Some of the first skills your child will learn are in the area of communication. For humans, communication exists SOLELY for social reasons; and babies LOVE to be social! Aside from reflexes and survival behaviours like eating, may of the first things a baby will do are socially-driven behaviours such as crying and making eye contact. And your baby is on their way to communication!
Communication is a complex process that uses the whole brain, many senses of perception, and both verbal and non-verbal language skills. Several children find speech and reading comprehension quite challenging, especially when they lack confidence.
Once oral language skills develop, children are ready to transition into tackling written language skills – reading, writing, and spelling. Did you think reading was a VISUAL skill? Consider that when reading, the visual system just supplies the input to the language system, and the language system does the heavy lifting!
When there is challenge for your child in speaking, understanding, communication, reading, writing, or spelling, a visit with a Speech-Language Pathologist should bump up to the top of your to-do list!
Any program that comes in a book or a box has been designed as a broad-spectrum approach to help “most kids” or to provide some strategies, materials, and activities to add to instruction.
I call these “canned” interventions and I’ve never yet seen one that works for all kids. Speech-Language Pathologists are extensively trained in assessment. We go to work to find the underlying source of difficulty – the reason that some skills are not developing.
Rather than throw everything at the wall to see what sticks, SLPs root out the nature of the difficulty.
Why do I think this is so important? 2 reasons:
1.) Some disciplines do a lot of assessment, and then provide you with a diagnosis or a label. For example, if you go for an assessment because your child isn’t reading well, you may get a 20-page report in return that says “I have learned that your child is not reading, and I have now decreed that they have a reading disability”. Great … NOW WHAT??!?!?
2.) Which brings me to point #2: Rather than broad strokes assessment, SLPs assess specific skills. See below!
Custom-designed Therapy for YOUR child
Stemming from above, assessment allows the SLP to discover a child’s learning profile. Which skills are strong, and which are challenged? We can use what is strong to facilitate learning and comprehension, and we can go in and work on those specific skills that are low.
We build a therapy plan that matches what is going on with your child. We target the things that need targeting, in a way that makes sense, without a lot of fluff!!
More Custom-Designed Therapy
I couldn’t tell you the number of students that I see who are frustrated, defiant, withdrawn, ashamed … having SOME kind of emotional reaction to their speech or their reading ability.
One VERY COMMON PROBLEM I see is that students are not being provided work at their level. In the push to get a student to “grade level”, they are presented with material, skills, and tasks that are not approachable. Skills develop along a hierarchy of difficulty, and you must build the foundational skills before you level up. You must level up in a structured and sequential way; and you must provide targeted supports to FACILITATE leveling up (More on this in the next section).
SLPs work at a child’s level, and provide content, activities, and tasks at the “just right” level that facilitates growth and development.
And guess what? When the work is at an appropriate level, many emotions and behaviours melt away and students quickly develop confidence.
If you ask a kid a question 5 times and get the wrong answer 5 times (or show them a word/sentence 5 times and they get it wrong when reading 5 times), consider that the problem is not IN the kid; but rather, it is in the DEMAND that is being placed on them. The content and teaching style don’t match for that student.
SOAP BOX TIME: DO you have a child that is a year behind in reading … and they stay a year behind in reading … year after year? Why is that not a red flag that what is being done is not working? I urge parents to stop tolerating a lack of results!
Intervention VS. Teaching
SLPs provide instruction, coaching, guidance, support, and discovery inside of “therapy” (the word makes me cringe) or inside of intervention.
Intervention is different than “tutoring” or teaching. For me, tutoring is reviewing; more practise, more repetitions, some memory help or reminders while practising. For kids who are a little behind, tutoring may cut it.
Teaching is often done in a small group or a large class. This entails different strategies and methods to deliver content to a group of students. Teaching is often content focused – more on the “what” than the “how” or process. (Teaching often sets up an opportunity to learn the how through hands on learning or practise).
SLPs are extensively trained in intervention. This means working in a 1-1 setting to provide a child what they need. There is a lot of back-and-forth to have a child discover something; to lead them to the next level of difficulty; to help them apply cues and strategies; and to provide them supported coaching and practise while they engage with real-life activities. Most children who are behind in speech, reading, writing or spelling need this level of 1-1 support – in-the-moment coaching that requires a rapid-fire analysis of WHY the child made a mistake: what did they not process? what did they not attend to? Which cue or prompt would make the difference? And then adding those cues when necessary – and also recognizing when to withdraw those cues to facilitate independence.
Intervention is not REMOTELY similar to “drill”, repetition, or practise. Being able to deliver in the moment analysis, teaching, support, and coaching WHILE adjusting the complexity of tasks to facilitate success is a special skill that makes a difference.
They use professional research and tools for practical therapy sessions
The SLP profession requires evidence-based and research-based theories, activities, materials, strategies and approaches. Extensive education and training are required just to enter the profession, and there are ongoing professional development requirements each year.
I have seen a lot of “intuition” guiding the instruction that children get – “ideas” about what might help kids with their speech or reading.
Intuition doesn’t work. If it is not grounded in science, most SLPs won’t touch it with a 10-foot pole. There is too much at stake! Our time with children is limited, and it takes many hours to teach and master a new skill. We can’t afford to be dabbling in “fun activities” that “seem like a good idea”. We must be ever-conscious of what provides “bang for our buck”.
If you notice that your child is having difficulties communicating – in oral or written language, it’s always a good idea to seek help from professionals.
Speech-Language Pathologists have a whole bag of tricks at their disposal to make that difference for your individual child. Help your child communicate, express themselves, and discover confidence and self-esteem!
Speak2Read addresses oral and written language difficulties in our office in Calgary. We also support children all over Alberta through ZOOM. (ZOOM works! Working 1-1 on ZOOM with engaging materials that are AT THEIR LEVEL, most students engage and attend!).
Learn more about our speech, language, literacy and learning services. Book a free phone consultation today and get all your questions answered!