progress is good. 9-year-old Jane read book 19 of set 1 today. I was very surprised at how well she did.
Just as an aside, I showed this program to my sister. She started the books with her 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter last week. Today they called to say they had both just read book 3. These little tykes have no learning disabilities and the 3-year-old is very verbal/bright but I thought I would share their success so far.
Well, we are now on book 4 of BRI 3 with 9-year-old Jane. So far, so good. She is struggling a little with blending 2 sounds together like the /d/ /r/ in drum, /s/ /l/ in slip, etc but once we go over it once or twice she gets it for the rest of the story – and even the next book.
My 8-year-old daughter Sue started the program last September so she has been doing this for about 12 months now. She is on book 3 of ARI 2. She is also doing a lot of BRI reading.
9-year-old Jane is now on book 12 of BRI 3. She started last September as well. At first it was taking us one week per book then we went to 2 books a week and now we are up to 1 new book per DAY. Yes, she is still quite behind but she is transferring this knowledge to other books. Also, she was never expected to be able to learn to read so we are pleased with her progress.
Just another note since my daughter Jane is in ARI 1. I honestly don’t think she would test well in other books. YES, she can read the words she knows from BRI in other easy readers and even some with the same code BUT throw in too many of those hard sight words/advanced code words that many K/1st grade kids learn and she would be totally lost.
Even with my 8 1/2 daughter Sue who has a low average IQ and LDs didn’t really start reading off BRI stuff until about mid ARI 2. Even now she still struggles with some words that she hasn’t gotten the code for yet.
9-year-old Sue (LDs, low average IQ and VERY ADHD) started out with ARI 2 this fall and read through set 2, 3, and most of 4 when she transitioned to LOTS of library books. She is now reading just about anything she wants from the children’s section. She is not doing much with chapter books as she really likes picture books – but will sit and read 5 or more picture books in a sitting (non fiction too).
10-year-old Jane (mild mental impairment, seizures, severe stuttering, speech and language delays, ADD and a host of other medical issues, and a rapidly changing eye glass prescription). She started out the year with BRI 3. We worked our way through BRI 3, ARI 1 and part of ARI 2 but the stories were just getting too long. We re-read BRI 3 and ARI 1 but the stories in ARI 2 were still too long. No real problem with the code, mostly just the length of the story. We are again re-reading the Boosters and she LOVES them.
Ottakee’s support for a parent on the BRI forum:
Just want to encourage you to keep going. It IS slow moving but look at how much your daughter has learned with you compared to what she would have learned without you and your BRI books.
BRI can’t be beat for teaching them to READ – decode the words.
You were not around 18 months ago when I started this process. If you can go back in the messages that far you can see just how TOUGH this was for my 10-year-old daughter Jane back then. It took us 6 MONTHS – not weeks or days, but MONTHS to get through set 1. Fast forward, 18 months. My 9-year-old daughter Sue is reading just about anything she wants – about a 3rd grade level and 10-year-old Jane who struggled so much is working on ARI 2 which is the end of 1st grade.
Use the NOTCHED CARD and show her only ONE sound at a time (remember ee/th/sh, etc are one sound). That way she HAS to say the sounds. If she just sees the ‘S’ she won’t know if the word is sit, sat, set, see, Sam, etc. If she sees the ‘m’ the word could be meet, men, me, mat, mit, etc – she has to blend the sounds one by one. Then show the next sound, then the last sound. Have her then blend the word. If she still doesn’t get it – model it over and over and over again – then start again.
…Try to keep the sessions short – maybe 10-15 minutes twice a day would be best but no more than 20 minutes at a time for ALL of the activities – reading, flashcards, and spelling work.
…One more note, with tough kids it can take WEEKS to get through the first few books. I modelled the blending over and over and over and over again for my dd. It took her likely 100+ tries to get ‘Sam’ down. We would get through it on page one and then do it AGAIN on page 2. I just kept working in 10-15 minute session, once or twice a day, and SHE GOT IT. She is now in ARI 2 and doing great with the blending of new sounds into words. This might not be easy but it does work.
Part 2 to follow…