Speech Pathol­ogy


Q. What stu­dent dif­fi­cul­ties can a speech pathol­o­gist as­sist with?

Lan­guage and lit­er­acy; Stu­dents may have trou­ble un­der­stand­ing what they hear and may not fol­low direc­tions or an­swer ques­tions well.

Lan­guage prob­lems can also make read­ing and writ­ing more dif­fi­cult.

So­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tion;

Stu­dents may have trou­ble talk­ing with other stu­dents and may not make friends eas­ily.

They may not no­tice or un­der­stand the sig­nals which tell us what oth­ers think or how they feel.

Speech dif­fi­cul­ties ;

Stu­dents may have trou­ble say­ing sounds, or putting sounds to­gether to pro­duce words, mak­ing their speech un­clear and hard to un­der­stand.

Flu­ency (Stut­ter­ing);

Stu­dents may have trou­ble speak­ing smoothly.

They may re­peat sounds or words or have long pauses when they talk.

Stut­ter­ing can make it hard to an­swer ques­tions, read aloud or give speeches in class.


Stu­dents may sound hoarse or lose their voice.

They may sound like they talk through their nose, called nasal­ity.

Oral eat­ing and drink­ing;

Stu­dents may have chew­ing and swal­low­ing dif­fi­cul­ties due to a va­ri­ety of causes.

One of the signs of a po­ten­tial swal­low­ing prob­lem is cough­ing, gag­ging or chok­ing when eat­ing and drink­ing.

Speech pathol­o­gists pro­vide ad­vice on a range of strate­gies that can fa­cil­i­tate chil­dren’s abil­ity to en­joy meal­times, eat and drink safely, and get ad­e­quate food and fluid in­take while at school.

Speech Pathol­ogy Aus­tralia has a Swal­low­ing Aware­ness Day on Wed­nes­day March 14.

Q. What signs in­di­cate speech, lan­guage or com­mu­ni­ca­tion needs?

Stu­dents may have dif­fi­cul­ties:

• un­der­stand­ing and re­mem­ber­ing spo­ken in­for­ma­tion

• un­der­stand­ing and us­ing spe­cific con­cepts (e.g.) above, be­tween, af­ter, be­fore

• ex­plain­ing what they want or need

• with read­ing (e.g.) sound­ing out words and read­ing for mean­ing

• with writ­ing (e.g.) gen­er­at­ing story ideas, link­ing thoughts

• think­ing of the right words to use to ex­plain, de­scribe, or de­fine

• un­der­stand­ing and an­swer­ing ques­tions re­quir­ing higher lev­els of rea­son­ing, prob­lem solv­ing, pre­dict­ing and in­fer­enc­ing (e.g.) how do you know? What do you think they will do next?

Speech, lan­guage and com­mu­ni­ca­tion are closely linked to be­hav­iour, ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ment, how stu­dents in­ter­act so­cially, and to self-es­teem.

Some as­so­ci­ated dif­fi­cul­ties aris­ing from a stu­dent hav­ing a speech, lan­guage or

com­mu­ni­ca­tion need are:

• lone­li­ness and iso­la­tion and dif­fi­culty mak­ing friends, such as start­ing and main­tain­ing con­ver­sa­tions, un­der­stand­ing hu­mour and sar­casm etc.

• dif­fi­cul­ties ad­just­ing to changes in rou­tine

• dif­fi­cul­ties with or­gan­i­sa­tional skills.

• be­hav­iour prob­lems (in­clud­ing with­drawal, switch­ing off, act­ing out, frus­tra­tion, bul­ly­ing).

Q. How can teach­ers sup­port stu­dents with speech, lan­guage and com­mu­ni­ca­tion needs?

A teacher’s role is cru­cial in iden­ti­fy­ing that a stu­dent has a speech, lan­guage or com­mu­ni­ca­tion need and pro­vid­ing ap­pro­pri­ate sup­ports to pro­mote in­clu­sion, ac­cess and par­tic­i­pa­tion.

Speech, lan­guage and com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills un­der­pin the skills of lit­er­acy and numer­acy and are nec­es­sary for stu­dents to un­der­stand and achieve suc­cess in all sub­ject ar­eas. For stu­dents who have dif­fi­culty un­der­stand­ing lan­guage:

• Mak­ing class­room lan­guage eas­ier to un­der­stand by pre-teach­ing new vo­cab­u­lary and con­cepts prior to a new unit of work;

• Giv­ing an over­view of the les­son first and then go­ing into more de­tail;

• Ex­plic­itly teach­ing the lan­guage of learn­ing, which are high fre­quency words used over a va­ri­ety of con­tent do­mains, for ex­am­ple: com­pare, con­trast, hy­poth­e­sise, rel­a­tive etc.

