The Role of Speech Language Pathologists for Literacy Assessment and Intervention
It is well within the scope of practice for speech language pathologists to address all domains of literacy. Speech language pathologists can address both oral language (listening/speaking) and printed language (reading/writing).
The literacy domains of listening, speaking, reading, and writing are all related to one another. It is important to incorporate all areas during language therapy sessions. During language therapy, speech language pathologists can address these four areas when working on vocabulary and comprehension goals. For example, if a student with a language disorder is practicing identifying the meanings of tier 2 words in sentence context, a clinician may guide him or her through all literacy domains of listening, speaking, reading and writing by doing the following:
1. Provide a visual such as a worksheet with word bank and cloze/fill in the blank sentences.
2. Prompt the student to actively listen as you read aloud the words in the word bank that contains a field of choices. The student may repeat the words or verbally read the words to familiarize himself or herself with the choices.
3. Guide the student on how to use context clues in the sentences as a word detective to figure out the meaning of each tier 2 word.
4. The SLP may read aloud the sentence or the student may read it aloud while thinking about or visualizing what each sentence states.
5. The student can write the selected tier 2 word responses in the cloze/fill in the blank sentences based on the clues in the sentences.
Speech/language pathologist can address a variety of language goals including answering literal & inferential questions, identifying text structure, and other higher level language skills (e.g. compare/contrast, cause/effect, problem/solution, drawing conclusions) by embedding practice opportunities for students to listen, speak, read, and write during speech/language therapy sessions. You will be amazed with their linguistic progress over time.
According to the National Reading Panel (2000), the 5 literacy domains include:
Phonological awareness is an overall term that refers to the phonological or sound system that comprises oral language. It is critical for reading success and when a child’s awareness of the phonological structure is evaluated, the results can help predict later reading ability. It is a child’s knowledge that sentences are comprised of words that have syllables and then sounds. Phonological awareness skills should be mastered by approximately 1st grade. However, many children in elementary, middle school, and even high school lack effective phonological awareness. There is a developmental hierarchy of phonological awareness as skills increase in complexity and build on each other to maximize reading success. Phonemic awareness is part of phonological awareness and refers to a child’s knowledge of individual sounds. It is the ability to identify the different sounds that make up speech. Phonics helps kids match sounds to letters or letter groups. Fluency is the ability to read accurately and quickly. Vocabulary is a necessary language component for spoken and written information. Explicit vocabulary instruction is needed for children and adolescents to effectively comprehend verbal and written text. Comprehension is true understanding of a messaged conveyed.
During language and literacy assessment, speech language pathologist can complete formal and informal measures to assess these areas using tools such as:
1. Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing 2
2. Test of Integrated Language and Literacy Skills
3. Gray Oral Reading Test Fifth Edition
4. Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals, Fifth Edition
5. Comprehensive Assessment of Spoken Language, Second Edition
6. Phonological Awareness Progress Monitoring Tool
In the field of education, there is current discussion about the Science of Reading, which helps us to understand the cognitive processes that are essential for reading proficiency. It describes the development of reading skills for both typical and atypical readers based on research across disciplines. The Science of Reading has disproved various methods used over the years to teach reading that were not based on scientific evidence. Most reading difficulties can be prevented in young, at-risk students. In other grades, studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of intensive phonemic awareness training, intensive phonic decoding training, and opportunities for repeated practice with reading-controlled text. Intervention in these skills leads to efficient orthographic mapping or the ability to recognize each letter of the alphabet and the associated sound. Word memorization is not the goal that should be targeted, rather learning phonics empowers students with an exponential effect.
Regular words are taught according to phonetic patterns and irregular words are analyzed for their irregularities. When proficient readers encounter new words, they phonemically analyze the word for the regular grapheme-phoneme patterns and can identify the irregular element(s) with ease. Teaching weak readers to activate this process allows them to align the letters to the phonemes in their memory.
However, it is also important not to completely push phonics as the sole component towards successful reading because reading incorporates all parts of language.
Timothy Shanahan, educator and researcher upon literacy, recommended the following for all professionals working with children in reading:
– Teach phonics about 30 minutes a day.
– Devote comparable amounts of time to each of the other components of proficient reading, including the ability to read text fluently, comprehension, writing, vocabulary, and background knowledge.
