Eileen Tarzia, Speech/Language Services Department Chair
If you are concerned about your child's communication skills, please contact your child's teacher. For more information you may contact the Speech-Language Pathologist at your child's school.
Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) are professionals who are trained to assess and treat individuals with communication disorders. The area of "communication" is broad and encompass five major categories. These are: articulation/phonological disorders, language disorders, fluency disorders, voice disorders, and pragmatic or social interaction disorders. Because of their specialized training and knowledge of oral and auditory structures, Speech-Language Pathologists may also work with individuals who have hearing and swallowing problems.
Communication disorders can be the only disability a child has, or they can be part of a more involved disability such as autism, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, hearing impairment, traumatic brain injury, or a specific learning disability.
Within the school setting, the SLP educates teachers about potential communication difficulties, gathers referrals from teachers and parents, performs screenings and assessments of communication skills, and provides treatment for diagnosed areas of weakness. The SLP works in collaboration with the child’s teacher(s) to support the student to succeed within the classroom. To qualify to receive therapy for a communication disorder in the school setting, the disorder must have an impact on the child’s education. Many private clinics can provide speech-language therapy when a student's disability does not affect how the child functions at school.
Types of Communication Disorders
Articulation/Phonological Disorders: disorders that are related to the production of speech sounds. Articulation and phonological disorders can be related to problems with oral structures, problems with motor planning and/or muscular control (as in cerebral palsy or apraxia), or they can exist with no apparent cause. Articulation disorders can sometimes affect a child’s ability to read and/or spell proficently. Therapy for articulation disorders involves increasing sound awareness, teaching production of sound in isolation and words, and moves incrementally through producing sounds correctly in phrases, sentences, and conversation.
Language Disorders: deficits in understanding and/or producing language. Children with language disorders may exhibit poor comprehension of auditory and written information, limited understanding and use of vocabulary concepts, and/or incorrect or immature use of oral and written grammar. Difficulties with the use and understanding of language can affect a child in all academic areas, as language permeates nearly everything that is done in school. Academically, children with language disorders may exhibit problems with learning to read, comprehending what they read, and following directions. Writing skills will be poorly developed. Therapy for a language disorder depends on the child’s specific areas of weakness, but might focus on improving vocabulary knowledge, improving understanding and use of different grammatical structures, improving the ability to process incoming language, increasing understanding of figurative language, and improving critical thinking skills. The goal of language therapy is not to teach the school curriculum but to improve overall language skills to prepare the child to succeed in school.
Fluency Disorders: disruptions in the fluent production of speech that are more common and/or more severe than dysfluencies that occur in typical speakers (i.e. stuttering). Therapy for fluency disorders can take a variety of forms, but most approaches focus on emotional aspects of stuttering, including self-esteem and learning to view speaking situations without fear. Therapy might focus on changing overall speaking patterns by slowing down the overall speech rate and incorporating fluency enhancing strategies into everyday speech. For older students, therapy might focus on learning to identify and anticipate moments of stuttering so that techniques to minimize a stutter can be used.
Voice Disorders: deviations in laryngeal ("voice box") function or resonance. Voice disorders can include: vocal abuse (hoarse speaking voice caused by damaging use of the voice), excessively high or low pitch, excessively high or low volume, excess or inadequate nasality when speaking, and breathy voice. Voice disorders can be related to a structural or functional deviation (e.g. cleft palate, paralyzed vocal fold), or they can be the result of a habitual speaking pattern. Voice therapy typically involves education about the vocal mechanism and correct use of the voice. A number of different techniques are used to establish an appropriate speaking voice in very brief speaking situations. Once an appropriate voice is established the student practices using that voice in words, phrases, sentences, and conversation. Medical consult is generally recommended prior to beginning voice therapy.
Pragmatic Disorders: difficulties in the area of social interaction. This can include difficulties in initiating conversations with others, taking turns in a conversation, asking and answering questions, maintaining a topic of conversation, repairing miscommunications and generating appropriate conversation topics. Difficulties with social interaction are a hallmark feature of autism and are nearly always a focus of therapy with these students. Therapy for pragmatic difficulties focuses on teaching and practicing appropriate interaction skills and then moving these skills into everyday situations. Pragmatic disorders are addressed by the SLP when they are a part of a more generalized language disorder.
For more information, you may contact the Pupil Personnel Services at 860-622-5112.