What is a speech-language specialist?
- A speech-language specialist (SLS) works in a school setting, and provides speech-language therapy to students who have communication difficulties.
- Some SLSs are also referred to as a speech-language pathologists, speech therapists, or speech pathologists.
- The SLS evaluates students with suspected speech or language difficulties to determine their communicative strengths and weaknesses.
- Once a student has been identified with a language deficit, the SLS develops goals based on the student's needs, and creates / finds activities that will target the student's goals.
- The SLS consults with the student's teacher to determine the student's speech-language needs in the classroom.
- The SLS works with students individually or in a group to develop the communication skills needed to access the curriculum.
- The students who attend speech-language therapy have communication skills that are negatively impacting their ability to learn in the classroom.
Which communication difficulties can affect a student's learning?
- Receptive Language: These students may have difficulty understanding spoken language, directions, and basic concepts They might struggle to answer questions related to a story they have heard.
- Expressive Language: These students may have difficulty expressing their thoughts, wants, and needs adequately. They might use non-specific words (i.e., "stuff" and "thing") or substitute incorrect vocabulary words when speaking. Their sentences are usually short and simple, and they don't use compound or complex sentences.
- Literacy: These students have difficulties in the area of reading and writing.
- Speech sounds (articulation): These students have difficulty saying sounds correctly. They may not speak clearly and are difficult to understand.
- Phonological disorders: Phonological processes are the patterns young children use to simplify speech. These patterns are normal until the age of three and usually disappear around the age of five. When the patterns persist beyond the age of five, they are not developmentally appropriate and are called phonological disorders.
- Social skills: These students have trouble speaking with other children. They may not make friends easily, and they may have difficulty relating to their peers. They struggle to understand what others are thinking or how they are feeling.
- Cognitive skills: These students have trouble with the thinking skills needed to remember information and solve problems.
- Stuttering: These students have difficulties speaking smoothly. They may repeat sounds or words, have long pauses when they speak, or seem to get "stuck" on words.
- Voice: These students may sound hoarse or sound like they are speaking through their nose. Their voices might be too loud or too soft.
Why does my child have expressive or receptive language difficulties?
- Some language disorders can be caused by a brain disorder (e.g, autism, tumors), birth defects (e.g., cerebral palsy, Down syndrome), or problems in pregnancy and birth (e.g., fetal alcohol syndrome, premature birth, low birth weight).
- Lack of exposure to early literacy and oral language can affect the student's vocabulary and grammar development.
- However, most of the time, the cause of language difficulties is unknown!