Remind the child to use their eyes, point with their fingers to each word that they are reading, and encourage children to ask questions while reading. Recommend the parents to practice reading with their children as well.
As speech language pathologists, it is critical to understand how important our role is to developing the language and literacy skills of children and adolescents. The American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA), our national organization, clearly outlines that listening, speaking, reading, and writing assessment and intervention are all within the scope of practice for speech language pathologists. SLPs in the school and private practice settings can make a tremendous impact in remediating these skills in children with language disorders, learning disability, and dyslexia. We can provide assessment and treatment while also providing consultation to teachers, parents, students about effective literacy practices.
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.
Building Language Skills: Strategies for Compound and Complex Sentences
Language is comprised of sounds, words, phrases, and sentences. At all levels, language tends to be rule-based. Phonology refers to the rules of the sound system and the rules of sound combination. Morphology refers to the structure and construction of words. Morphology skills require an understanding and use of the appropriate structure of a word, such as word roots, prefixes, and affixes (called morphemes). Strong knowledge of grammatical morphemes, such as use of –ing for a present progressive verb, /s/ to indicate a plural form, and correct use of verb tense, is necessary to have well developed morphology skills. The content or semantics is the meaning behind the morphemes and words within a sentence – the literal meaning. How we convey semantics in our everyday speech and language is known as our pragmatic language such as conversational turns or the attitude of the speaker.
Syntax refers to the rules of word order and word combinations to form phrases and sentences. Solid syntactic skills require an understanding of the use of correct word order and organization in phrases and sentences with the ability to use increasingly complex sentences as language develops. This phenomenon can be difficult for a child with disabilities.
Children with morphology and syntactic deficits have trouble learning and using the rules that govern word formation (morphemes) and phrase/sentence formation (syntax). At the word level, these children may not correctly use plural forms or verb tenses. At the phrase or sentence level, children with syntactic deficits might use incorrect word order, leave out words, or use a limited number of complex sentences. For example, a child may omit prepositional clauses which decreases one’s use of complex sentences. It is important to target prepositions with one-step instructions such as stating, “Put the ball under the box.” In addition, locative prepositions can be targeted by presenting a descriptive photograph with many items, asking the child, “What is under the ___?”
Children with disorders of motor speech control are likely to have cooccurring difficulties with morphology related to impaired speech control. For example, a child with a motor speech disorder may not be able to produce /s/ and /z/. This limits the child in producing plural words. Disorganized and/or immature language in phrases and sentences is also seen frequently in children with motor speech disorders. Words may be omitted, or sentences simplified due to difficulty with speech production. Facial and tongue exercises can relieve the difficulty of speech production.
By introducing various sentence structures one at a time, it will be easier for the child to understand sentence structures. Begin with simple sentences, focusing on the subject and verb. A subject and verb together is the purest form of a sentence. Once the child understands this sentence structure, it is important to introduce adjectives. Children should be able to identify descriptive language words by pointing to objects and pictures, then they can learn to verbally express adjectives. Next, children can learn to construct various sentence structures (e.g. Article + Noun+ Verb + Adjective, Article + Adjective + Noun + Verb). There will be a variety of other simple sentence forms for children to learn to communicate. Once they have added a variety of expressive sentences consistently into their communication repertoire, a speech-language pathologist can introduce compound sentences to children with language disorders. Explain that a compound sentence has at least two simple sentences or independent clauses that can stand on its own. Phrases or dependent clauses are not included in compound sentences.
Then, introduce the mnemonic acronym FANBOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so. These words mark the beginning of a phrase; they are also known as coordinating conjunctions because the words join two simple sentences. A speech-language pathologist can provide children with a verbal and written model of compound sentences (e.g. I went to the museum and I saw the dinosaur exhibit). Children can practice identifying compound sentences in children’s literature, rearranging provided words to construct sentences, and expressing compound sentences when provided with target coordinating conjunctions. Many children in elementary and even middle school need direct instruction during language therapy to master this linguistic skill.
Prepositions also indicate the beginning of a dependent phrase. During speech/language therapy practice, children can highlight prepositions and coordinating conjunctions in a dependent phrase to differentiate independent and dependent clauses. Once the child understands the difference between a dependent and independent clause, explain that a complex sentence contains one dependent clause (e.g. phrase) and one independent clause (e.g. simple sentence). A complex sentence often begins with a subordinating conjunction. The speech language pathologist can describe the mnemonic acronym AAAWWUUBBIS: after, although, as, when, while, until, unless, because, before, if, since to learn these types of conjunctions.
