Building Language Skills: Critical Thinking & Reasoning Skills in School Age Children & Adolescents

Many children and adolescents with language disorders have difficulty thinking critically and applying reasoning skills, which can make it difficult for them to make the right decisions. Linguistic skills are necessary for analytical thinking or adequate expressive language skills needed for higher-order language tasks. This requires comprehension of vocabulary, an ability to process language, background knowledge, and effective reasoning skills.

To answer more advanced language processing questions such as problem solving, comparisons/contrasts, cause and effect, reasoning, predictions, and verbal expressions of opinions and reasoning, visual supports can help aid a child with a language disorder to understand these skills with the use of prompts. Each child is different, and the skills that are most important for success in any field are the foundational skills.

Critical thinking is a fundamental skill for both language and literacy success. The following activities can influence a child’s thinking towards a deeper analysis of a literary piece:

  • Compare and contrast
  • Explain why things happen
  • Evaluate ideas and form opinions
  • Understand the perspectives of others
  • Predict/infer what will happen in the future
  • Think of creative solutions
  • Understanding higher vocabulary
  • Story sequencing
  • Asking evaluative “wh” questions (what, when, where, and why)

For younger children with language disorders, it is important to use picture books to visualize what is occurring in the story. In addition, the speech language pathologist can look at their ability to comprehend the words, infer the message, and then use their language to navigate the situation. Ideally, the speech language pathologist can apply these strategies with middle and high school children with informational text at varied levels of difficulty and reading lexile levels. Additionally, it is important for the speech language pathologist to guide children and adolescents to work on metalinguistic awareness in speech/language therapy sessions. They need to develop language beyond concrete meanings.

If you are concerned with your child’s verbal reasoning skills, you should consult a speech language pathologist who has expertise in developing verbal reasoning skills. However, even if you are not concerned, practice verbal reasoning skills at home to build higher linguistic abilities. This will help your child improve their ability to understand their environment and use their language effectively in a variety of academic and social situations.

Speech language pathologists may use the Critical Thinking Progress Monitoring Tool to assess key areas including: inferences, problem & solution, cause & effect, compare & contrast, predictions, opinions & reasons. Access the digital download today.