Multisensory Methods for Early Literacy Learning
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The simultaneous stimulation of two or more of the sensory receptors is termed multisensory. Visual, auditory, kinaesthetic and tactile information converges in the brain to be integrated so that an object may be efficiently and accurately perceived. This integration can also play an important role in the learning of new skills. The purpose of this chapter is to review multisensory processing and the use of multisensory methods to enhance early literacy skills in normally developing preschool aged children. Although little empirical research exists on the efficacy of multisensory instruction in early literacy skill acquisition, the few existing studies have been conducted in ecologically valid settings and provide valuable insights into how these strategies may be used to benefit young children's early literacy development. A key component of these strategies may be their incorporation of both a tactile and kinaesthetic component (e.g., tracing and manipulating letters with fingers) in addition to the traditional visual and auditory only methods (e.g., instructor presents a printed letter and says the letter name and/or sound). The application of these multisensory methods in preschool and home settings will be highlighted. The recommendation is made that teachers and parents use multisensory strategies to help scaffold early literacy learning. However, further carefully controlled studies are critical to determine the exact benefits of multisensory processes and instruction in early literacy learning.
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