Compound-complex sentences are sentences with at least two independent clauses and at least one dependent clause. A compound-complex sentence combines both compound sentences and complex sentences together. An activity during speech/language therapy with middle school students, can be to highlight the dependent clauses, while underlining each independent clause. Remember each clause always needs an agreeing subject and a verb!
Many children and adolescents will benefit from learning the parts of speech that are essential for sentence construction. A speech-language pathologist may provide a quick vocabulary check to evaluate what parts of speech terms a student may already know. It is a good idea to provide a brief assessment that contains a word bank. Then, you should provide direct instruction to elementary and middle school students with examples containing the parts of speech. They can practice identifying the words in children’s literature and structured syntax activities. Additionally, picture description tasks are ideal activities for children to practice building compound and complex sentences. Here are a few language building resources to improve the syntax skills of children with receptive and expressive language disorders:
English/Language Arts Vocabulary Progress Monitoring
Parts of Speech Graphic Organizer
Guess What? Types of Sentences, Parts of Sentences, & Parts of Speech
No Glamour Sentence Structure
Guess What? Prefixes & Suffixes
Speech/Language Therapy Curriculum Assessments
Culturally Responsive Assessment & Therapy for School Aged Children & Adolescents
Differentiated instruction is an approach to teaching and learning for students with different abilities in the same classroom. The theory behind differentiated instruction is that staff should vary and adapt their approaches to fit the vast diversity of students in the classroom. The staff may tailor the content, activities, and learning environment based on the individual needs of a child. Differentiated instruction goes hand in hand with culturally responsive speech/language assessment and therapy. As speech pathologists, it is our duty to provide exceptional evidence-based services using assessment methods and therapeutic intervention that considers multicultural and multilingual needs.
When providing a comprehensive speech/language assessment for a child who speaks a primary home language other than English, it is best practice to provide the evaluation in his or her native language. This is important so that the standard scores that are reported from formal speech/language measures will be valid and a true reflection of a child’s communication and linguistic capabilities. If there is no accessibility in the child’s native language, it is difficult to know how to weigh each language for diagnostic purposes. For the most accurate assessment for bilinguals, consider both languages in assessment and diagnostic decision-making.
Speech language pathologists should utilize interpreters for parent interviews and case history forms in a child’s native language to gather accurate background information about developmental, family, and school history. Do not assume that because a school aged child speaks English that they are not bilingual or multilingual. It is critical to recognize that levels of bilingualism and multilingualism are on a continuum. Each individual will have varying levels of linguistic proficiency with listening, speaking, reading, and writing in his or her primary, secondary, or tertiary language.
Across cultures and languages, gathering data on verbal narrative abilities is a great indicator of a child’s receptive/language skills. Analyzing this information can help identify language difference vs disorder. It will assist the speech/language pathologist in determining if the child’s language skills are commensurate with peers from his or her cultural and linguistic background, or if the child is in fact demonstrating characteristics of a communication or language disorder. The Leader’s Project developed by Columbia University in New York has several language elicitation cards and questions available in the following languages to assist with culturally and linguistically responsive speech/language assessment:
English, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Hindi, Tamil, Mandarin, Portuguese, Japanese, Jamaican Creole, Punjabi, and Urdu
Click here for that information.
Additionally, monolingual or bilingual speech/language pathologists who do not speak the same language as a client may utilize wordless picture books during an assessment in English or in a child’s native language with the use of a trained interpreter. This will provide a baseline of a child’s narrative skills in English. Have the child describe what is going on in the story and audio or video record the narrative. Then using methods of Dynamic Assessment, the speech/language pathologist can model a more descriptive verbal narrative with key story grammar markers or story elements. Then have the child repeat telling the story. The clinician can analyze the results to see if the child’s narrative skills improved with a verbal model of the story. You may learn more about accurate implementation of Dynamic Assessment here that involves test, teach, and re-test methodology.
Self-reflection is a necessary component of providing effective speech/language services with diverse children and adolescents.
