Why a Speech – Language expert will make all the difference for your child
I received my Linguistics degree with great distinction. In fact, I was awarded a scholarship for top graduate in the Linguistics department. Is this a humble brag? Yes. It certainly is. However, it is to make a point – I am a word nerd, a grammar nerd, a language nerd – all of the above. I have been studying language development, language use, and language therapy for 17 years.
SO WHAT?!?! Well, get this: Language is power. In fact, changing the language you use (especially in your self-talk!) is the SINGLE MOST POWERFUL thing you can do to change your life. And you can start NOW.
However, what I want to discuss is how language is important to reading. You will see how we can use speech and language to teach reading and writing! Impressive, huh? However, you will also see how we have been getting WRONG when it comes to teaching literacy to children. And THAT I find terrifying.
Here we go! Let’s see how many of you I can convert to word nerds!
YOU MUST BE ABLE TO APPLY THESE SPEECH-LANGUAGE SKILLS TO BE ABLE TO READ: IDENTIFY LETTER SYMBOLS, RETRIEVE CORRESPONDING SOUNDS, AND CONNECT MEANING
Look. Literacy is just language on paper (or on a screen for you young ‘uns). It is sounds and words that have been captured and put into print. Really think about it for a second:
If you have a disorganized sound system, then you automatically have a disorganized letter system.
If you don’t know what words mean, then you can’t tell words apart and you can’t make sense of what you read.
If you don’t understand grammar, then you cannot form sentences when you write or understand them when you read.
If you cannot recognize a symbol, know its label, and attach the appropriate sound to it, YOU CAN’T READ.
Historically, as humans, we actually DID just capture sounds and words and put them into print!
THAT IS ALL SPEECH AND LANGUAGE!
WE ARE HARD-WIRED FOR SPEECH AND LANGUAGE: CENTRES ARE BUILT-IN TO OUR BRAINS
It’s primal! Learning Speech and Language is biologically wired into us as human beings. Children around the world learn how to speak, understand, and communicate in language. This happens world-wide NO MATTER WHAT language they growing up hearing. This is hard-wired. Fact.
Humans learn speech and language simply by being born and hearing people talk. We have biological structures in our brain that do nothing other than process speech and language. We have speech and language centers built-in to our brain.
LITERACY – READING, WRITING, AND SPELLING IS ARTIFICIAL
Reading and writing were invented. They developed out of MAN MADE, ARTIFICIAL alphabets that we invented long after we were speaking.
Nothing exists naturally in the brain for Literacy! There are no “literacy centres”. We have to adapt, retro-fit, and leverage what we DO have to learn to read and write. We have to pull together different areas of the brain to make it work.
Literacy skills get OVERLAID on speech and language centers. That is why it is ESSENTIAL that you have strong speech and language skills as a foundation – so you have a strong foundation to build on! (It’s also why you need a speech – language expert helping your child!).
SPEECH & LANGUAGE SKILLS ARE BUILT-IN NATURALLY; LITERACY IS INVENTED
SPEECH CAME FIRST
Think about it. Speech came first. Humans first learned to speak, and then to take our speech and put it on paper with symbols.
Reading is the ability to quickly and automatically recognize those symbols and extract the associated meaning that is “coded” into it.
Doing this requires your brain to SPECIFICALLY ADAPT and to develop SPECIALIZED CELLS or neurons within the speech, language, and visual areas of the brain.
Some brains don’t do this easily. Many children learn to read from exposure and practise; as many as 40-50% of children require explicit teaching.
Up to 20% of kids need something different! They need Specialized Instruction.
MANY CHILDREN LEARN TO READ FROM EXPOSRUE AND PRACTISE, BUT AS MANY AS 50% OF CHILDREN NEED SOMETHING MORE AND DIFFERENT!
When we scan the brains of kids that read well, we see tons of activation on the left-hand side of the brain – exactly where the speech and language centres are. Coincidence? I think not.
When we scan the brains of kids that have trouble reading, we see that they are using the right-hand side of the brain. THEIR BRAINS ARE FUNCTIONING DIFFERENTLY.
When these children are given several weeks of intensive reading practise, their brains CHANGE. They begin to activate on the LEFT. Oh, and what type of reading practise?
Functional, Integrated lessons rich in SPEECH and LANGUAGE skills!!
BRAIN SCANS PROVE THAT INTENSIVE SPEECH AND LANGUAGE INSTRUCTION CHANGES HOW THE BRAIN WORKS
SPEECH CAME FIRST!!
HANG IN THERE – STAY WITH ME! There are a couple important points ahead (although you could cheat and just read the summaries in bold!).
We decided that speech came first, yes? We first think or say a sentence, and then we write it down on paper. In this process, we FIRST take a sound – and then match it to a letter. Remember, we have a BUILT-IN SPEECH CENTRE for sounds, but nothing exists in the brain for letters!
