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