For the following activity, you can use the following ratings:
1 Things that I always do
2 Things that I sometimes do
3 Things that I rarely do
Here is a checklist provided by ASHA to ensure that you, the speech pathologist, are heightening your awareness towards culturally and linguistically diverse populations:
I consider clients’ and their families’ norms and preferences when planning:
___ Community outings
___ Holiday celebrations
___ Meals, snacks
___ Services in the home
___ Homework/recommendations for caregivers
I allow for alternative methods of sharing experiences and communication, such as:
___ Story telling
___ Use of props to support the “oral tradition” that is prevalent in some cultures.
I allow for alternatives to written communication, which may be preferred, such as:
___ Communicating verbally
___ Modeling the recommendations
___ Use of video/audio clips
When communicating with clients whose native language is NOT English, I use:
___ Key words or signs in their language
___ Visual aids
___ Gestures/physical prompts
___ Trained Interpreters/translators
Review the ratings that you have given as a two or a three and consider the areas that you need to make modifications in your delivery of services.
To undertake an assessment in another language, SLPs can take the following steps:
1.Familiarize themselves with the language and assessment tool or test
2.Train a native speaker (interpreter) to help administer the test
3. Audio- and video-record the child with high-quality recording equipment and microphones (e.g., .wav; Vogel & Morgan, 2009)
4. Transcribe and analyze the child’s speech using knowledge of phonetics and phonology to identify whether a need is present. Make sure
that you do not apply norms or standardized scoring based on monolingual children’s speech
5. Identify whether the child’s speech is significantly different from the comparative measure
6. Develop an intervention plan with the family and interpreter.
In addition, throughout speech/language therapy sessions it is important to develop rapport, connect with clients and families, and learn about their cultural background. Building authentic relationships and providing a welcoming learning environment is key to being culturally responsive with children, adolescents, and families. Then, the clinician may include multicultural therapy items such as children’s books related to one’s cultural identity, literature from other cultures, and activities with diverse graphics and images. SLPs should differentiate therapy activities by using children’s interests and providing choices of children’s literature, interactive games, music, and/or related arts/crafts as much as possible. This will contribute to increased engagement in sessions and mastery of speech/language objectives.
Source: ASHA, https://pubs.asha.org/doi/10.1044/2017_AJSLP-15-0161
Multiculturalism & Cultural Competence for Speech Language Pathologists
The phenomenon of multiculturalism reflects a discussion about how to understand and respond to varying perspectives related to cultural diversity based on nationality, ethnic and religious differences. The term “multicultural” is often used as a descriptive term to characterize the fact of diversity in a society. In multicultural communities, individuals celebrate, retain, and share their unique cultural ways of life, languages, and traditions.
To be more culturally aware of individuals and clients, their communication styles, and cultural heritage, speech language pathologists can seek to learn about various cultures to maximize active participation and progress in providing therapy for their clients.
It is critical to emphasize the importance of cultural understanding and appreciation. One’s cultural heritage is the legacy of physical tangible artifacts and intangible attributes of various individuals within society. It may include works of art, monuments, oral traditions, performing arts, or cultural festivals.
On the other hand, culture is the customs, traditions, and way of life for a shared group of people. Culture can be known as an art form and an expression of someone’s identity, shared through communication, music, dance, artwork, pictures, photography, paintings, poetry, books, etc.
Through embracing multiculturalism, society is enriched by respecting, preserving, and incorporating cultural diversity. The persistence of culture is what makes each individual client unique and speech language pathologists may utilize a client’s interests into weekly speech/language therapy sessions.
ASHA states that “Cultural and linguistic competence is as important to the successful provision of services as are scientific, technical, and clinical knowledge, and skills.” Speech pathology services must be respectful and responsive to the needs of clients. This includes treating each client individualistically. Each client has different wants and needs. It is critical that speech/language pathologists consider a clients’ desired outcomes and tailor sessions with their interests and functional needs in mind.
Some personal reflection questions to ask yourself as a speech/language pathologist include:
How do you feel about working with individuals or groups that are different from me?
What stereotypes, biases, and fears do I hold of other groups?
How are the expectations that I hold of diverse individuals/groups different from those of people in my own racial/ethnic/cultural group?
How much time and effort am I willing to put into learning about diverse people?
Do you include the clients and their families as partners in developing speech/language therapy goals?