HOW TO TEACH A CHILD TO READ – PROPERLY
So how does a kid learn – and how do we teach a child that is struggling to learn? We teach them all the SOUNDS in ENGLISH. Once they know that cold, we teach them all the letters and letter combinations that go with that sound.
Doesn’t this sound so logical? It’s revolutionary, cutting-edge, and yet it is leveraging the system that emerged thousands of years ago. The brain has a sound centre – so first learn the SOUNDS! then attach those sounds to LETTERS.
The brain doesn’t HAVE a letter centre! The brain must adapt the existing structures to create small “letter sub-centres” with specialized cells. This happens AFTER instruction.
This speech-first approach is how a SPEECH – LANGUAGE EXPERT teaches reading.
A SPEECH-LANGUAGE EXPERT LEVERAGES BUILT-IN STRUCTURES WITH A SPEECH-FIRST APPROACH
COMMON SENSE IS NOT SO COMMON
So, what is EVERYBODY ELSE doing? FIRST, they introduce letters and letter names. Think about it – do you need to know letter names to read? Does it ever help you in a long, tricky word to say “oh, that letter is a ‘w’?” (the answer is no). You don’t need or use letter names to read.
THEN they take a letter, and start telling you all the sounds that letter can possibly make. The letter “i” can say different sounds in “sit”, “like”, “fiend” – it even says “y” in “onion”. The letter “g” has different sounds in “go”, “garage”, “genre”, “laugh”, or even no sound in “fight”.
The letter system in English is highly flawed! There are lots of rules, but then exceptions to the rules; lots of patterns, but then places the patterns don’t fit.
It makes no sense – adding in letters when there are no sounds, or adding in letters that don’t match sounds! It is a massive processing task. It requires a massive cognitive load, and an impossible amount of memory to store it all!
A LETTER-FIRST SYSTEM TRIES TO LEVERAGE LETTERS – BUT THERE IS NO BUILT-IN LETTER CENTRE IN THE BRAIN TO LEVERAGE
MASS CONFUSION & FRUSTRATION
The letters-first system is rampant with MASS CONFUSION. The poor child is forced to figure out this man-made, invented, artificial system; this horribly complex symbol system.
Rather than teach kids from their intact knowledge base of sounds and words they can say, they force artificial letter symbols on kids!
The child is left to figure out how to read by deciphering the dastardly code through memory and guesswork. Talk about frustrating!
A child may well have intact speech – language skills, but those skills are NO HELP in a letter-first system because this system DOES NOT LEVERAGE SPEECH OR INCORPORATE LANGUAGE.
A LETTER-FIRST SYSTEM DOES NOT LEVERAGE SPEECH OR INCORPORATE LANGUAGE!
Within the letter-first system, children learn letters first and then try to apply letters to spoken words and sounds. This is @$$-backward! We are asking children to REVERSE-ENGINEER letters on a page and then FIT the letters to words they know!
We are asking 5- and 6-year-old children to figure out a complex system of symbols, and to then to retro-fit those letter symbols, and all the different possible combinations of letters, to match the sounds and words they know. The words they already know from years of SPEAKING! (Something they have been doing since they were 1-year old)!
I feel like I’m taking crazy pills! Wouldn’t it make more sense to utilize or leverage the skills that the child has already been using since the age of ONE? Kids know how to speak the words! They know all the sounds in the words! There is a biological centre built-in to the brain to facilitate this! Have the child listen to what they are saying, and teach them to match corresponding letters to the sounds they are saying. Boom! Done.
USING LETTERS RELIES ON RECOGNIZING THE WAY LETTERS AND WORDS LOOK. THIS IS A FOREIGN ACTIVITY FOR THE BRAIN.
OK! This rant is nearly finished. Are you on the bandwagon yet?
Our education system is archaic. The letter-first system is flawed. The system is BROKEN. We know what is wrong with it.
Will you help me get the word out? Will you try something NEW, LOGICAL, and RESEARCH-BASED to help your child? Will you PLEASE let a speech – language expert help your child? And then, PLEASE pay it forward and get the word out?
Speech Therapy Services Calgary
In case you missed it, here is the message:
A speech-first approach to literacy relies on the way words SOUND. We have a sound centre built-in to the human brain! Kids know how to say words, and they know what sounds they can hear in words. We teach them to learn sounds FIRST, and then match letters to those sounds AFTER. This works magically, because we already have a space reserved in the brain for this learning to take place!
USING A SPEECH-FIRST APPROACH TO LITERACY RELIES ON THE WAY WORDS SOUND AND CONNECTS TO THE WORD MEANING.
We teach words to kids with an integrated approach so that kids learn the sounds, the meanings, and the letter patterns all at the same time. This instruction is multi-linguistic – we teach sound and meaning together. It is also multi-sensory – children see, hear, say, and write the words. This ANCHORS the words firmly in LONG-TERM memory because so much information is packaged together in the word; there are lots of HOOKS for it.
SPEECH AND LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT DRIVE LITERACY DEVELOPMENT. THEY ARE INSEPERABLE.
Concerned with your child’s speech? Book your consultation now so we can help!