Is your child achieving to their true potential?

The role of Speech – Language Pathologists (SLPs) is rapidly evolving in health and education sectors. As we continue to learn how the brain processes and manipulates information, we see that the linguistic systems are inextricably connected with all other regions of the brain. What can an SLP do for your child or loved one? Read on to discover 5 reasons an SLP could be the biggest factor – and the missing link in your child’s learning.

1.) We are language experts

If there were “one ring to rule them all” in the world of learning, that ring would be language.
Language is at the heart of learning. Think of the different domains of language such as:

I. Vocabulary
This encompasses content, association, and relationships between words. Basic categorization skills such as sorting, matching; describing skills; and talking about how things are the same or different all fall under the umbrella of vocabulary. Vocabulary skills are crucial for comprehension. The way we organize our world through language is dependent on vocabulary skills.

II. Comprehension
It is gonna be tough to learn if you can’t understand what you are hearing or reading. Our brains must recognize and make sense of word meanings, word forms, word parts, and sentence structures. We also must be able to comprehend at a deeper level through skills such as predicting and making inferences. All of this is done with language.

III. Expressive Language
The ability to organize what we want to say, find the right words, put the right words in the right order, and then speak them fluently (and coherently) is an essential skill for, well, expressing ourselves. It is deeply tied to our self-esteem and our self-confidence – our belief in our ability to express ourselves really influences us. Of course, these skills are needed for effective writing as well!

IV. Critical thinking, problem solving, and verbal reasoning
We THINK in WORDS, even if we don’t say them out loud. We talk ourselves into and out of situations, we talk ourselves through problems, and we find solutions through language. Self-talk is still language!

V. Social Communication
How you say something is just as important as what you say (a lesson I keep learning in my marriage!) Your social, relationship, and career success is very dependent on your ability to interact with others. Social-cognitive skills are also important for inferring an author’s meaning, understanding sub-text, and creating context – truly understanding the subtle context of a situation allows you to deal effectively with it.

2.) Speech

Any disorganization in the sound system in the brain will then transfer to disorganization in the letter system. Period. Often a student is “quite clear” in their speech and only has “a few errors”. This student is NOT done developing their speech system, and it is a MISTAKE to move into letters. That is like having 5 pieces left to go in a 50-piece puzzle, and having someone dump out another 500 pieces! Our students need support from someone who recognizes the impact of speech on later literacy (not to mention self-esteem!) and also has the skill set to address it.

3.) Learning Difficulties can be hidden

More and more, research is indicating that as many as 90% of learning disorders have an underlying language deficit. Many people associate dyslexia with a problem in the visual system; in fact, it is a LANGUAGE problem!! Often our students compensate with strong auditory and visual memory, and are able to “mask” their difficulty. Some receptive or perceptual problems are not apparent in spoken speech and language. BUT, around grade three, the words become too long, too complex, and too numerous to memorize them all, and “all of a sudden” the student can’t read!! Similarly, the vocabulary gets richer and more diverse or specialized, and “suddenly” the student’s comprehension drops. When this happens, ALL the other kids are reading to learn, and our student is BEHIND … still learning to read, or getting pulled out of the classroom for extra vocabulary support. It is amazing how many kids get diagnosed with a learning disability in Grade 4, Grade 5, and beyond. An SLP knows the signs and red flags that show up long before the disability makes itself apparent. Early identification = early intervention/prevention; and later, success.

4.) Remember your TRAINING

Within our profession, we undergo extensive training and clinical practicums to learn how to change the brain and promote learning – what some might call “therapy” or “intervention”. Why is this important? Many other professionals in education primarily assess, provide consultation, or are trained to teach to the masses and instruct in large group settings. We, on the other hand, work extensively with children one-on-one and in small groups. We learn how to teach, coach, support, and facilitate to the individual in a custom, tailored way. We learn to be very RESPONSIVE to how a child is learning. We have different approaches, based on learning theories, that we can implement. We know how to asses and check-in with our students “on-line” so that we can adapt on the fly and make sure we are maximizing learning during our time together. We have a variety of strategies, cues, and prompts that we can deploy. In short, we are trained to scaffold each individual child’s learning ability – to streeeeetch their capacity for learning and to extend their ability and achievement.

5.) Putting chocolate frosting on mud pies

I LOVE this analogy … well, actually, I love the saying “you can polish a turd so it looks good, but everyone in the room will still smell it” … Where am I going with this? People spend so much time trying to make things “look good” when in fact there is very little substance beneath! In education, this looks like fun activities that logically seem like they “could work”, but when the rubber hits the road, they simply aren’t FUNCTIONAL. It’s like the dual-cup holders on my toddler’s Peg Perego stroller – they are in reach of the child, but not the adult, and they perfectly fit a beer can, but not one single child’s drink or snack container that we own. And my kid doesn’t even like beer!! It’s a neat feature, a NOVELTY, but what’s the PURPOSE??

SLPs are trained in childhood development and theories of learning, including biological functions and processes of learning. Whaaaaa?? Ok, try this on: We have extensive brain anatomy coursework on how the brain processes information, how parts of the brain communicate with other parts, and how NEW connections are made. (this is a good thing: New connections = learning!!

Speech Specialist Calgary

So, what does this have to do with an SLP/why does this matter? SLPs are TRAINED to DEVELOP activities that actually impact the structure and functioning of the brain. In other words, activities that actually result in brain changes. Activities that are FUNCTIONAL to foster actual, transferable growth and learning. No drawing letters in the sand, forming letters out of PlayDoh, or tracing over letters or making letters by connecting the dots! Real life. Real learning. Real chocolate! Real pie!

Link HERE to connect with a Speech – Language Pathologist to discuss your child’s learning!