Analyze these questions to improve speech therapy services for diverse clients. Always remember that providing culturally responsive speech/language services is an ongoing process. It is truly a journey of continual learning about children, adolescents, and families and providing optimal and effective evidence- based assessment and therapy services.
Executive Functioning & ADHD with Speech Language Pathologist, Michael McLeod
Did you know that there is a correlation between children with language impairment and verbal/nonverbal measures of executive functioning? In fact, executive functioning involves higher order language and cognitive skills. These skills are highly connected with academic and life success. Executive functioning (EF) includes areas of working memory, cognitive flexibility, and self regulation. Often times, individuals with executive dysfunction have difficulty with planning, organizing, and task initiation. Many children and adolescents who receive speech/language services in the school or private practice settings may have difficulty with executive functioning.
Last month, I interviewed Michael McLeod, an ASHA certified speech language pathologist and executive functioning/ADHD specialist. He is the owner of GrowNow Therapy Services, LLC, a specialized private practice in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a clinician, he focuses on the unique skill of Internal Language while constructing interpersonal relationships and meaningful varied experiences for students. He utilizes the evidence-based GrowNow Model, a holistic approach towards decreasing prompt dependency, fostering independence, strengthening Executive Functions, through the lens of the academic, social, and emotional methodology.
During this interview, Michael clearly explains executive functioning in depth and how important it is to daily and independent life skills. He explains what a child or adolescent with executive functioning challenges may experience regularly in the school and home environments. He discusses the role of speech language pathologists in targeting executive functioning in therapy sessions vs. popular social language groups. Additionally, he shares practical tips that speech language pathologists can provide teachers and families to improve the academic and daily functioning for children and adolescents with ADHD. You definitely need to watch this interview. Speech/language pathologists will learn practical tips to provide those who struggle with executive functioning. It may be just what you need as a clinician to ignite new learning for your clients or students with language impairment, executive dysfunction, and ADHD. Michael has traveled internationally, presenting and training families and professionals on his unique GrowNow Treatment Model for fostering Executive Functions & Resiliency. Make sure that you access this excellent information.
Here are some beneficial resources:
ADHD Facebook for Speech Language Pathologists
Executive Function in Speech Language Impairment
I welcome your comments on my website. If you are an SLP, educator, or parent with further questions feel free to contact me or Michael McLeod. I am available to answer any questions and connect you with the appropriate specialized services as needed.
Tamara Anderson, M.S., Ed.S., CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist
Education Specialist & Consultant
Diversity & Equity Advocate
Equitable Literacy Instruction in Special Education with Dr. Lauren McClenney-Rosenstein
Speech language pathologists play an important role in remediating language and literacy disorders in children and adolescents with special learning needs. We address foundational literacy skills such as print awareness, phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, narrative skills, and listening comprehension. During language therapy we frequently use evidence based therapeutic intervention to increase the correct use of language form (phonology, morphology and syntax), language content (semantics), and many other areas. In fact, many children and adolescents with speech/language disorders struggle immensely with reading and have co-occurring specific learning disability and/or dyslexia. It is critical for them to receive quality literacy instruction. Did you know that 1 in 5 children with learning disorders have dyslexia? Many of these children are on the caseload of school based and private practice speech language pathologists and special education teachers. Dyslexia impacts the lives of individuals in many ways and they can attain success with skilled professional support.
This interview with Dr. Lauren McClenney-Rosenstein focuses on equitable literacy instruction in special education. Over the years, I have observed that some intervention programs or approaches provided in the public school system by special education teachers contribute to student success while there are some that may not be as effective. Some children with learning disabilities may continue to struggle with literacy if they are not provided quality literacy instruction. While some make progress with Wilson Reading System, S.P.I.R.E., Barton Reading & Spelling, or other research based approaches, other children may need a different method of structured intervention that is effectively implemented with consistency. It is important to remember that children are unique learners and specialists must tailor interventions to their needs. It is also important for speech language pathologists, educators, literacy specialists, and instructional coaches to collaborate in the best interest of these children.