• Em­pha­sis­ing key words and us­ing short chunks of lan­guage;

• Ex­plain­ing dif­fi­cult words or id­ioms for ex­am­ple say ‘make’ in­stead of ‘pro­duce’;

• Sup­port­ing what you say with vis­ual cues, ges­tures, di­a­grams, pic­tures etc;

• Us­ing vis­ual timeta­bles to help un­der­stand­ing of the se­quence of events;

• Us­ing mind maps to cap­ture ideas;

• Link­ing new in­for­ma­tion to what the stu­dents al­ready know.

• Re­duc­ing back­ground noise and dis­trac­tions in your class­room;

• Check­ing your stu­dent’s un­der­stand­ing, and sup­port stu­dents to recog­nise when they don’t un­der­stand;

• Mak­ing sure you’re fac­ing the stu­dent and us­ing their name if they are not fo­cused;

• Giv­ing point­ers for what stu­dents should lis­ten to such as, ‘It’s im­por­tant you re­mem­ber X’,

• Al­low­ing ex­tra time to lis­ten and process lan­guage. For stu­dents who have dif­fi­culty ex­press­ing them­selves:

• Lis­ten and show your in­ter­est by main­tain­ing eye con­tact and us­ing the stu­dent’s name;

• Be pa­tient and al­low plenty of think­ing time;

• Give pos­i­tive feed­back for ef­fort; o build on what the stu­dent has said.

Rather than cor­rect­ing them, pro­vide

the cor­rect model of spo­ken lan­guage; o fol­low the stu­dent’s lead; o in­crease op­por­tu­ni­ties for real di­a­logue and con­ver­sa­tion by short­en­ing your talk­ing time when it’s your turn; o some­times you may have to let the stu­dent know that you can­not un­der­stand them and sug­gest other ways to get the mes­sage across such as re­word­ing, writ­ing or demon­strat­ing; o of­fer help and sup­port when the

stu­dent re­quests this; o make sure they’re not rushed or feel­ing

rushed; o re­spond to what the stu­dent is try­ing

to say rather than how they say it; o prompt with cues such as ‘first’, ‘then’, ‘last’.

Q. How do speech pathol­o­gists work in schools?

How speech pathol­o­gists work in schools is dif­fer­ent in ev­ery state and ter­ri­tory in Aus­tralia.

In some states, Ed­u­ca­tion De­part­ments em­ploy speech pathol­o­gists di­rectly.

In most states school prin­ci­pals have the au­ton­omy and fund­ing to em­ploy speech pathol­o­gists as con­trac­tors or staff mem­bers. Speech pathol­o­gists can work in var­i­ous ways in schools: • Pro­vid­ing pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment to teach­ers about oral lan­guage, so­cial lan­guage and lit­er­acy de­vel­op­ment. Ex­pres­sive and re­cep­tive lan­guage skills are crit­i­cal in the de­vel­op­ment of lit­er­acy in the first three years of school.

• As­sist­ing teach­ers to in­ter­pret data and to in­ter­pret pro­fes­sional re­ports about stu­dents with speech, lan­guage and com­mu­ni­ca­tion needs.

• Ad­vis­ing teach­ers on ap­pro­pri­ate re­sources to sup­port in­ter­ven­tion.

• Pro­vid­ing sup­port in the de­vel­op­ment of per­son­alised ed­u­ca­tion/learn­ing plans.

• School based tar­geted in­ter­ven­tion for stu­dents or groups of stu­dents iden­ti­fied as at risk for learn­ing.

• Ad­vis­ing teach­ers on im­ple­men­ta­tion and in­ter­pre­ta­tion of ap­pro­pri­ate screen­ing tools to iden­tify stu­dents with mild, moder­ate or se­vere com­mu­ni­ca­tion im­pair­ment.

• As­sist­ing teach­ers to iden­tify the needs for those stu­dents iden­ti­fied as hav­ing mild, moder­ate or se­vere com­mu­ni­ca­tion im­pair­ment.

• As­sist­ing teach­ers in the de­sign and eval­u­a­tion of tar­geted oral lan­guage and lit­er­acy pro­grams.

• Pro­vid­ing sup­port and train­ing to ther­apy ‘agents’ (teacher aides, speech ther­apy as­sis­tants, par­ents etc.).

• Ad­vis­ing teach­ers and ther­apy agents on ap­pro­pri­ate re­sources to sup­port in­ter­ven­tion.

• Pro­vid­ing ad­vice and sup­port to make the school a com­mu­ni­ca­tion ac­ces­si­ble en­vi­ron­ment.

All im­ages: Speech Pathol­ogy Aus­tralia.

Speech Pathol­o­gists can as­sist with a va­ri­ety of com­mu­ni­ca­tion is­sues in the class­room.

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