The Orton-Gillingham approach is an evidence based way that may be used to increase the literacy skills of those with dyslexia. Dr. Lauren McClenney-Rosenstein discusses the six components of structured literacy instruction. She is the founder of Think Dyslexia and is a learning specialist, instructional coach, and Orton-Gillingham Specialist. Dr. Lauren has a passion for educating, advocating, and bringing awareness to dyslexia at the domestic and international levels. She has been a certified Special Educator for a decade and earned her Doctor of Education in Teaching, Learning, Leadership, & Curriculum in 2019 from Northeastern University and holds a dual masters in Special Education and Elementary Education from Syracuse University and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Syracuse University. She currently resides in Maryland and continues to provide services and extensive resources for children and families.
Watch this interview to learn more about the components and benefits of the Orton-Gillingham approach. Make sure to subscribe to the Building Successful Lives YouTube channel to stay connected, learn, and grow so that you too can improve the lives of children and adolescents with special needs.
Here are some resources to add to your SLP or educator toolkit:
Understood – For learning and thinking differences
Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity
Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz
Phonological Awareness Progress Monitoring
I welcome your comments on my website. If you are an SLP, educator, or parent with further questions feel free to contact me. I am available to answer any questions and provide services as needed.
Tamara Anderson, M.S., Ed.S., CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist
Education Specialist & Consultant
Diversity & Equity Advocate
Culturally Responsive Literacy Instruction in Special Education with Dr. Shawn Robinson
Literacy includes all four domains of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Quality literacy intervention is structured, multi-sensory, and incorporates diverse literature. It is imperative that children and adolescents have access to literacy intervention and instruction that will enable them to attain grade level standards and thrive after graduating from high school. Speech-language pathologists, educators, reading specialists, intervention specialists, consultants, professors, children, and families can work together to improve the literacy skills of struggling readers. According to the 2019 National Assessment of Education Progress, only 34 % of 4th graders in the U.S. were reading at or above grade level. Literacy is truly the foundation for academic and life success. Professionals and families must know how to connect with dyslexic individuals for them to attain effective literacy skills and set them on a path to succeed.
In this interview, Dr. Shawn Robinson shares his mission to reach, serve, and empower students with dyslexia in special education to achieve greatness. Dyslexia is a language based learning disability that is neurobiological. It is genetic and is characterized by challenges with reading accuracy, reading fluency and poor spelling. Individuals with dyslexia have a phonological language impairment. The learning differences that a dyslexic person experiences are not due to cognition or their level of intelligence. However, phonological deficits contribute to difficulty with reading comprehension and writing as well. Did you know that 1 in 5 children or 80-90% of children with learning disorders have dyslexia? They can attain success if they are provided evidence based and quality intervention.
Dr. Robinson is committed to improving the lives of individuals who struggle with language and literacy. He is a reading instructor for adults at Madison College in Wisconsin, a Senior Research Associate in Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory (Wei LAB) at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, an entrepreneur, and co-founder of Doctor Dyslexia Dude LLC. You will hear his journey as an individual with dyslexia and how he was not diagnosed until he was a junior in high school (11th grade). You will learn about some of his current research projects, about the International Dyslexia Association, how he positively influences children as Dr. Dyslexia Dude, how he makes an impact in the lives of adults with dyslexia, and more. According to the International Dyslexia Association, approximately 85 % of all students in special education with a learning disability have impairments specifically in language processing and reading. Therefore, speech language pathologists, educators, and parents will benefit from the information shared in this interview. We have the direct opportunity to continue building successful lives for children, adolescents, and even adults by providing culturally responsive literacy instruction. Access the interview now. I welcome your comments on my website.
International Dyslexia Association- www.dysleciaida.org
Tamara Anderson, M.S., Ed.S., CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist
Education Specialist & Consultant
Diversity & Equity Advocate
Developmental Language Disorder & Emergent Literacy in Diverse Children with Dr. Karla Washington
Developmental Language Disorder is the most common early childhood disorder and contributes to difficulties with receptive, expressive, and pragmatic language disorder. It is prevalent in 7-15 % of kindergarten children and it is not due to hearing impairment, autism, or intellectual disability. It affects five times more children than autism. DLD contributes to reading difficulties in 50-70 % of children. Additionally, approximately 20 % of children in the U.S. are bilingual and speak another native language including some Caribbean children. There are other children that are multilingual and speak three or more languages. This month, Building Successful Lives Speech & Language Services is continuing our celebration of Caribbean American Heritage and today’s interview feature for the Diversity, Equity, & Culture series will primarily focus on bilingual Jamaican children.
Dr. Karla Washington, Associate Professor at the University of Cincinnati in the Communication Sciences and Disorders Program, has extensive experience with culturally and linguistically diverse children. As a licensed speech-language pathologist, professor and researcher, she is knowledgeable about developmental language disorder, Jamaican Creole/Patois, and the benefits of shared book reading. She has certification and licensure to practice speech/language pathology in the United States, Canada, and Jamaica. She focuses her research on typical and disordered speech-and-language development in monolingual and bilingual contexts. Dr. Washington is active in National Institute of Health (NIH) sponsored research investigating Jamaican children’s speech productions. She is the Director of the Pediatric Language, Literacy, & Speech (PedLLS) Outcomes Lab. She is an Editor for the journal Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools and is a member of the International Expert Panel on Multilingual Children’s Speech.
During a June interview, she shares information about the linguistic characteristics of Jamaican Creole and bilingual children who speak Jamaican Creole and English. She discusses research projects pertaining to bilingual children with developmental language disorder and the use of shared book reading. Additionally, Dr. Washington shares information about the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health for Children and Youth (ICF-CY) and how it relates to research in communication sciences. Additionally, you will learn about a study abroad program organized by Dr. Washington to Jamaica for university students in the Communication Sciences & Disorders program. She shares the benefits for students participating in this program. During this interview, speech-language pathologists will learn practical tips that monolingual and multilingual SLPs can implement to distinguish developmental language disorder vs. linguistic difference here in the United States. SLPs will learn significant considerations that they should remember and implement to ensure that they are providing culturally responsive assessment and therapeutic services.
Resources Compiled by Dr. Karla Washington:
Application of ICF in Multilingual Contexts-
Westby, C., & Washington, K. N. (2017). Using the international classification of functioning,
disability and health in assessment and intervention of school-aged children with
language impairments. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 48(3), 137-152.
Wright, R., Washington, K. N., Crowe, K., Jenkins, A., León, M.,, Kokotek, L., Raisor Becker, L., &
Westby, C. (2019). Current methods of evaluating the language abilities of multilingual pre-schoolers: A scoping review using the ICF-CY. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 50, 434-451.
ICF Overview and Functional Goals
Multilingual and Multicultural Constituency Groups:
Multicultural Constituency Groups
Special Interest Groups:
International Expert Panel on Multilingual Children’s Speech+. (2012). Multilingual children with speech sound disorders: Position paper. Bathurst, NSW, Australia: Research Institute for Professional Practice, Learning and Education (RIPPLE), Charles Sturt University. Retrieved from http://www.csu.edu.au/research/multilingual-speech/position-paper. ISBN 978-0-9874288-0-6. +
International Expert Panel is comprised of a group of equally contributing researchers who work with multilingual and multicultural children. Karla N Washington is an invited member of this group.
McLeod, S., Verdon, S., & International Expert Panel on Multilingual Children’s Speech+. (2017).
Tutorial: Speech assessment for multilingual children who do not speak the same language(s) as the speech-language pathologist. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 6(3), 691-708. https://doi.org/10.1044/2017_AJSLP-15-0161
International Expert Panel is comprised of a group of equally contributing researchers who work with multilingual and multicultural children. Karla N Washington is an invited member of this group
Language Development and Disorder Publications (Jamaican Children):
Washington, K. N., Fritz, K., Crowe, K., Shaw, B*., & Wright, R*. (2019). Using Index of Productive Syntax to characterize bilingual preschoolers’ spontaneous productions: Considering Jamaican Creole and English. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 50(2), 179-195. https://pubs.asha.org/doi/10.1044/2018_LSHSS-18-0072
Washington, K. N., Westby, C., Fritz., K., Crowe, K., Wright Karem, R.,* & Basinger, M*. (2021).
The narrative competence of bilingual Jamaican Creole- and English-speaking preschoolers. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 52, 317-334. https://pubs.asha.org/doi/10.1044/2020_LSHSS-20-00013
Wright Karem, R., & Washington, K. N. (in press). The cultural and diagnostic appropriateness of standardized assessments for dual language learners: A Focus on Jamaican preschoolers. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools.
Dr. Karla Washington – University of Cincinnati https://researchdirectory.uc.edu/p/washink2
Tamara Anderson, M.S., Ed.S., CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist
Education Specialist & Consultant
Diversity & Equity Advocate
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The Power of Building Vocabulary Through Context
What is critical for children’s and adolescents’ communication, language, and literacy success? There are so many contributing factors, but vocabulary development is most definitely critical. Speech-language pathologists need to focus on building vocabulary skills of children and adolescents when providing speech-language therapy each week to those with communication and language disorders.
Children’s exposure to vocabulary varies based on how language rich their home, school, and community environments are in providing language stimulation. The playing field is not the same. Vocabulary knowledge and use is directly linked to economic status of families. The National Center for Education statistics reports that by the time a child in the U.S. reaches 3 years of age, there is a 30 million word gap between children of wealthy vs. poor families. Similarly, 34 % of kindergarten children in the U.S. lack the basic language skills that are necessary to become effective readers and learners.
This is why it’s so important for speech-language pathologists to provide intervention to build vocabulary skills. This is a powerful way to deliver positive and visible results in children’s communication, language, and literacy skills. There are so many words that children need to learn. How can you as the SLP provide therapeutic intervention in a way for them to understand and practice new words? You need to provide multiple exposures of the word in context of hands on activities, sentence context, and paragraph context. Children and adolescents will learn new words when they can hear the word, see the word, say the word, act it out, read the word, and write the word. Here are 4 activities to harness the power of building vocabulary through context.
1) Emphasize new words during play activities.
For younger kids this will help them build nouns, verbs, and adjectives. Use seasonal activities to build everyday tier 1 vocabulary for early language learners with speech-language impairment. Fall is a great time to bring objects into the speech room. Kids can name the items such as apples, pumpkins, stem, leaves, seeds, vine, and squash. They can describe the objects using adjectives such as red, green, orange, yellow, white, big, little, smooth, bumpy, sweet, sour, slimy, wet. Provide visuals for kids to label/match the nouns, verbs, and adjectives with the appropriate item. The SLP can provide a verbal model for simple sentences. Then kids can say and write their own sentences with key vocabulary such as: I like the green apple, It tastes sour, The inside of the pumpkin is slimy, or The pumpkin seed is little.
2) Use task cards to build tier 2 vocabulary using sentence & paragraph context.
I suggest using my Fall Multiple Meanings task cards with upper elementary and middle school students. The SLP or students can read aloud the sentences and then the children have to select the correct meaning of the homograph from a choice of 4 answers. They can use a dry erase marker to select their answer on laminated cards. This activity works well during group speech-language therapy sessions. These task cards are a part of my differentiated Fall Themed Multiple Meanings activity packet.
3) Use children’s literature to build tier 2 vocabulary using sentence & paragraph context.
I recommend that the SLP preselect tier 2 vocabulary from fiction text. Use your favorite seasonal or year round books to introduce more challenging vocabulary to children and adolescents. Read aloud the story and teach them how to use context clues or helpful hints in the sentence or paragraph to predict the meaning of the unfamiliar word. As extension activities across multiple sessions, you can integrate Marzano’s 6 vocabulary building steps discussed in my last blog post with the new vocabulary from the fiction book. Subscribe to my blog/upcoming newsletter to get a related worksheet for children to use as they learn new words in children’s literature.
4) Use high interest non-fiction and diverse text with key tier 2 vocabulary targets.
Select topics of interest for children on your caseload. Give them excerpts of text and have them highlight or underline challenging vocabulary. Guide them through using context clues strategies to identify the meaning of the unfamiliar word. Again, use Marzano’s research based & proven six steps of vocabulary building to further reinforce and provide multiple exposures of tier 2 words. Remember as an SLP, your job is to maintain the therapeutic focus of the lesson by modeling the strategy that needs to be implemented and providing opportunities for children to practice.
Speech-language pathologists will remediate receptive and expressive language disorders in children and adolescents when they use the power of building vocabulary in context. Build vocabulary using context from hands on activities, sentence context, and paragraph context. Remember children need repetition and multiple exposures of a word to truly build receptive and expressive vocabulary skills in a meaningful manner. Make sure that you integrate this significant intervention method so children can build speech-language skills. Overtime, this will contribute to closing the achievement gap for children with communication and language disorders.